G Adventures and Planeterra Showcase How Tourism Can Be a Force For Good

Upon arrival at Oodles of Noodles in Hoi An, Vietnam, travellers will watch a video that features once homeless and at-risk youth sharing stories about how a bowl of noodles can make all the difference.

There’s a particularly powerful tale by a young man telling a story about a hungry boy who was waiting near a local restaurant in hopes of being fed. Once two guests left the restaurant after complaining that the meal they were served was too cold, the little boy got to eat the lukewarm discarded noodle bowl.

“That boy was me,” he announces, calling it the best meal of his life. Today, he’s gone on to graduate from a vocational program that provides life-changing opportunities for poor, disadvantaged, orphaned and trafficked kids by Streets International.

Part culinary & hospitality school and part full-service apprenticing restaurant, the Oodles of Noodles training program provides trainees with all the skills needed for careers in tourism and hospitality.

“They start with no English, no skills and they came to Oodles of Noodles and the people there train them with vocational skills, English skills, hospitality, restaurant skills, that kind of thing,” explained G Adventures CEO John Tran, who guided our group of Canadian agents on a recent FAM trip through Vietnam. “A lot of the [graduates] are now working at four star, five star hotels, a lot of them got a good job after that.”

Along with access to a teaching kitchen, classrooms for learning hospitality and tourism related courses, and an English lab, trainees also get firsthand experience working in the restaurant and interacting with G Adventures groups, who visit the location for noodle making and tasting classes. Travellers try their hand at making some dishes, learn about some of the different kinds of noodles and ingredients in the region and get to taste a delicious meal all while supporting the cause.

Meanwhile, the students graduate the program with an international culinary arts or hospitality certificate — often going on to land positions at high-end resorts across the country. To date over 250 youths have been trained. Oodles of Noodles is also one of the projects supported by Planeterra, G Adventures’ non-profit partner.

G Values Fund project brings coffee and culture to Hanoi

Earlier in the week, after a foodie tour through the streets of Hanoi, the FAM group headed to Hanoi Food Culture restaurant to learn about a local specialty known as egg coffee.

“Some of you may possibly know that this is a G Values Fund project,” co-owner Lap Nguyen said after the group arrived. “I used to be a CEO, running tours on the road. One day my wife called me when I was in Siem Reap and said that she had cancer so I decided to quit the job and come back here.”

Through access to funding from the G Values Fund, which allows former tour leaders to open their own businesses with low interest loans through the tour operator, Hanoi Food Culture was born.

“The story of the egg coffee — it’s a Hanoi specialty. Hoi An and Saigon also have egg coffee, but they’re not the original, Hanoi is the place where the egg coffee came from. Egg in coffee, it seems very weird right?” he said as he kicked off an entertaining egg coffee making demonstration, which indeed is made with egg yolks. “It started over 100 years ago. If you go to any coffee shop and ask, ‘hey, what’s the recipe?’ They never want to share with you, but here we want to share it with you. It’s a million dollar business idea when you go home.”

A pledge for Peru

For those of you following along on our CEO’s quest to make to Peru for the first ever GX Summit presented by G Adventures culminating around World Tourism Day, it was officially announced on June 1 that Tran secured his spot for outstanding fundraising efforts in support of Planeterra.

“I was chosen to go to Peru! I am crying now,” he told the group in a What’s App message from Vietnam after the announcement was made, thanking them for their support. “I cannot say thank you enough to our group for such great support during and after the trip. You will always be in my heart.”

Tran’s donations started skyrocketing after Jenna English, global purpose specialist for British Columbia & Northern Territories at G Adventures, came up with the idea to get Tran to paint his nails purple with the G Adventures logo as a fun-draising initiative. In total, Tran raised $1,614, which is significant considering the worldwide total raised was $100,000.

A ripple effect in Vietnam 

All G Adventures trips are given a Ripple Score, which determines the amount of money that stays in the local community visited on an itinerary.

Notably, English said the Ripple Score for the Classic Vietnam: Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, which the FAM group embarked on, is 100%.

“All the guides we used, even the local ones in Hue for the motorbike tour and for the tunnels, things go directly to them,” she noted. “When we book optional activities, those are local suppliers, restaurants that we’re supporting. Local guides, local suppliers, even the bus companies, you’re not seeing an outside company.”

Stay tuned for more coverage in upcoming editions of Canadian Travel Press and Travel Courier, but until then, here’s a look at some of the memorable moments from the FAM trip:

Exploring the Cu Chi Tunnels, a complex network of tunnels that the Viet Cong lived in to protect themselves from opposing forces during the Vietnam War.

Ready (or not) for 13 hours on a sleeper train. Much fun was had (off the record)!

Soaking up the sights and scents at Thuy Xuan incense-making village near Hue.

Going out for a rip on motorbikes in Hue. Fear not, we actually had talented drivers taking us around the area.

Taking in the stunning sights of Halong Bay, where 1,969 islands made of limestone jet out from the water.

A drive to remember along the Hai Van pass.

Embarking on an evening cruise along the Thu Bồn River.

Rocking custom threads made from tailors in Hoi An, note English’s purple G Adventures dress, on the rooftop of the final hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.

Getting up close and personal with the Vietnamese Bamboo Circus.

Enjoying a final night out on the town in the lively Ho Chi Minh City.