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I Love Vietnam
You think you know girl power, until you meet the ladies of I Love Vietnam. Founder, Lien, is one of the most inspiring young women you’ll encounter and she is just getting warmed up! Growing up in central Vietnam, Lien started this company from scratch when she was just 19 years old. It’s been almost 4 years now and these gals are still crushing it! Lien’s gang of young, motorbike tour-guides have expanded into 4 different cities in Vietnam and employ over 70 exclusively-female bikers, with dreams of conquering Vietnam, and then the world, one female-led motorbike tour at a time.
As they continue to grow and expand, Lien and her leadership squad train and certify young women as “Lady Bikers”. These ladies are not only born and bred locals, but some of the most badass bikers around. When you join them on any tour, you’re guaranteed one of the most fun, ENERGETIC, and authentic experiences in Vietnam. I Love Vietnam and Lien are gold, and we’re stoked to have them on Savvi.
Update: Savvi recently sat down with Lien, now a ripe-old 23, the day after her private meeting with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg! Sandberg requested to meet specifically with Lien to talk women in entrepreneurship and travel! How cool is this! Lien even showed us her Sandberg-signed copy of “Lean In.”
Pine Track Adventures
Like most things in this world, tourism obeys the simple rules of supply and demand - axe the price and the demand increases. At a certain scary-cheap price, one single tour company can control most of the market, but at what cost? Well it’s a good thing Savvi is here to worry about all of this for you, but Caveat Emptor my friends because the unfortunate sacrifice for a cheaper tour is usually quality and safety - and don’t let any questionably-honest TripAdvisor reviews fool you!
In Pine Track Adventures’ (PTA) hometown of Dalat, this practice of tour price gouging is especially bad. Hostels offer insanely cheap beds (less than $3/night) to lure budgeting travelers into booking all tours or activities directly through them, in turn robbing their “partner” tour providers of massive commissions and forcing them down to bare-bones operating costs. The providers can do nothing but eliminate every cost possible and compete for the low-cost bookings.
This reality made us sad, that is, until we met to Mr. Dinh! In all 10 years of operating Pine Track Adventures, Mr. Dinh has never once compromised to chase the low budget bookings. For his tours, quality of equipment, standards, safety, and, most importantly, fun have been maintained at an almost unachievable high. So sit back, relax, and let Mr. Dinh show you the beauty of the Vietnamese highlands.
Actxplorer sets out to do exactly what the name describes - act while exploring and that’s precisely why we think this up and coming social enterprise deserves the mark of Savvi. Ms. Thin, the director of AX Vietnam, has a unique story. She has lived the “Vietnamese Dream” and her business is a model-candidate for global sustainable tourism.
If you don’t believe in hard work, grit, and determination - listen to this. Thin grew up in a family of 7, in a remote ethnic village to the North. Her father - a tin miner - expected her and her siblings to work, sometimes also in the mine, to pick up the loose ends. But Thin thought bigger - she knew that if, some way, she could get a formal education, it was at the very least, an escape.
And with a little sly perseverance, Thin finally made it into a classroom - two years later than her peers. Always at the top of her class, Thin’s teacher helped her fake her birth certificate, allowing her advance into high school.
Then Thin did something extraordinary - she moved away from home in the countryside. She took to the busy streets of the Hanoi Old Quarter and started peddling musical instrument souvenirs to tourists. She did this to teach herself English, slowly moving up the totem pole, graduating to waitressing at a hotel and taking formal English classes during her other waking moments. Finally, after a healthy mix of luck, helpful acquaintances, market knowledge, and passion, Thin is a proud business owner and major proponent of sustainable tourism!
It’s not often you find an ex-military man turned soft-hearted bike tour guide, but that is exactly what you get with this experience from Around Hanoi owner, Dan. After his service to the great nation of Vietnam, Dan went on to hold positions such as tourism consultant and tour guide for large, prestigious companies mostly thanks to his never-ending local knowledge, passion for his country, and uncanny ability to converse with foreigners. His buddies made fun of him for taking English classes at university, but look who’s laughing now - father of two, loving husband, and owner of his very own bike tour company!
Biking is one of Dan’s true passions and he would tell you something along the lines of: “if it’s not one of yours either, you should probably pass on his tour”. But, for those of you who are intrigued, this is an extra special opportunity to escape from the craziness of the Old Quarter and enjoy the much much less known suburbs of Hanoi - something that even natural-born Hanoians never see!
Dan has recently been taking time to practice meditation and study a bit about Buddhism. If you really get to know him, things could be sure to get philosophical!
P.S. Dan splits his guide duties with some of his other bike-happy friends, equally as local, equally as friendly, and always just as Savvi.
Hai's Eco Tour
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one of the most beautiful and pristine pockets of planet earth. Home to over 300 caves - including the world’s largest - and hectares of unexplored jungle wildlife. It earned the protection of UNESCO in 2003, but that hasn’t stopped loggers, hunters, or the government from exploiting the region for all it’s worth. Endangered species are losing their habitat by the day while there are plans to ram a massive cable car system through the jungle for easier access to the caves. Does this make you angry? Maybe even a little bit pissed off? Well good - then I’ll introduce you to someone who’s doing something about it.
Hai (“Hi”), owner of Hai’s Eco Tours, is Phong Nha’s hero on a Honda (motorbike, that is). A professional conservationist, he has promoted sustainability and wildlife protection in the region for the last 10 years. When NGO funding for the Phong Nha Wildlife Conservation Centre dried up and then halted completely, Hai took things into his own hands. Two years ago, he started Hai’s Eco Tours. His local business keeps funds flowing to the Centre, preserving his fellow conservationists’ careers and, most importantly, maintaining a safe habitat for displaced endangered species. Even better, to run his eco tours, Hai employs would-be local loggers and hunters!
Hai has created a win-win business model for the local ecosystem and economy. For this, he deserves the stamp of Savvi. Take one of his tours and you do too.
P.S. Since founding Hai’s Eco Tours, Hai has also opened a local, organic cafe in Phong Nha village called Bamboo Cafe. Proceeds from the cafe also go to support the Wildlife Centre. Check it out!