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Guiding Light: Nguyen Dinh Hieu

In Northern Vietnam, Hieu is our man. A top guide for Hanoi, Hieu has never regreted following his dream of becoming a guide …

Hieu Nguyen

Name: Nguyen Dinh Hieu

Age: 34

History with company: Started with Journey within in 2011 as a local guide in the Northern part of Vietnam after completing training.

How did you become a guide?

In 1998 I started my university degree with English language training. That was only my second choice as I failed the entrance exam to get into National University, Tourism Faculty. After 2 years studying at foreign language university, my mother wanted me to get a teacher training certificate to become a teacher as at that time my mother was a teacher and she said that she could find a job easily for me if I became a teacher. It took me awhile to think about my mother’s suggestion, then I decided not to follow it and took the entrance exam of Hanoi Open University (HOU), Faculty of Tourism as working in tourism was still my desire at that time. I finished my first university degree in English in 2002 and in 2003 I started as a tour guide, particularly on weekends, while I was still studying at HOU. In 2005 I graduated from HOU and officially became a tour guide after getting my guiding license.

What do you like about being a guide?

Being a guide, people think that all the trips are kind of the same. The same things we do it all the time, same place, same scenery, same foods, etc … but, it actually is not. I find it different because each time I meet new people, with new characteristics, have new conversations and new experiences — that makes me still love being a guide.

What is your favourite part about being a guide?

Being a guide, I have had the chance to travel around the country and have had the chance to share the Vietnamese cultures with different people that I meet. I have had the chance to meet people from different cultures, meet people of different nationalities, trying specialties from different parts of the country … and even meet new challenges. For me, that is the favorite part.

What is the most challenging part about being a guide?

The most challenging part about being a guide for me is to understand the needs of our guests, find out what they are expecting and satisfy them while trying to balance the benefits of the office and all the people behind the scenes. Guests are not always nice, things do not always go right, different people have different characteristics and will bring different challenges to us. Keep smiling & always show the enthusiasm to the job is also not that easy. This is definitely a challenging part.

What is your favourite thing to show guests?

Our rich culture, our long history, our delicious foods and our beautiful landscapes throughout the country are definitely things that I want to show guests. But if I have to choose one thing to show guests, rich Vietnamese culture should be the chosen one.

What kind of things do guests ask you/ want to talk about?

Guests from different cultures are interested in different things so they ask & talk about different things. Everyone seems to want to ask & talk about Vietnamese culture, history, religions, foods, facts & figures about our country.

What food / restaurants should guests try?

As guests traveling to different parts of the country & each region has its own specialty that they should try. I am from the Northern part so I would suggest guests to try “Phở bò” or Rice noodle soup with beef which is the specialty form Hanoi. “Nem rán” or deep fried spring rolls is another cuisine guests should try. A meal at Ngon Restaurant in Hanoi should be in their dining plan.

What should guests coming to (insert area they guide) know?

Halong Bay is a must-see attraction in the Northern part of Vietnam. I heard someone said that: “If you did not see Halong Bay in your Vietnam trip, it means that you has not been to Vietnam yet”. So, it is simply a place that highlights any trip.

Most memorable guest?

During my more than 10 years working as a guide, I have been with many guests from different countries and have lots of memorable guests. But the one that impressed me the most was an American war veteran that traveled alone in Vietnam twice. The first time he was with me for only 3 days, not much time but we did see lots of things around the city. He was so impressed that he decided to come back 4 years after that & required me as his guide. I was very surprised of his love to our country and I was even more surprised when he wanted me to take him around on my motorbike. He wanted to see things more closely & clearly, he wanted to interact more with local people, he wanted to experience more of the things local people experience. Imagine, us driving 300km per day for 3 continuous days on my small “Honda wave” which was more than 10 years old with the “lovely” road conditions in Vietnam during summer time. Something neither of us will ever forget!

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