Brad and John had joined Zoom Vacations in Australia a few years ago, and we were excited to welcome them back on another tour! Everything aligned, and this time they joined us on our Zoom Vacations tour to Vietnam and Cambodia. Brad spoke with us a bit about his recent experience, traveling with Zoom Vacations.
Zoom: What made you decide to take the trip with Zoom Vacations to Vietnam and Cambodia?
Brad: A couple of years ago John and I searched the web for gay travel agencies. We had traveled with other agencies and wanted to see what was out there. We found Zoom Vacations, and after doing some research we took the trip to Australia two years ago. It was an amazing experience. While we often do our own planning and booking our trips, it was clear that if we had done that in Australia we would have missed a lot. As we began to plan a vacation for this past winter, the South East Asia trip looked interesting. We decided to do the add-on trip to Laos. When we booked our flights we realized we would have about 36 hours in Bangkok and contacted Joel at Zoom to see if he could help us with a hotel. He not only got a hotel, but a guide for the one day we were there. From the moment we landed in Bangkok until we left Cambodia, the trip was filled with amazing experiences.
Zoom: What were your highlights from the trip?
Brad: It would be impossible to name one. We rode an elephant in Laos and a boat down the Mekong river, stopping at some incredible sites. We spent an evening at the home of a family in Laos where the patriarch of the family led us in a meaningful Baci ceremony followed by a dinner they cooked and ate with us. The view from the boat in Halong Bay, the caves, the tomb of Ho Chi Minh, the lantern city of Hoi An, the tunnels from the war, the city of Saigon, the boat trip to see the floating fishing villages in Cambodia, and more. It would be impossible to choose. Every day was another incredible, eye-opening experience.
Zoom: Was there anything you could tell that was different about Vietnam compared to Cambodia?
Brad: Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia were different in cuisine, the tempo of life, and the sights. They each were unique and it was great to experience them on the same trip so we could see those differences. The guides were local people who shared not only the history of their country, but also a little bit about their own everyday life.
Zoom: Places like Angkor Wat are hyped up quite a bit. Did it live up to its expectations?
Brad: Angkor Wat was even more amazing than I imagined. It was like going back in time. Our guide knew the best times to go to the different sights which helped us from being caught up in huge crowds. It was an experience to be standing in an ancient temple and seeing wild monkeys jump around and elephants go by.
Zoom: How were the hotels throughout the trip?
Brad: The hotels were all 5 star experiences that included more amenities than most US or European hotels. The breakfasts were an education in themselves with breakfast foods from India, Laos, Vietnam, Japan, China, and Thailand in each location. They also had English breakfast and American breakfast choices. The staff at each hotel were great at explaining the different choices and how they are eaten. Breakfast 101.
One hotel had a private pool for each room. Our luxury "junk" boat in Halong Bay was beautiful and comfortable. Every hotel was an experience, and they were all within walking distance to other adventures.
Zoom: The US has an interesting history with the people of Vietnam. How were you received by locals?
Brad: As someone who had a draft number in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War, it was an interesting experience to travel there. I think it is important to let people tell their “story” and interpretation of events which is what happened on the tour. The locals were extremely friendly.
Zoom: Is this a good destination to visit with a gay group? Why?
Brad: My husband and I felt very comfortable being ourselves on the trip. The locals, the hotels, and the guides were welcoming and made us feel at home throughout the trip.
Zoom: Are Vietnam and Cambodia destinations that you would recommend to your friends?
Brad: While we were on the trip I shared photos and reflections with my friends on Facebook. The response was incredible. People could see and hear how amazing those countries are to visit. Zoom Vacation’s itinerary made it possible to do so much in just a short time. It is not a trip I would try to plan on my own unless I had a month to do it.
Zoom: You are joining Zoom in South Africa at the end of the summer. What keeps you coming back to Zoom?
Brad: John and I have learned that Zoom Vacations plans itineraries with people like us in mind. We like to spend our vacation time wisely and when we go on a ZOOM vacation we not only have an incredible adventure, it is balanced with times of relaxation. We have met some wonderful people on each trip which is an added bonus.
Zoom: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Brad: John and I have several friends who have traveled the world for business and vacations. Whenever we show them the itinerary for a Zoom Vacation, they are amazed at how well organized and planned they are. We have a few more Zoom destinations on our list and look forward to whatever new destinations Zoom may offer.