“It’s daunting to travel in a group of strangers at first but naturally you will have something in common with everyone in the group.”
James on solo travel
“It’s about local connections and going further and deeper by doing something different.”
“If you are happy, you can pass on that feeling of being happy and passionate about your country.”
“We have a lot of fun together and leaving is always really emotional. I’m crying and they’re crying.”
Hoang Le is 39 years old and lives with his wife and two children in Hanoi. For the past three years, he’s led Flash Pack adventures in Vietnam and is one of our most popular guides
I first started working with Flash Pack around three years ago, when I met Lee Thompson [Flash Pack’s co-founder] in Hanoi. We began chatting and it went from there.
I’ve spent a long time working with travellers and people are always the key to the success of a trip. I connect everyone together on Facebook and WhatsApp before the adventure begins and then on Day One, I work on breaking the ice.
Being a guide is a bit like being a psychologist – you have to be good with people. I look out for quieter people in the group to check they’re OK, and I really get to know everyone. I get a feel for the character of each person. I also make sure that all services are arranged properly on the trip and everyone is happy and has the right information.
To be a leader, you need great knowledge and language skills: I originally learnt Russian for seven years before becoming fluent in English. And you need to interact with people and have a passion for the job.
If you don’t have that passion, you get bored easily. If you are happy, you can pass on that feeling of being happy and passionate about your country.
It’s a combination of lots of things that make a brilliant trip. My job is to show people the beauty of my country, but in lots more detail than other travel groups in the region.
I want my Flashpackers to feel Vietnam through its people. It’s about local connections and going further and deeper by doing something different.
People learn about Vietnam from books, but when they’re here, I want to show them a different story. I tell them the real background of the war from the Vietnamese point of view. They see more of the culture and understand Vietnam in a new way.
When we’re in Hanoi, we cycle over to a residential neighbourhood to meet my mum and dad and enjoy the scenery with local artists. We go into people’s homes to make noodles as the Vietnamese do, and in the hills of Sapa we try weaving with local tribespeople.
Hoi An is one of my favourite places on the trip; it has great food and it’s so quiet and beautiful. I take people to a hidden coffee shop, which one of my friends has launched as a small business.
Local food is also important: we get to see how street food really tastes, from bánh mì [a Vietnamese baguette sandwich] or bun chả [grilled BBQ pork with noodles] to papaya salad, grilled fish and egg coffee.
We have a lot of fun together and leaving is always really emotional. You know you will have another group coming soon but even so, I’m crying and they’re crying.
Afterwards, the group stays in touch on WhatsApp. Sometimes, people try cooking something from Vietnam and share a picture – when they do that, I’m so proud of them!
My love of travel began when I was 16, when I went from Hanoi to the Ninh Bình province and saw the sea and the mountains for the first time. I realised I loved adventure: that’s what I wanted to do.
My parents always wanted me to be a teacher. And in a way, I am now, because I get to share my knowledge and love of my country.
Vietnamese people are very friendly and Flashpackers love to meet them; it makes the trip so unique. They always say, “I’ll come back”.
Fancy joining a group of great, like-minded people and discovering the secrets of Vietnam and Cambodia together? Check out our trip right here