Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

We are still basking in the glow of our fantastic 3-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how happy we are with our destination and trip planner. As neither country has recovered to pre-Covid tourism levels, we experienced far fewer crowds, even at Angkor Wat. The locals were gracious and welcoming, even thanking us for making the long journey.

From the onset of planning through execution, Sandy and Ethan delivered every step of the way. Ethan was immensely patient with my questions and provided a wealth of insight to help us narrow down various options. After reading another traveler’s review, I had hoped to incorporate a few additional experiences into our itinerary but was afraid it was too late in the process. Ethan reached out to his in-country contacts and was able to add all three experiences. I was thrilled! Beyond meticulously coordinating every element of the itinerary, Ethan triple-checked that we had enough pages available in our passports; provided line-by-line info required for completing the online Vietnam Visa application; and arranged for someone to expedite the Cambodian Visa process upon our arrival in Siem Reap. His attention to detail was greatly appreciated.

Our itinerary combined five-star creature comforts with authentic local experiences. Some of the more noteworthy experiences included:

• Spending a few hours with a Vietnamese family in their home, during which we paged through their photo album while being regaled with family stories; were invited into the kitchen to watch the hostess and her mother prepare our lunch; helped to assemble the appetizer; and savored the multi-course homemade lunch with our host. Their hospitality was beyond measure, and our time together was invaluable.

• Meeting the North Vietnamese fighter pilot who was the first to shoot down an American fighter jet

• Sampling authentic street food in Hanoi

• Enjoying a leisurely sampan ride through caves in Ninh Binh

• Being invited by a local Hoi An shop owner into her home to admire her family’s altar, a testament to their reverence for ancestors

• Crawling through the Vinh Moc and Cu Chi Tunnels…such eye-opening experiences

• Cooking Vietnamese crispy pancakes with a grandmother in her family’s home “restaurant” and then enjoying a multi-course, homemade lunch

• Eating mouth-wateringly good, fresh-picked mangoes and drinking coconut milk straight out of coconuts that had just been picked from the family’s orchard

• Riding on the back of Vespas through the side streets and back alleys of Saigon, and on the back of motorbikes through villages in the Mekong Delta

• Visiting the War Remnants Museum, which provided a powerful, evocative, gut-wrenching view of the war and the horrors inflicted by the use of Agent Orange

• Crossing the streets in Saigon by ourselves and living to tell about it!

• Walking into the Majestic Hotel in Saigon and being enveloped by warm, welcoming staff who encouraged us to join in their annual Earth Hour celebration

• Stumbling across a free outdoor concert in Saigon, complete with a huge stage production, and enjoying the vibe as young locals sang along with their favorite pop stars

• Visiting a Saigon grocery store to find fun food gifts

• Riding in an ox-cart along a rural road in Cambodia, being greeted with countless smiles and waves from children going about their everyday lives along the route

• Holding a Hero Rat as we gained invaluable insight into the efforts to detect and remove land mines and explosive devices throughout the Cambodian countryside

• Meditating with monks at Phnom Krom Pagoda

By no means is that a comprehensive list of all of the noteworthy experiences throughout our trip. There seemed to be countless memorable moments, such that capturing them all in this review would turn it into a novel. Many elements of the trip provided sobering insights into the harsh realities of war. One of the goals of our trip involved delving into the war and learning about each country’s storied history. Our hosts definitely delivered what we sought. They provided us with invaluable insights into Vietnam’s and Cambodia’s people and culture, both past and present. In so doing, we were reminded of how simple life can be, and that people everywhere strive to do the best they can with what they’ve been given.

Vietnam and Cambodia captured our hearts. We are forever grateful to Sandy and Ethan for designing such an impactful trip to a unique part of the world. Although it was our first time to Southeast Asia, we certainly don’t want it to be the last.

Travelers Mike and Lindsay Lanaux during sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Mike and Lindsay Lanaux—and no one else—at Angkor Wat at sunrise.

My husband and I took an incredible 3-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia in March. After listening to the way that we like to travel, Sandy and Ethan planned a trip that catered to our interests in history, architecture, culture and food. Each of our guides was knowledgeable, friendly and flexible. All of the hotels were outstanding.

We started in Hanoi where we stayed at the Metropole. We really appreciated the history and architecture of the Metropole as well as the bunker tour of the hotel suggested by our guide. In Hue, we were simply awed by the Imperial Palace and the Tombs of the Emperors. Lunch at the home of a local family was one of the highlights of the trip. It was fascinating to see the kitchen where they cooked and to talk to the host about his family history. It truly was one of the best meals of the trip.

In Hoi An, we loved our hotel situated on the river. Watching the boat traffic at night was magical. We also enjoyed our eco tour where we got to ride bikes through the rice paddies and try farming and fishing Vietnamese style. In Saigon, we loved the rooftop bar at our hotel and the history associated with it. The powerboat ride down the Mekong River to the Cu Chi tunnels was fascinating. But the highlight had to be the nighttime Vespa tour exploring the back alleys of Saigon and eating some great street food.

Ending the trip in Siem Reap was a dream come true. The Jaya House River Park Hotel is an excellent mix of luxury and intimacy. Another rooftop bar and spa treatments every day. Our guide was able to time our sunrise visit to Angkor Wat so well that we thought we had the temple complex to ourselves. But the most outstanding experience was being blessed by a 19-year-old monk at his temple and being able to talk with him afterwards.

It was truly an exceptional trip that we will always remember. Thank you so much Sandy and Ethan.

Our trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand arranged by Ethan was really magical. We were so pleased with how smoothly everything went. No issues with connections, flights, logistics — which always makes for a peaceful vibe. All of the local hosts were wonderful, thoughtful, well-informed, and all different personalities. We always felt so well taken care of. Our experiences matched our interests, as communicated to Ethan. Super well done.

The room selections at all of the hotels were fabulous. In particular, the room with the terrace on the pool floor at the Park Hyatt in Saigon made a great difference (after very hot days of sightseeing). Ethan’s suggestion of a stay at Shinta Mani Wild in the Cardamom mountains of Cambodia was a highlight.

Our trip reflected the work of Ethan’s team and the talents of the local host guides. Highly recommended.

We just returned from a 16-day trip to Vietnam and Cambodia planned by Ethan and Sandy, and we were thrilled with our experience. My husband and I traveled with our two kids (aged almost 5, and 7.5) and we all had a blast.

The best part of the trip, by far, was the quality of the guides that we encountered. In every stop, we felt the guides were like family, and they were so dedicated to ensuring we had the best trip possible. They went out of their way for us—offering to carry my youngest child or my bag, taking photos for us without me asking, always reachable by WhatsApp, and showing their favorite parts of their cities. They were happy to watch our kids when my husband and I wanted to do a bit more exploring (ex: climbing the temples at Angkor Wat, or visiting the War Remnants Museum in Saigon), and they truly knew the best way to see the areas—and to avoid crowds, when possible. They were super flexible and were fine with things changing on the fly, which is crucial when traveling with small children—if we shifted a lunch to a dinner or moved touring from one day to the next, there was never any complaining. They also knew all the tricks—in Siem Reap, for example, our guide Dey knew that there were monkeys near one of the temples that liked eating lotus plants, so he stopped at a stand selling lotus plants and got some so the boys could feed the monkeys, which they loved. Small things like that we would never know to do on our own, but that all of us enjoyed.

We had numerous wonderful experiences throughout, but a few highlights: The Vespa food tour through Saigon was so much fun! You absolutely must do it when there. My husband enjoyed it so much that I encouraged him to offer one of the Vespa drivers some cash to take him out on a separate ride after (since we had young kids with us during the tour we wrapped a bit early); the surprise to all of us was that my 7-year-old also wanted to go along! The two-night cruise through Lan Ha Bay was great (thanks to Ethan for leveraging his connections to get the boat to flex on age requirements for my youngest, who wasn’t quite yet five); we also loved our time at the Four Seasons Nam Hai and found the staff there to be exceptional. Ethan also got us great tickets to Phare in Siem Reap, and my boys really enjoyed that—my older one asked to see another circus! And, while not a highlight, our guide in Hanoi, Mike, was truly wonderful about taking me to the doctor when I woke up on our first day in Vietnam and discovered I had pinkeye.

The way Ethan and Sandy do their trips, with complete flexibility toward your schedule, is something that I didn’t fully appreciate until I was actually on the trip—and now I feel spoiled. Being able to change your plans in-the-moment is so wonderful—and knowing we have a driver and guide for whatever we decide to do was key. We had a few times where the kids (or adults) were exhausted and just wanted to swim or relax in our room—so we pivoted and moved things around, making a lunch a dinner or moving touring to a different day, and it was just so wonderful to have the flexibility and not feel like we had to do something then because it was scheduled and paid for. It truly made it so that every day of our vacation was OUR vacation, and we appreciated that.

Overall, it was an incredible trip and we would highly recommend Ethan and Sandy and their team to anyone. Vietnam and Cambodia are fabulous countries and I hope we have the chance to go back and explore each of them further, and when we do we will certainly use Ethan and Sandy for their expertise (and to request our guides!).

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