Touring with Hanoi's little Ambassadors

July 16, 2013 ASEAN Backpacking

The desire to learn English is growing among young students in Hanoi. The Ministry of Education has set an ambitious goal, aiming for all students graduating by 2020 to possess a strong command of the language.

Responding to this need, Hanoikids was established in 2006 as a platform for kids to practice English. By voluntarily guiding tourists on tours around Hanoi, these young ambassadors not only enhance their English skills but also provide tourists, like us, with a unique perspective on the city.

Hanoikids holds the top rank among various activities in Hanoi on TripAdvisor, where my friend Mervin discovered this brilliant concept. Excited about the idea, we booked a tour and had the pleasure of meeting our guides, Tong and Yen. 

Tong, a 20-year-old with a calm demeanor, was the first to greet us, donning the distinctive Hanoikids shirt that caught our eye. He shared that his name means "diamond" or "strong," a stark contrast to his mild-mannered ways.

Given our group size of seven, Hanoikids arranged for an additional guide.

Enter Yen. Unlike Tong, who is a seasoned Hanoikids member with 23 tours under his belt, Yen is relatively new. This tour marks her third, officially making her a member of Hanoikids. At 18 years old, Yen is a second-year Tourism student.

Interestingly, it was also the first time Tong and Yen met each other.

We opted to delve into Vietnam's rich cultural tapestry and explore the ritual practices of various ethnic groups at the Museum of Ethnology. This museum places a spotlight on the 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam. 

Tong and Yen expertly led us through the museum, and it seemed like they were just as captivated by the exhibits as we were. During our exploration, we highlighted the commonalities we observed between our cultures. The experience became a rich exchange of insights and shared perspectives. 

I'm relieved we didn't choose a traditional guided museum tour, which can be dull and overwhelming with information. Tong and Yen let us explore the museum at our own pace, always available to provide insights and answer our queries.

After exploring the indoor museum, we stopped for refreshments at the café by Hoa Sua School. This school not only teaches skills to underprivileged youth in Vietnam but also helps them find job placements. It's an initiative that truly deserves support.

Afterward, we explored the outdoor section featuring houses from different ethnic groups. Luckily for us, we got to enjoy the famous water puppetry of Vietnam during our visit to the museum.

The open-air museum is very fascinating. 

Here, we discovered a communal house, the most crucial structure in Bahnar Village.

Traditionally, it serves as a meeting hall for the men in the village. According to our tour guides, the intentionally high roof aids men in locating the village easily when venturing into the forest. 

We also found the stairs both challenging and interesting.

The Giara Tomb should not be missed either. The first thing I noticed was the strikingly similar features of the wooden sculptures around the tomb to the Philippines' bulol or rice gods. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that these sculptures are sexually explicit. They are actually symbols of fertility and are meant to accompany the dead in the afterlife. Interestingly, the tomb's owner is a woman. 

Before leaving the museum, we dropped by the souvenir shop. Museum souvenir shops, more often than not, are not the best places to find cheap buys, but we decided to get something as it is for a good cause. The shop is non-profit, and our money went to a good cause. 

Overall, it was a delightful day spent with the Hanoikids. I wholeheartedly recommend their services. The combination of cultural exploration, the personal touch of our guides Tong and Yen, and the chance to contribute to a charitable cause through the museum's souvenir shop made the experience both enriching and enjoyable. Choosing Hanoikids for our tour not only allowed us to see Hanoi through the eyes of these young ambassadors but also supported their educational initiatives. It's a win-win for tourists and the local community alike.

Other Good Travels