Joanie Garborg, who is part of the Niteo team exploring Vietnam, is our guest blogger today.



Sometimes the most memorable experiences are ones you couldn’t have planned.


Yesterday in Vietnam was a good example. Even though our schedule was packed, two spontaneous stops enriched our itinerary by giving us a personal connection with local people and their lives.


As we were driving on outskirts of the city of Hue, someone in our group commented on what appeared to be a barrel-making shop. Almost immediately the van stopped and backed up to what was actually a drum-making business. Like many professions here, their skills have been passed through generations. The father and son now in charge eagerly put on a tutorial in their craft.


They secured curved wood staves into a cask shape then wrapped wet water buffalo hide over the top and lashed it down. Once the hide was perfectly stretched—partly by stomping on it just so—they fastened it with bamboo nails, which work better than metal because they won’t split the wood and will last longer. Their methods were clever and resourceful, and they were proud to show them off. They even invited us to share a cup of tea.


travel serendipities
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Pounding in handmade bamboo nails.


Down the road, another person in our group inquired about the possibility of trying out the round basket boat popular with coastal fishermen in Vietnam. Our guide made a quick call, and we went off script again. Rowing these tricky-to-maneuver vessels was an absolute blast! The best part? Our interactions, despite the language barrier, with the delightful older couple who owned the boats. The teasing back and forth, the laughter as we rowed alongside each other, made it a trip highlight.



Connections with local people—exchanging warmth and kindness and, we hope, sharing God’s love nonverbally—are the best souvenirs. They’re memories that last long after the trip is over. Traveling with a small group and a local guide who specializes in customization, as on a Niteo Tour, creates space for those never-to-be-forgotten travel serendipities.


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