Francis Brennan is Ireland’s best-known hotelier. This summer, he’s putting his 5 star day job on hold and trying his hand as a tour guide.
He’s taking twelve paying guests on the surprise trip of a lifetime to Vietnam.
Episode 1 Francis’s tour begins in Hanoi, where his itinerary includes paying homage to Ho Chi Minh, visiting the first of many pagodas, a traditional water puppet show and navigating the city’s hectic streets on a cyclo tour. Francis’ group includes grannies and Garda, florists and priests – what are they going to make of the diverse sights and sounds of Vietnam?
Episode 2 This week Francis’s group learn how to cook Vietnamese style, they visit the iconic Temple of Literature and the impressive Thay Pagoda. Francis heads out of Hanoi to the Mai Chau countryside and causes chaos by splitting his group; some enjoy a luxury eco-lodge, whilst others have to bed down in a basic village homestay. But, has Francis taken it too far with his newbie tourists when he takes them for dinner at a traditional snake restaurant?
Episode 3 This week the tour heads into the mountains for a shopping trip to an ethnic market. Francis arranges entertainment Vietnamese-style, with a cycle tour through some paddy fields and a game of Blind Man’s Buff …played with live ducks! The tour heads east for a cruise on the mystical Halong Bay where there are plenty surprises in the Surprise Cave. But, it’s nothing to match the wonder of Father Richard’s after-dinner party piece!
Episode 4 Today the tour moves on from their Halong Bay cruise, but not before some of the group get a rare sighting of endangered Langur Monkeys. Flying south to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) Francis takes them to visit the sobering War Remnants Museum and surprises them with a nighttime Vespa street food tour. As they join the other 7 and a half million motorbikes on the city’s hectic streets how will they survive?
Episode 5 There’s an early start in Ho Chi Minh City as it’s coffee in the park with the Saigon songbird lovers club. Then they’re on to the Independence Palace, the storming of which led to Saigon’s surrender in 1975. The tour are delighted when Francis surprises them with a meeting with Dubliner Christina Noble at the Sunshine Centre that Christina’s set up as part of her Children’s Foundation. The tour continues with a trip to the fantastical Cao Dai Temple before visiting the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, which were instrumental in Vietnam’s defeat of the Americans. But with torrential rain, tiny passageways and bats galore, will any of Francis’s tourists dare to go underground?
Episode 6 Tour guide Francis’ last stop is to the famous Mekong Delta. First up a boat cruise, stopping at a traditional brick and coconut factory before taking a sampan journey deep into the mangroves. The final day of the tour begins with an early start to one of the biggest floating markets on the Mekong River, where the group find industrial quantities of pineapples, watermelon and other exotic fruits on offer. As the tour reaches its finale what are Francis’ tourist’s final thoughts?