Destination Asia Vietnam Product & Contracting Manager Susu Tran takes five minutes to sit down and discuss emerging destinations, sustainability, food and more!
Vietnam has long been a ‘must-visit’ destination for many travellers, why do you think that is?
Vietnam is well-known for its colonial past, diverse culture, friendly people, and exquisite food, which put together create a fascinating destination. Many travelers want to discover locations they have seen on TV such as Halong bay (featured in numerous movies – including James Bond); or the charm of its colonial past (featured in movies such as the Lover or Dien Bien Phu with Catherine Deneuve); or to experience the history depicted through the many Vietnam war movies (like Apocalypse now). Another attraction of course is the cuisine. Most people have tasted Vietnamese food in their home country but want to experience the truly authentic flavours in the country itself.
Other than the major cities in the North and South, is DA working in any smaller locations to connect visitors with more local encounters?
Yes, absolutely! One location that all travellers love is Ninh Binh, a two-kilometer drive south of Hanoi where guests can enjoy several relaxing activities connecting with the local culture. These include cyling through working farms with plenty of opportunities to stop and learn from the farmers themselves. We also see local fishermen catching mud fish from small pools using traditional tools. Further afield from the cities, we venture into areas across Central Vietnam, including locations such as Phong Nha. This is where tourists can not only explore several recently discovered caves (and camp in them), but also enjoy cruise expeditions through the stunning countryside, stopping at remote villages to discover an often-unseen side of Vietnam.
For those visiting Vietnam, what would you suggest they experience to truly connect with the culture?
We work with numerous local villages and can offer a homestay experience that allows insight into the everyday life of a Vietnamese family, and how time is spent together at home. This is a fantastic opportunity for children and adults alike to not only learn about another culture, but sample home-cooked food and discover the hidden society of hill tribes. Another product we have been developing presents travellers with the chance to spend time with Mekong farmers, allowing them to gain knowledge and an understanding of agricultural river life in the Mekong Delta region.
How has Destination Asia Vietnam made changes to the way they operate to align with the company’s sustainability initiatives?
As an engaged member of Travelife, we are currently reviewing all areas of our operations, product and supplier relations to ensure they align with our sustainability standards, and to improve in those areas where they do not.
Over the past year we have actively engaged with our suppliers in Vietnam to so they can also act in a more sustainable manner. We found that by working together we can have a far greater impact, such as the removal of single-use plastic by hotels using refillable glass water bottles and within our own operations, removing plastic water bottles and single-use wet wipes.
We have also deepened relationships with local communities by spending our free time working alongside them to offer help during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has ranged from collecting clothes to buying food packages and delivering them to distribution centers. We will continue to collaborate with the poorest members of our community to ensure they can access many of the necessities we take for granted.
Can you suggest a meal that visitors should try and an experience to partake in for a memorable visit?
That’s easy… grilled beef wrapped in wild betel leaf! Just the smell itself makes my mouth water. The betel leaf is wrapped around a small beef roll and then cooked on an open charcoal grill. The charcoal flame releases a peppery taste and infuses the whole thing with herbal flavors. To find this delicious dish is easy, just walk out onto the street where you can see them cooked right in front of your eyes!
For more information on our range of exceptional experiences available in Vietnam, explore our new Vietnam ebook.