Wonderful Trip In Spite of Typhoon Haiyan! Thanks Lam and IP!
I spent several months researching Vietnam and Cambodia and once I put together an itinerary I reached out to 8 tour companies for pricing. I narrowed down the list to three and asked each company to provide US references that I could contact either by email or phone. Only two companies complied with the request and only one company’s (Indochina Pioneer-balance of review as IP) references were completely positive (actually, after speaking with one reference several times, I modified our itinerary), so I concentrated on working out the details of the hotels, tours, etc with Indochina Pioneer and we ultimately booked with them. I never looked back and was never disappointed from start to finish. After completing the trip would I change a few things? …of course, but I think that would be true of any trip. We booked 3 star hotels with the thought that we were only in the rooms for sleeping, but next time I would price both the 3 and 4 star hotels and consider both. We did end up staying in 3 4* hotels and two were exceptional and one was not. In some locations, the choices were fairly limited and it was in those locations that the hotels were not as nice but we had expected this. We also had some excellent 3* hotels.
We had a pretty aggressive schedule because we’re not planning on returning to SE Asia anytime soon so I figured we could rest when we got home. The trip began in Bangkok where we spent a day and a half before going on to Hanoi (one change would have been to fly directly into Vietnam and out of Cambodia or vise versa to gain time, but when booked the flights we had planned on spending a few more days in Thailand). Our itinerary: Hanoi, Halong Bay (Indochina Junk-Dragon Pearl-separate review—all hotels and sites have been reviewed), back to Hanoi, Phong Nha National Park (Phong Nha Farmstay…if you have the time-GO HERE), Hue, Hoi An, Dalat, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong, Can Tho, Chau Doc to Phnom Penh via high (?) speed boat and finally to Siem Reap.
It was a bucket list trip and thanks to Lam and IP we had a great time especially in light of having to change our schedule midway through the trip to avoid Typhoon Haiyan. As we watched the weather and the storm heading towards the Philippines, we made the decision to alter our schedule. We’re from Florida and realize the potential problems of being stranded by a storm. Lam at IP worked with us as to shorten some of our stays on the itinerary and add Dalat moving us south into the highlands and away from the coast. This involved changing airline flights, hotels, tours, guides, etc. He did this all with a positive attitude while listening to our concerns, questions and decisions. He offered suggestions, we made the decisions and he implemented them, all while we continued to travel and enjoy our trip (IP provided us a cell phone while we were in Vietnam and this proved to be a true blessing…although Lam had to have one of our guides purchase additional time on the phone due to all of the phone calls back and forth!!). What makes this more amazing is that he was doing the same thing, at the same time, for all of his other groups.
We had a GREAT time. It was wonderful to be picked up at every airport, checked in at every hotel and as this was a private tour, be able to change our schedule as we wished (although we rarely did). We always had cold water, nice vehicles, good drivers and guides whose goal was to teach us about their country and customs. We questioned them continuously and they seemed to enjoy sharing their knowledge, experiences and thoughts.
As far as Indochina Pioneer is concerned, we would recommend them without reservation.