What makes you a local?
When you live in one place long enough you naturally become a local expert – and I have lived here all my life. I was born and grew up here and my entire family live here in District 12, on the edge of the city, about 15km away from the downtown area, allowing us to escape the noise and crowds of the city. Furthermore, because of my job I need to understand more about my city in order to introduce it and attract visitors – I know why people love Saigon and I know the reasons that many stay longer than they originally planned.
What do you love about Ho Chi Minh City?
I enjoy the diversity of my hometown, which is populated by people from the surrounding areas, such as the Mekong Delta, and Central and Northern Vietnam, as well as expats that have settled here. Also people here are very friendly, hospitable and open-minded.
Any local recommendations?
Saigon is a city full of history and culture known as the “Oriental Pearl”, so there is very impressive sightseeing, but beyond this I urge all visitors to try Vietnamese cuisine, especially the “Pho bo” – a beef noodle soup, spring-rolls, a Banh-Mi and too many other dishes to mention. Another great way to see the city from a local perspective is on a Vespa tour and if you want something really special then head to Mui Ne, a beautiful beach area outside the city from where you can take a seaplane flight over Saigon. If you have time to get out of the city, then travel to the Mekong delta and its endless rice paddies, a great place for Vietnamese culture, food and exploration.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I was actually one of the first candidates to apply when Intercruises opened their Vietnam office in 2013. I enjoy working with people that are so passionate about what they do; providing a professional service and taking on cruise lines’ challenges as though they were their own, working with them to find solutions, just as a partner should. Also, I love the global and regional teamwork – I feel like I am not just in Vietnam, but also on the other side of the planet. Finally, I like developing good relationships; with cruise lines, local authorities and even competitors – while good feedback from a client is great, when a competitor is complimentary about your work it is extra special.
Biggest challenge you’ve had….
A ship changed plans last minute, cancelling Ho Chi Minh City to visit Phu Quoc Island, leaving us 36 hours to prepare a proposal, carry out a site inspection and organize the service – the cruise line was not even expecting a smooth call, with no experience of the island. What an amazing result – all guests were happy and the cruise line was so delighted they are considering adding Phu Quoc to the regular itinerary. This is what we work for at Intercruises.
How do you see the future?
I see my future in Saigon doing something useful for my city, helping to grow tourism and provide visitors with a happy experience. We are doing this more and more, trying to develop guest experiences that are unique and help our city, such as a tour to an animal rehabilitation center or joining volunteer groups that help feed those in need. If I was to leave Saigon it would be for Da Nang City in central Vietnam – it is a younger city, but actually very similar in many ways and is becoming a center for culture the economy and tourism……it also has a beautiful beach and is in the middle of three world heritage sights; Hue Dynasty Citadel, Hoi An and My Son Hollysee.