With the slogan “Be a little ambassador of Hà Nội”, each member of the Hà Nội Kids club concerns himself/herself as a young ambassador to introduce foreign visitors to Hà Nội.
Many foreign visitors have become friends of the club’s members after Hà Nội tours.
Thương and Mr. Gilberto and his wife visit the One Pillar Pagoda
Tống Hồ Thương, the last-year student of the Hà Nội Foreign Trade University, came to Đào Duy Từ Street to see visitors – a young couple from London, Gilberto Ruiz and his wife Citlali Plasse.
The couple were very glad to know that their guide in the trip to explore Hà Nội is a pretty girl who speaks English fluently.
Being a voluntary guide of over 100 tours in two years, Thương is now a senior member of the Hà Nội Kids.
Normally, two members join a group of visitors but Thương prefers to go alone because she wants to have the opportunity to speak English more and create peace of mind, confidence for customers.
Because the two Venezuela-origin visitors had not informed her of the schedule, Thương only knew the places that they wanted to visit when she came to the hotel to pick them up.
The first destination they wished to go is the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, then Uncle Hồ’s house-on-stilt, the One Pillar Pagoda, a walk around the West Lake and enjoying the specialties of Hà Nội.
To create the comfort and attraction to her story, Thương said the only way is to smile all the time.
Another senior member of the Hà Nội Kids is Dương Hồng Anh, a 2nd-year student of the Hà Nội University of Technology.
Hồng Anh has been a voluntary tour-guide for over three years, since she was an 11th grader.
Hồng Anh is proud of accumulated experience and fluent English skills through free tours.
She said that previously she was very shy, but now she is confident to communicate with any foreigner.
She is the Chair of the Hà Nội Kids.
Hà (red shirt) usually teams up with another member in tours
Not much experience as Thương and Hồng Anh, Đinh Thu Hà, from the University of Hà Nội, has been a member of Hà Nội Kids for almost four months and she has been a guide of 20 tours.
To join the club, Hà had to pass three rounds of tests for knowledge and English.
Hà is one of the 40 students who “defeated” 700 competitors to be the new members of this club last December.
According to Hồng Anh, though the service is free, foreign visitors are often very polite to give guides some tips, which is used to maintain Hà Nội Kids and to organize recruitments of volunteers.
Each year, the club has two intakes, with only 40-45 new members picked up each time.
Before becoming an official tour guide, new members are trained in two months.
During this time, experienced members will lead each group of 10 new members to the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, Văn Miếu – Quốc Tử Giám (Temple of Literature) or museums to guide and test their knowledge.
The new members will in turn make presentation in front of crowds to enhance their confidence.
After the training course, the new members will experience two trail tours along with a senior member.
If they pass the two trial tours, they will become the official member of Hà Nội Kids.
Each member must have at least 10 tours a quarter, otherwise they will be warned or be rejected from the club.
Currently, the club has 70-80 members.
Each month, the club organizes about 100 tours for visitors mainly from Australia, America, Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia.
Most of members have quickly adapted themselves to the job after several first tours.
Thu Hà still remembers her first time with Singaporean visitors.
A week before the tour, she carefully learned information about some destinations and practiced speaking.
She was very nervous and expected the tour to come, but that day she was late because she missed the bus.
The tour with a four-member family from Malaysia is also a memory to Hà.
Unexpectedly changing the schedule, Hà and another student took the family to the Lệ Mật Snake Village.
Thinking that Vietnamese restaurants accept credit cards, the Malaysian visitors took with them only $80 in cash.
That time, Hà had to try her best to convene the restaurant owners to reduce prices for the Malaysian customers.
Though Hồng Anh has no longer been a tour guide, she was excited to share her experience.
Hồng Anh’s final tour is taking the US Trade Representative to the Hỏa Lò prison.
Hồng Anh said he did not expect that visitor was so friendly.
During their tour, Hồng Anh could comfortably talk and even had joke with him.
Members of the Hà Nội Kids during a tour in Mai Châu, Hòa Bình
Hồng Anh said he used to lose the way in the Hà Nộii’s Old Quarter in his first tours.
He had to ask for help from xe ôm or cyclo drivers.
“In that situation, you must be ready to take a quick response,” he said.
Hồng Anh said that most of tour guides work in pair to support each other.
Visitors have different characters.
For example, Germans and Japanese are easy while Singaporeans are picky.
“Sometimes the bargaining finishes but they unexpectedly did not buy the goods.
At that time, tour guides have to be calm to handle the case to not ruin the atmosphere of the tour.
The most important thing is to protect visitors and save their best.”
Hồng Anh said.
According to Hồng Anh, it is quite difficult to understand English of visitors from South Australia.
Therefore, he had to pay attention to the greeting and it often took him 1-1.5 hours to get used to their accent.
For Thu Hà, it is quite hard to understand British visitors because of their accent.
As free guides, for Hồng Anh, Thu Hà or Thương, the praise and suggestions of visitors are a great encouragement to them.
Many visitors have become their friends.
After each tour, visitors usually leave their comments on the page TripAdvisor.
In the rankings, the Excellent accounts for most of the praise of customers.
Visiting Hà Nội in March, a visitor from Malaysia, with nickname Dianakpg wrote:
“This is a service for free guide of students from many different universities with the aim of improving their English speaking skills.
The guides are excellent.
They understand the history and are dedicated to the fellow.
They will take you to many places and tell you the history of that place.
You should place order for their service a few months before their trips because they are famous.”
On 25/5/2006, 10 youngsters who love Hà Nội and enjoy learning English formed a group of free tour guides.
It was initially named Hà Nội Friends but later its name was changed into Hà Nội Kids.