Traveling is learning, and that is exactly what Will and his friends want for their first trip to Vietnam.
He was among 25 students and professors from Elon University exploring Ho Chi Minh City earlier this month in a scavenger hunt.
“We have tried the durian for the first time and the traditional wear to earn extra points in the race,” said the 31-year-old American student .
The tour, run by Mekong Trails, asks tourists to complete various challenges in a race.
“I learned the culture and things that I didn’t know before while integrating with the community. I like it because you are able to learn when you are engaged with the community,” Will said.
The exploring race
Truong Van Hoang, Mekong Trails director, said the scavenger hunt tour is an interactive way to learn about the beauty and the history of HCMC.
“The quest combines fascinating historical facts, bizarre legends and stories in one game and takes participants through beautiful streets and places where they have to solve a series of problems using their team work, creativity, orientations skills, attention to details and time management,” he said.
In the hunt designed for Elon University students on January 11, all teams only got a city map to help them finish all the challenges before 4 p.m.
The clues were placed in famous historical and cultural places, including the Reunification Palace, the Ben Thanh Market, the War Remnants Museum and the Central Post Office.
Hoang said the company began to provide this new tour two years ago. It is in fact one of a few travel companies in Vietnam operating in this potential but “unexploited” niche market.
“Traditionally, tourists are taken to a venue and then they take a quick glance of what the tour guide introduce them to. Now we have them engaged in a competition to learn about a place, which certainly leaves a much stronger impression,” he said.
“The market segment of young and active tourists has been left untouched for years,” Hoang added.
In his company's scavenger hunts, tourists are divided into groups and compete in fun challenges such as taking photos with the bronze statues of the four mascots on Le Cong Kieu Street, eating durian, or trying an ao dai – traditional Vietnamese costume – at the Ben Thanh Market.
“After that, a tour guide following each group will introduce about the places. This is the best way for tourists to learn about Vietnam’s culture,” Hoang said.
Byron, another Elon student taking the tour, said he was impressed with Vietnam.
“It has been absolutely beautiful, absolutely amazing. Everyone is friendly, the food is terrific. It’s really a beautiful country.”
“I learned a lot about Vietnamese culture. I will definitely leave with a better understanding of your way of life.”