A spontaneous trip to Vietnam turned out to be a pleasant surprise for Grace Kestler and her mother. During her 10-day stay, Grace visited two main cities – Hanoi and Hoi An – in her manual wheelchair.
“Manual chair is needed for easiest travel. It is [also] easy to take in and out of cars.”
Hanoi is a bustling city with busy streets and traffic. Grace and her mother got around mainly via taxi. “We didn’t necessarily need an accessible taxi because I could transfer,” says Grace. The friendly culture in Vietnam was exemplified by helpful drivers who assisted with her chair. One tip that Grace has is to have a physical copy of your address on hand.
“While many people speak English, we found that it was hard to communicate directions verbally. Have a map and circle where you’re going!”
There is an abundance of shops and market places along the streets of Hanoi. However, sidewalks are not clearly demarcated, and motorbikes are parked on the sidewalks, too. “This gave us no other option than to walk in the street,” shares Grace.
“This was pretty terrifying, but if you just go with the flow people will go around you. Tons of people walk in the street.”
Most shops do have steps to enter, Grace notes, but her manual wheelchair enabled her to get up the curbs. “Again, people were so helpful and of course always willing to bring out items that I might want to buy,” she says. There were no accessible buses for the side trips that they took in Hanoi. On these trips, Grace took a 15-passenger van, with her wheelchair folded in the back.
Visiting Halong Bay
This was Grace’s favorite side trip. After much email correspondence inquiring about elevators in the boats, Grace took a ship with Paradise Cruises fleet. While the boat had no elevator, the staff gladly carried Grace up and down the stairs when she requested.
Visiting Hoi An
They had to take a flight to get there.
“It was obvious that the local airports were not used to individuals in wheelchairs traveling. They did have a lift to and from the plane, but I had to sit in the back row and transfer by myself. They also didn’t seem to have an aisle chair.”
And communication was a bit difficult because “on the budget airlines, flight attendants didn’t know hardly any English,” shares Grace.
Upon arrival, they took a taxi to their hotel. Grace recommends staying in downtown Hoi An as it is along a river. Hoi An is “a nice walking city,” and the views from walking along the streets are extremely scenic!
While Grace only saw one other wheelchair user in Vietnam, she observed that people were “very kind and considerate.” Having a travel buddy was essential, but being able to communicate her disability also helped the locals understand what kind of assistance Grace needed. The friendly culture of Vietnam certainly made Grace’s trip an exceptional one!
Know anyone who is considering taking a trip down to Southeast Asia? Share this post with them, and hopefully help them narrow down their choices!