by Khanh Van
|A member of Hanoikids club introduces Australian tourists to the Temple of Literature.There are nearly 300 members in the student-run club that provides a guide service for foreign visitors. — Photo courtesy of Hanoikids club
HA NOI (VNS) — In her smooth voice with a smile stretching across her face, 21 year old Pham Ngoc Lien narrated the history behind the Temple of Literature, the first university of Viet Nam, to her group of Australian visitors.
Explaining every corner of the temple in her friendly way, the young Hanoian, full of enthusiasm and with a penchant for the occasional joke, has helped make learning about the history of the country an understandable and enjoyable process.
Her captivating story has even lured the attention of little girls of the Australian family, who squeezed in plenty of questions to find out more about the country's history.
Lien and her partner Hoang Nhat Duc - also a student - are on a small trip to act as volunteer guides taking the group of Australian tourists around the city, with the first stop at the temple.
They are two of nearly 300 members of Hanoikids club, a student-run organisation based in Ha Noi that provides free city tours around the city for foreign visitors.
The volunteer group consists of students from Ha Noi's many universities and colleges, and started out as nothing more than a few young people interested in cultural activities wanting to improve their English language skills through outdoor activities.
The club has been escorting foreign travellers around the city's tourist sites and even lesser-known local attractions since 2006 and it has quickly become a popular tour guide choice for international tourists coming to Viet Nam.
On average, the club provides nearly 200 free tours each month. Most of the tourists are from Australia, the UK, the US, Singapore and Malaysia.
Foreign visitors flock to Ha Noi
HA NOI — Ha Noi welcomed over 634,000 foreign tourists since the beginning of this year, an increase of 9.8 per cent against the same period last year.
These tourists came from Australia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, America, France, and England, according to the municipal Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
To attract more visitors, the city has mapped out new plans, including developing community-based tourism in Ba Vi District – home to the Tam Dao resort town and many other natural landscapes and increased awareness of historic sites such as Thang Long Royal Citadel.
Promotional strategies abroad will also be featured in the Hong Kong-based travel and trade journal, Smart Travel Asia.
The Viet Nam-Ha Noi International Tourist Fair will be organised from 18th to 24th of this month to introduce the city's tourism potentials to foreign tourist agencies.
The department also stated that for the upcoming Reunification Day and Labour Day holiday (April 30-May 1), the city will have prepared the infrastructure, labour force, and services in anticipation of tourists.—VNS
The club Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Le Quyen said that as ambassadors of Ha Noi, club members paid great attention to not only providing foreign visitors with an insight into the country's history and landscapes but also aspects of the personal lives of local people.
"The group aims to help travellers approach the capital city in a more intimate and genuine way by providing free tours that focus on cultural exchange," she said.
"This is the biggest difference between us as travel mates of foreign tourists and professional tour guides offered by travel agents. We create a model of interaction between both tour guides and visitors in which we introduce Vietnamese culture, history and tradition to international friends while we also have the chance to practise English and learn about their culture," Quyen said.
Since becoming a member of Hanoikids around six months ago, Lien, a third-year student of Ha Noi University, has been a voluntary guide on more than 20 tours.
"I found out about the club through one of my friends, and I was immediately attracted by its activities. I feel very lucky to be a member of this organisation. Introducing the image of the country and the capital city to foreign visitors is a source of great pride for me," Lien said.
Like Lien, her partner Duc, a second year student from Ha Noi-based RMIT International University Viet Nam felt highly enthusiastic when talking about his job.
"I feel incredibly lucky to join the club for half a year after passing tough recruitment exams. I have made friends with many foreign visitors and learnt a lot about the history and culture of our country as well as other countries," Duc said.
"My English speaking and communication skills in particular have much improved; I am now willing to talk with any foreigners I meet without feeling shy," he said.
The young tour guides have managed to bring in a friendly, comfortable and joyful atmosphere for their foreign friends. Craig Whalland from Australia, who was accompanied by Lien and Duc to the Temple of Literature, said it was a great idea to have these young tour guides with them when visiting the city.
"Everything is well-organised," he said. "I am really impressed with their English speaking skills. Their knowledge about Viet Nam's history is very good. They could answer most of our questions in a simple way."
"It is very enjoyable to have these university students with us, particularly for our children. I know our children prefer these friendly students instead of older and formal tour guides who ask you to come here, and look at these things and those things," Whalland added.
The Australian visitor also admired this special tour, of which he has found no equivalent in other Asian countries that he has been to.
"I think it is a good idea for the city to promote tourism with the help of the youth," he said.
During the two-hour tour, Lien and Duc not only acted as tour guides but also their friends. They not only talked about history but about life at home and school as well.
The distance between them on their first meeting was quickly replaced by warm sentiments and a friendly atmosphere built by both sides. Smiles were seen in all of their faces during the two-hour tour. — VNS