One Pillar Pagoda

One Pillar Pagoda

I am a fan of group tours–not for an entire trip, but for a day or two. There’s nothing like a well organized group tour where someone else is in charge and one can take a welcome break from decision-making. Group tours are particularly great when traveling with a teen.

Trấn Quốc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi

Trấn Quốc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi

When my teen son and I traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam this past June, I headed to a travel agent to book our spot on a full-day trip of the city.

Most travel agents, sprinkled throughout Hanoi’s  Hoan Kiem District, also known as the Old Quarter, offer the same trips at about the same prices.  I opted for the Hanoi day trip tour that hit several of the city’s historic highlights with a short visit to nearby Bat Trang Village known for its pottery making.

With the temperatures scorching and the humidity dish rag wet, the idea of figuring out how to get us around town on our own volition was not appealing.

Getting picked up at our hotel by an air-conditioned bus and a tour guide who spoke impeccable English was a treat.

The scope of the trip that took in the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Complex including the Presidential Palace Historical Site, the one Pillar Pagoda, the Perfume Temple, and Trấn Quốc Pagoda was a satisfying mix of history and culture.

Lunch, several tasty dishes served family-style at a more upscale than budget restaurant in the Old Quarter, was  included in the roughly $26 per person cost of the tour.

Ceramics making at Bat Trang pottery village

Ceramics making at Bat Trang pottery village

Each stop lasted long enough to be able to take in each site. While the guide talked, imparting knowledge and cultural tidbits of each place, we were able to look around to simply enjoy where we were. There was no need to look over a map to figure out where to go next. The guide and driver seamlessly got us from point A to point B.

Ho Chinh Minh's complex near his mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh’s complex near his mausoleum

One bonus of a group tour, perhaps the biggest of all, is the opportunity to spend the day with people from all over the world who are as interested in travel as I am. As for my son, he was happy to have other people to talk with besides mom.

Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein