Vietnam has a wealth of attractions that make it one of the must-visit destinations in the world. It is a beautiful country with a stunning coastline, highland areas inhabited by colorful hill tribes, miles of lush green rice paddies, several World Heritage sites, a rich imperial history, delectable cuisine and fun-loving, friendly people.
Here are the top ten reasons to visit Vietnam, selected by Anita Sach of Lux Cruises, a member of Lux Group.
1. The people
It goes without saying that Vietnam is a particularly beautiful country, but this is enhanced by its people, who are hardworking, forward looking, hospitable and who have a wonderful sense of humour.
2. The variety
Vietnam is a country of contrasts with its lush green patchwork of rice paddies, dramatic mountains, unspoilt coastline and the watery worlds of the Mekong and Red River deltas. Other top attractions include the enigmatic limestone karsts in Halong Bay, bustling Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, laidback Hue and also Hoi An.
3. The accommodation
Whatever your budget there is somewhere to stay that is perfect for you from simple mini-hotels, through to welcoming mid-range hotels, stylish boutique hotels and smart international chains.
4. The food
Vietnamese food combines the best of Thai and Chinese cuisines with a twist of French heritage and Vietnamese creativity. Seafood is fresh and a hearty bowl of pho a must. Whether you choose to dine in a roadside café with the kitchen out front where you can watch your selection being freshly cooked or in a chic restaurant in an old colonial mansion, you won’t be disappointed. Of course, if you are hankering for a burger, curry or pizza, you won’t have to look far.
5. The culture
Culture vultures won’t know where to start! Take in ancient temples and pagodas such as the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, the Jade Emperor in Ho Chi Minh City and Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh. In Hue, wander round the intriguing, beautifully landscaped tombs of the Nguyen dynasty emperors and try to imagine how the imperial palace would have looked in its heyday.
6. Colonial history
Wherever you look you will see the remnants of the French colonial period from the freshly baked French-style bread to the gorgeous old villas in the former hill stations. Dalat could be a typical Provencal town surrounded by alpine scenery. The hill tribes selling vegetables in the market are a reminder that you are actually in Vietnam.
7. Luxury journeys
With new luxury hotels and world-class golf courses opening as well as helicopter tours and sea plane flights over Halong Bay Vietnam is fast emerging as the world’s latest luxury destination. For train lovers, the evocatively named Victoria Orient Reunification Express is a must.
From the decks of a smart river cruiser, enjoy viewing river life as you cruise along the waterways from the Mekong delta deep into Cambodia or overnight on Halong Bay. Nha Trang Bay now offers its first overnight cruises on Emperor Cruises and Heritage Cruises
Leave plenty of space in your suitcase for those must-have items, clothes, silk bags and lacquerware all of which can be found in the colourful markets. Enter into the fun by bargaining hard!
Travelers always want new and exotic experiences, plus value, both in terms of personal value and value for money. They seek new destinations, new hotels and new experiences. They want to be the first to discover a destination. Many have moved towards a quieter understated luxury and plan their trips with a focus on authenticity and experiential travel, particularly enriching once-in-a-lifetime experiences. For travel experts, it is essentially about creating a experiential travel that is personal as well as authentic and memorable.
Vietnam now has world class hotels and resorts, beaches and cuisine, in addition to its natural beauty, rich history and traditional culture.
“Wow Vietnam” was created with an aim to attract discerning travelers, who wish to experience its defining characteristics: thrills, nature, heritage, festival, pristine, experiential travel, scenery and essence.
As travel expert, Pham Ha President and CEO of Lux Group advises TAB, VNAT, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, here is my definition of uniqueness and difference that the slogan of Vietnam tourism must be promoted in all trade shows, embassies, all media, travel players even local people.
Depending in each market and need, the marketing campaign can be focused and bespoke such as endless of discovery, food, nature, culture, shops…
The thrills oﬀered are endless and span a wide range, including: hiking, trekking, biking, kayaking, climbing, rafting, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, hot air ballooning, camping, yachting and more. Some of the locations where these activities can be enjoyed include: Sapa, Halong Bay, Cu Lao Cham, the Central Highlands, the Mekong Delta, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Con Dao, the Phu Quoc Islands and many more.
The nature amazes visitors, from the green beauty of the national parks, reserves and ramsars, to the mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and grottoes. Halong Bay is among the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Visitors will discover the natural allure of Vietnam by indulging in a wide array of accommodations, tour packages and attractions at places such as Mai Chau, Sapa, Ha Giang, Ba Be, Halong Bay, Phong Nha Ke Bang, the Central Highlands, Nam Cat Tien and many more.
With its long history and unique way of life, Vietnam has a rich heritage. There are many interesting and diverse sites to be found around the country. Halong Bay is a tourism icon for Vietnam Tourism in the world. Trang An has been just named world heritage listed site, Vietnam now boasts 8 world natural and cultural heritage sites, not to mention many intangible cultural heritages.
WOW Festivals and lifestyle of Vietnamese
Many colorful festivals can be enjoyed year round. The time after Tet Nguyen Dan (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) is especially exciting. Other festivals include the Perfume Pagoda, Hung King, Kate, and Lim and Giay Festivals, just to name a few. 54 nationalities with 54 various cultures and lifestyles to discover in the country. Vietnamese is friendly and hospital, always with smiles.
Many pristine islands and beaches are to be found in this tropical country. Vietnam has 3,620 km of coastline, with beautiful white sand beaches and world class resorts. Of these, you should not miss the stunning sand and clear waters of My Khe, Cua Dai, Nha Trang, Ninh Van Bay, Quy Nhon, Mui Ne, Vung Tau, Phu Quoc and the Con Dao Islands.
Holidaymakers have the choice of new and trendy boutique hotels, spas, golfing, cruises, shopping centers, restaurants and nightlife. With new luxury hotels and world class golf courses having recently opened or set to open soon, and the introduction of luxury train journeys, exclusive cruises and upscale private tours spanning the length of the country, Vietnam is fast emerging as an exciting luxury destination in Asia.
Spectacular scenery and a diverse landscape exist from North to South. Mountains, forests, nature reserves, rivers, beaches, and islands are all here to be enjoyed. Verdant patchworks of rice paddies and pointed lampshade-style hats are just a small part of what there is to be seen in this formerly war ravaged country. Visitors will see more than the economic repression often portrayed on worldwide television and in newspapers. There is also natural beauty, a harmonious array of ethnic cultures, imperial monuments, timeless traditional villages, idyllic sea resorts and dynamic cities.
Vietnam boasts scores of traditions, lifestyles and religions. The friendly and hospitable population has been influenced by the cultures of China, France and America, and this is reflected in the country’s lifestyle, architecture, cuisine and art. Vietnamese cuisine is acclaimed worldwide and become the buzz words of all travelers. Should promote Vietnamese gourmet cuisine or heritage as an UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION
Travel is all about destinations, experiences and memories. CEO Lux Group Pham Ha suggests a new slogan and tagline for Vietnam Tourism.
The gods did not compromise when they chose to endow this small Far Eastern country on the coast of the East Sea. Resembling the shape of a serpent, Vietnam has an array of natural and cultural riches that make it one of the world’s must-visit destinations.
The tagline for Vietnamese tourism, “Touching the heritage,” invokes the country’s blend of heritage and modern life for travellers who wish to experience the defining characteristics of V.I.E.T.N.A.M.
V – Varied landscape
Vietnam is one of the favourite playgrounds of Mother Nature, boasting a wondrous blend of mountains, highlands, caves, rivers, plains, beaches, and epic delta regions.
With Mount Fansipan, as its backdrop, Sapa is home to terraced rice fields, cascading waterfalls, and secluded tribal villages perched on distant slopes. Halong Bay is the perfect getaway to experience luxury cruises as well as outdoor activities such as kayaking. It is an enthralling experience to cruise amidst the towering limestone karsts jutting out of the Gulf of Tonkin. The endless spectacle of the limestone world continues further south in Trang An and Tam Coc located in Ninh Binh province, offering limitless opportunities for travellers.
Complementing the Central Highlands, exquisite pristine beaches enrich the beauty of Central Vietnam. Son Doong Cave, the world’s largest cave system, is a particular highlight, although it remains difficult to explore. However, this imposing cave kingdom in Phong Nha and Ke Bang features many more, easy to explore yet stunning caves, grottoes, and underground rivers. Impressive coffee plantations sprawl over the highlands of Buon Ma Thuot, whilst Dalat is surrounded by spectacular scenery and churning waterfalls. The sandy shores of Cham Island, Nha Trang, and Quy Nhon meet the turquoise sea where scuba divers can explore the rich aquamarine ecosystem. Following the course of the mighty Mekong River, South Vietnam is equally photogenic. The river branches off into many estuaries, drawing up an agritourism paradise.
I – Indigenous culture
The country’s indigenous cultures bear the marks of China, Japan, and France and a homestay within the ethnic communities is a special way to learn about their culture. Whether in the north, centre or south, there are significant cultural treasures and celebrations by individual communities expressed through festivals and performances. The A-O show portrays the rural lifestyle of farmers and fishermen nationwide. The Quintessence of Tonkin show narrates the ancient tale of the Thay Pagoda, Buddhism, and literature. Traditional music and folk art can be gleaned through the performances of Xoan and Cheo singers, while the captivating Water Puppet show in Hanoi, which originates back to the Red River Delta, is also a must-see. Mythology is an integral part of Vietnamese culture and beliefs and legends revolve around four sacred creatures – the Dragon, Phoenix, Turtle, and Unicorn. There are many colourful festivals observed all year around while the most important one is Tet – Vietnamese Lunar New Year which foreign visitors need to experience at least once.
E – Exotic beaches
Undeniable luxury and incredible visual treats are on offer along the nation’s 3,260-kilometre coastline, home to some of the most romantic beaches and islands in the world. Mystical hideaways, secluded beaches, and coves on remote islands, the stretches of white and golden sands fringing the seas at My Khe, Nha Trang, Vung Tau, Phu Quoc, and the Con Dao archipelago are high on the wish-lists of beach lovers. The crystal-clear water offers unrestricted visibility of colourful marine life as well as swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, and kayaking. Luxury beach resorts and hotels offer idyllic accommodation. Even the most remote are home to boutique resorts for luxury in seclusion, allowing discerning travellers to experience life close to nature.
T – Timeless charm
Emerging from a painful past, much has been done to restore Vietnam’s many treasures and add even more. It is not only the natural world that draws visitors in, but also the people, culture, lifestyle, cuisine, and art. The honking of the ever-moving traffic in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are a complete contrast to the tranquility of the countryside. The country presents a plethora of unforgettable images, from epic landscapes, ethnic cultures, legendary cuisine, and imperial monuments and continue through to its timeless village traditions, idyllic sea resorts, and bustling cities. The taste of egg coffee, using chopsticks to enjoy traditional dishes such as pho bo or bun cha, the ubiquitous conical hats, and the twinkling lanterns of Hoi An make for images that travellers will cherish forever.
N – Natural heritage sites
Vietnam takes pride in its diversity and has been blessed with some stunning UNESCO-recognised Natural Heritage Sites, such as Halong Bay, Trang An, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, and Cat Ba Island. The world’s largest cave system, Son Doong stuns visitors with its otherworldly splendour and ecosystem.
Halong Bay, featuring a cluster of 1,600 islets, is one of the world’s natural wonders. Cruising through this karst landscape is a cinematic experience. Sailing beyond Halong Bay, visitors can get to Cat Ba Natural Heritage Site nestled in the heart of Lan Ha Bay, a treasure trove of flora and fauna. Trang An is another limestone world where the footprints of prehistoric humans and the fossils of extinct animals have been discovered. A bamboo boat ride along the Sao Khe River leads to mysterious underground caves and grottoes as well as ancient cave pagodas and temples.
A – Ancient cities
Hoa Lu in Ninh Binh was the ancient capital of Dai Co Viet (the ancient name of Vietnam). This ancient city, full of temples and pagodas dedicated to former kings, has witnessed many historical events. Its annual festival welcomes tourists from near and far. Hue is the last imperial capital of Vietnam and still preserves many relics from the royal empire. The Imperial Citadel of Hue, the royal tombs of King Minh Mang, King Khai Dinh, and other emperors along with the ancient Thien Mu Pagoda are just some of the major attractions of the former capital. UNESCO-protected My Son sanctuary dates back to the Pre-Angkorian era and was the capital of the Cham Dynasty. Hoi An was the most important port for trading in ancient Southeast Asia. The tranquil ambiance of this UNESCO-protected town, with its colonial architecture, traditions, and coffee culture, makes it a magnet for travellers. Further south, Dalat was one of the favourite hill stations for French garrisons and is filled with a plethora of colonial buildings. The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long marks the origin of today’s capital, Hanoi, dating back to the 11th century and the reign of the Ly Dynasty. Ho Chi Minh City is also an ancient establishment from the prehistoric era and witnessed one of the earliest Asian civilisations.
M – Memories to cherish forever
Nothing quite compares to the charm that Southeast Asian countries and Vietnam have developed as a great holiday destination for both leisure and business travellers. It is a truly memorable experience travelling across the country, exploring the treasures of Halong Bay on a luxury cruise, savouring tasty Vietnamese dishes in the finest restaurants of bustling Ho Chi Minh City, relaxing on the idyllic sandy beaches of Phu Quoc Island or strolling through the lantern-lit alleys of ancient Hoi An. Holidaymakers will definitely fall in love with the food, landscapes, and lifestyle of Vietnam.
Once a hidden paradise, Vietnam is now fast emerging as an exciting upmarket destination in Asia, with a sophisticated hospitality industry. The recent development of world-class golf courses has opened a new avenue for golf tours to the nation. The introduction of luxury train journeys, boutique cruises, and upscale private tours spanning the length and breadth of the country has escalated the demand for new destinations and journeys. Travel is now all about places, experiences, and memories.
My name is Huong Pham, operations manager of Lux Cruises (Emperor Cruises and Heritage Cruises) in Hanoi. I would like to confirm for you that our Dcar Limousine will come and pick you up ataround 8:00 to 8:30 am at your given hotel address.
Mr. Tuan Nguyen will be your chauffeur driver for the comfortable journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay and the return (his cell phone number is 0944 768 833). This is a shared van for 9 guests so he may pick up some other passengers before heading to highway 5B to Halong Bay in Quang Ninh Province to the East of Hanoi. Upon arrival at the Tuan Chau harbor in Halong Bay, our cruise manager will be ready to welcome you aboard the cruise.
I would like to give you some brief information about the road journey. It takes about 2 and a half hours to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi on highway 5B for a distance of 180km from the destination. Halfway there, Mr. Tuan Nguyen will stop at the rest stop for refreshments. You will spend about 15 minutes there and you can get refreshments or take a bathroom break before getting back into the van.
At around 11:00 am, we will arrive at our Lux Cruises Lounge at slot number 28 in Tuan Chau International Passengers Port, and you will be met and greeted at our Lounge for refreshments before being transferred by our speedboat to reach the Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan or Emperor Cruises from 12 to 12:30pm . On board, fresh welcome drinks will be served, and the cruise manager will give you safety information, instructions, and the full itinerary for your cruise trip. Lunch will be served at around 1:00 to 1:30 pm.
In our van, for your comfort, we offer you complimentary wifi, water, wet tissues and an umbrella. For your entertainment, we have music, magazines and books. Mr. Tuan Nguyen will drive at an average of 80km per hour, and the air conditioning is set to a comfortable temperature by default. Feel free to ask him to adjust it to your preference.
During the journey from Hanoi to Halong Bay, if you have any questions or if you want to change the drop off hotel address in Hanoi, don’t hesitate to ask Mr. Tuan – he can speak a little bit of English. You can call me at +84-886-039-009 around the clock if you need further assistance or information.
Once again, thank you very much for choosing our Lux Cruises and traveling with us today, and our team and I wish you a safe and pleasant road journey to the paradise that is Halong and Lan Ha Bays.
Enjoy your transfer and cruising experience!
Xin cảm ơn!
Dear valued guests
My name is Bui The Quang, your Experience Manager aboard Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan Cat Ba Archipelago.
I trust that you are enjoying your unique cruising experience with us. I would like to reconfirm your à la carte menu for dinner at Le Tonkin Restaurant on the main deck at 07:00pm. Until then, discover, explore, immerse, and relax until our team call you by sounding the wooden bell to announce dinner time. This is the old-fashioned way in ancient Vietnamese villages, when the locals celebrated a festive dinner in the communal house.
Called after the former name for North Vietnam in French Indochina, the restaurant décor reflects the nostalgia of traditional Tonkin in the 1930s. One of Vietnam’s most celebrated gifts to the world is its cuisine. Vietnamese food knows no borders and is appreciated for its freshness and unique mix of textures, flavors, and aromas. Every course is infused with creativity and served with passion, accompanied by a live traditional music performance as the backdrop for a one-of-a-kind dining experience to remember.
Your chosen menu is ideal to be paired with wine. We have our extensive Bach Dang wine cellar from which our sommelier will help you to select the perfect accompaniment. If you wish to change your mind about your menu or choose a different wine from our drinks list, please let me know before 6:00 pm so that our chef, Ngo Luong, has enough time to prepare your dining experience.
As the dinner tonight is Vietnam style, please wear the long traditional tunic and turban that we have prepared for you in the wardrobe. If you have any difficulty in wearing the “Ao dai”, please call me or your concierge at any time, by dialling 0.
Until then, I wish you a very pleasant stay with us, and have a great dining experience on our Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan Cat Ba Archipelago.
Bui The Quang
Your Experience Manager
ENJOY YOUR FINE DINING EXPERIENCE!
The Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan was also built to commemorate Bach Thai Buoi, who has been known as the “King of Ships” in Vietnam.
Inspired by the spirit and the ambition of Bach Thai Buoi, who was famous for his patriotism and business successes in the early 20th century, Pham Ha built up his brand Heritage Cruises. Bach Thai Buoi was born into a poor family, but became the fourth richest Vietnamese in the early 20th century and was always respected by the people. He was a patriot and placed great emphasis on social transformation. In the “trade war” of the early 20th century, he defeated the French and Chinese capitalists, creating a nationalist movement whereby “Vietnamese people consumed Vietnamese goods and travelled by Vietnamese transport companies.”
Although Bach Thai Buoi’s parents were poor, they sent him to school to learn both Quoc Ngu, the Vietnamese language script, and French. Every day, Bach Thai Buoi collected firewood from the banks of Nhue River, sold it, and earned money to start his business. Bach Thai Buoi was always interested in machinery, so in 1894 he went to work in a workshop to learn how to organise and manage production. Shortly after that, he went to France to participate in an exhibition in Bordeaux. On returning to Vietnam, a new opportunity presented itself when the Indochina Railroad Company needed a large amount of wood for the construction of the Paul Doumer Bridge. In the following years, he had earned much money and accumulated extensive experience in the business.
Bach Thai Buoi realised that the waterways between Nam Dinh, Hanoi, and Ben Thuy were always crowded, and, if developed, could bring greater benefit to the region. In 1909, the Marty-D’Abbadie Company had just finished its contract with the French state for these waterways, and Bach Thai Buoi seized the opportunity and immediately hired three of their ships. He gave them the Vietnamese names Phi Long (Dragon), Phi Phuong (Phoenix), and Fai Tsi Long (Bai Tu Long). He faced serious competition from the Chinese merchant ships. The French had been unable to take them on, but Bach Thai Buoi did so and started to run the Hai Phong route as well, expanding again within just two years.
Bach Thai Buoi had overcome fierce competition, and his contemporaries hailed him as the “Lord of the Tonkin Rivers.” However, his dream was to sail across the ocean. His next milestone was when he designed and built the largest ship in Vietnam at that time. On September 7, 1919, Bach Thai Buoi launched the Binh Chuan ship, which sailed from Hai Phong to Saigon and created new markets and new businesses. With his abundant wealth, he quickly captured the market. It seemed that nothing could stop him, and he started to make plans to expand his business even further, but unfortunately, he passed away in 1932 in Hai Phong at the age of 57. He was buried in Uong Bi coal mine area in Quang Yen (Quang Ninh province).
Besides the head office in Nam Dinh, he opened a branch in Ben Thuy in June 1914 and another in Hanoi in August, which can still be seen in front of the Clock Pillar near the old Paul Doumer Bridge (now Tran Quang Khai Street). Bach Thai Buoi’s ships dominated the waterways sailing between Hanoi, Hai Phong, Nam Dinh, Tuyen Quang, and Cho Bo. In 1916, Bach Thai Buoi officially established his business on the banks of the Tam Bac River in Hai Phong, the Bach Thai Buoi Ocean and River Transportation Company. As the years passed, the company opened more branches, and his fleet expanded from the original three to thirty ships. The passenger vessels’ capacity varied dramatically, carrying between 55 and 1,200 people.
My admiration for Bach Thai Buoi encouraged me, and Heritage Cruises was born. We endeavour to apply his ethical practices and values to bring the heritage of our nation to our guests,” said Pham Ha, CEO of Heritage Cruises. Heritage Cruises’ travellers will follow in Bach Thai Buoi’s footsteps to re-discover the Red River and its delta. This is the first step towards realising Ha’s dream of introducing cruises along the coast, bringing the beauty of the country to travellers. “The encouragement and enthusiastic support of Bach Que Huong, the great-granddaughter of our beloved Bach Thai Buoi, has made us very proud and given us even greater belief in the success of this cruising project in Hai Phong”, Pham Ha shares. (Photo: VietnamPlus) with dozens of paintings by Pham Luc, who has been called the “Vietnamese Picasso”. Pham Ha, CEO of Heritage Cruises, said he realised that paintings and art in general can be the great assets of the country as they reflect national culture and history. “Through paintings, we can understand more about the past and the present, the war, the heritage as well as the life of the Vietnamese people. They are all great features to introduce both Vietnamese and foreign visitors to our art, history and culture and that is why I choose to include these heritage values on my cruises.”
Pham Ha said visitors have a lot of time in their voyage, so they can experience and also learn more about the stories with ethnic values behind those very experiences. Instead of choosing to build the majestic Western-style ships, Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan chooses a true story to explore and express Vietnamese values of art, history, culture, cuisine. This can be considered a continuation of patriotism from Bach Thai Buoi. Since Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan was deployed, many customers have rated their satisfaction level of 6-7 stars on 7-star scale, which marks a remarkable recognition for a product created by Lux Group.
“This is the first time Pham Ha has developed this unique idea and I feel very excited when my paintings are displayed on the heritage space of ‘King of ships’ Bach Thai Buoi.” Pham Luc said. “Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan is specifically designed to give visitors the opportunity to enjoy art in a natural heritage setting.” Pham Luc (born on March 14, 1943) is a Hue-born artist living and working in Hanoi. He is considered as an artist with distinctive style signified by humble and free-spirited imageries, a dark yet warm palette, and diverse mediums. Apart from visual component of his artworks, the beauty of Pham Luc’s paintings lies in the content – romantic emotions, desire for peace and freedom parallel with reminiscence of war.
Around 100 of Pham Luc’s paintings, many from the 1965-75 period, are exhibited on Heritage Cruises. Based on a shared passion, Heritage Cruises connects closely with the artist and this is reflected in the overall style, décor, cuisine, wine, music, art and service on board. All these things represent Vietnam. The country is rich in terms of its history, culture, nature, heritage, and cuisine. These all combine to create once-in-a-life-time memories for our guests in the natural wonder of Ha Long Bay, itself a masterpiece. Pham Ha said he has great love for artworks and collecting paintings has been his hobby. Vietnamese fine art contributes to the world art with lacquer paintings and silk paintings, which are also the main types of Pham Luc’s paintings.
Inspired by the spirit and the ambition of Vietnamese entrepreneur Bach Thai Buoi, who was very famous for his patriotism and business success in the early 20th century, Pham Ha built up his brand Heritage Cruises. This cruise is rich in cultural values and boasts a library with books on Vietnamese culture. On the shelves is also a copy of “Entrepreneurship in Age 1.0”, which tells of the great Vietnamese businessman Bach Thai Buoi. The stories were collected by his family members. Along its corridors, cruise passengers can also admire old paintings, photos, statues, and outfits, all of which are representative of Vietnamese culture. Art lovers on board can visit the first-ever floating gallery in the Gulf of Tonkin, with dozens of paintings by Pham Luc, who has been called the “Vietnamese Picasso”.
Pham Ha was born and grew up in a rural area in the Red River Delta. Although Pham Ha has become a CEO, he still considers himself a nostalgic person who preserves old values. He said “My admiration for Bach Thai Buoi encouraged me, and Heritage Cruises was born. We make efforts to apply his ethical practices and values to bring the heritage of our nation to our guests,” said Pham Ha, CEO of Heritage Cruises. Heritage Cruises’ travellers will follow in Bach Thai Buoi’s footsteps to rediscover the Red River and its delta. This is the first step towards realising Ha’s dream of introducing cruises along the coast, bringing the beauty of the country to travellers.
“The encouragement and enthusiastic support of Bach Que Huong, the great-granddaughter of our beloved Bach Thai Buoi, has made us very proud and given us even greater belief in the success of this cruising project in Haiphong”, Pham Ha said. “Huong shares a lot of untold stories, which will help Pham Ha’s team in the compilation of a book they plan to publish about him. She is also helping us to create a library rich in memories as well as a floating exhibition about the life and work of Bach Thai Buoi. At his grave, we promised to apply his successful ethical business practices to Heritage Cruises: kindness, righteousness, uprightness, wisdom, and faithfulness.”
Guided art tours can be arranged as well as occasional auctions. Concierge services are a specialty on the vessel, with a one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio ensuring every need is attended to. Onboard are 40 crew members, including a cruise director and experiences manager. Apart from daily limousine transfers between Hanoi and Cat Ba Archipelago upon request, the Heritage Cruises team can also arrange for private charter airplanes, helicopters or seaplanes. “Our cruises operate from Got Harbour in Hai Phong for the day cruise, with scheduled one- or two-night programs such as the Heritage Discover and Heritage Explorer. In addition, three- to four-night Heritage Expeditions to the former trading seaport of Van Don and private charters for leisure and professionals are available upon request,” said Pham Ha.
In general, it can be said that tourism and travel has changed my whole life. I have worked in various fields but since I worked in tourism, I am truly happy. I realize that travel is my biggest passion and as I am happy with what I am doing, I can spread it to the entire Lux Group and to the member companies as well. All our teams see customer experience and satisfaction as their ultimate goal in work,” according to Pham Ha. “Passion is also highlighted in Lux Group’s 5P guiding principles, which are Passion, Purpose, People, Planet and Profit. In my opinion, in the tourism and service industry, making customers happy can lead to self-happiness, so I call this a happy career. If you want to be happy, you must do it from the bottom of your heart, make it the way you wish to experience, towards the customer and put the customer’s needs first. Therefore, the core value I orient to my team is always “delivering happiness”.
As incomes have continually increased around Vietnam over recent years, cruises have become more familiar among many Vietnamese travellers. But not many know that cruises were first introduced in Vietnam in the early 20th century. Inspired by the spirit and the ambition of Vietnamese entrepreneur Bach Thai Buoi, who was very famous for his patriotism and business success in the early 20th century, Pham Ha builds up his brand Heritage Cruises. This cruise is rich in cultural values and boasts a library with books on Vietnamese culture. Besides contemplating the cultural values found inside the cruise, passengers can also opt for one or more of a range of leisure activities, including kayaking around Lan Ha Bay and soaking up the stunning sunset while sipping on a cocktail.
Source: Vietnam +
Mr. Pham Ha founded Lux Group with a modest capital of 1,000 USD. From his own strength, his optimistic spirit and profound philosophy, he has turned Lux Group into a large corporation focusing on luxury tourism with Luxury Travel and two brands Emperor Cruises and Heritage Cruises. Destination Review had a talk with him to listen to the thoughts and values this “captain” wants to spread.
Mr. Pham Ha founded Lux Group with a modest capital of 1,000 USD. From his own strength, his optimistic spirit and profound philosophy, he has turned Lux Group into a large corporation focusing on luxury tourism with Luxury Travel and two brands Emperor Cruises and Heritage Cruises. Destination Review had a talk with him to listen to the thoughts and values this “captain” wants to spread.
Lux Group and I focus on bringing special experiences and emotions to our customers. As the experiences in each place vary, we have to create different products.
The Emperor Cruises brand was founded with inspiration from Bao Dai King, who owned countless palaces across Vietnam, so the Emperor brand focuses on the royal-life experiences, offering guests comprehensive first-class luxury services. Emperor Nha Trang, for example, has itineraries for 60 guests like Day Cruise with activities such as diving, swimming and visiting the fishing village, or the Sunset cruise with activities like watching the sunset, enjoying dinner and cocktail party on the cruise. Emperor Bai Tu Long in Ha Long, on the other hand, offers 1- to 3-night stay on the yacht.
For those travelers who accept to pay more handsomely to get all-inclusive services onboard from wine and food to spa, Emperor offers unique experiences to satisfy travelers in this top high-end segment. It is also suitable for travelers who would like the highest level of privacy, personalization and authenticity in their experiences.
As for Heritage, it leans towards expressing Vietnamese cultural, historical, artistic and social values and is inspired by the “King of Ship” Bach Thai Buoi. Heritage has a boutique concept and targets the 4-5-star segment, which helps it reach a wider range of customers compared to Emperor. Heritage has 20 rooms and can accommodate up to 60 guests. The Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan Cruise was also built to commemorate Bach Thai Buoi as indicated by its name “Binh Chuan”, one of his old ships. There is a bronze statue of him and 100 paintings commemorating the 100th anniversary of Binh Chuan first sailing onboard. In addition, we also collect and display ancient postcards of the original ship. With Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan, voyagers can enjoy a heritage space on board while “floating” among the natural heritage of Cat Ba Bay.
The division into many products makes it possible for us to meet demands from many segments in different markets. In addition, the two cruise brands exhibit different values and offer different experiences.
To answer this, it can first start with my great love for artworks and collecting paintings has been a hobby of mine. Vietnamese Fine Arts contributes to the art world with lacquer paintings and silk paintings, which are also the main types of Pham Luc’s paintings. He is the artist whose artwork I adore and collect with very special sack paintings to describe the Vietnam War.
From this hobby, I realized that paintings and art in general can be the great assets of the country as they reflect national culture and history. Through paintings, we can understand more about the past and the present, the war, the heritage as well as the life of the Vietnamese people. They are all great features to introduce both Vietnamese and foreign visitors to our art, history and culture and that is why I choose to include these heritage values on my cruises.
Besides paintings, the cruise also presents traditional Vietnamese costumes in the 30s, from royal attires to traditional ao dai. All of the above when converged on the Heritage Cruise Binh Chuan creates a “floating” cultural touch in the middle of the bay.
Visitors have a lot of time in their voyage, so they can experience and also learn more about the stories with ethnic values behind those very experiences. Instead of choosing to build the majestic Western-style ships, Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan chooses a true story to explore and express Vietnamese values of art, history, culture, cuisine. This can be considered a continuation of patriotism from Bach Thai Buoi. Since Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan was deployed, many customers have rated their satisfaction level of 6-7 stars on 7-star scale, which marks a remarkable recognition for a product created by Lux Group.
In general, it can be said that tourism and travel has changed my whole life. I have worked in various fields but since I worked in tourism, I am truly happy. I realize that travel is my biggest passion and as I am happy with what I am doing, I can spread it to the entire Lux Group and to the member companies as well. All our teams see customer experience and satisfaction as their ultimate goal in work. Passion is also highlighted in Lux Group’s 5P guiding principles, which are Passion, Purpose, People, Planet and Profit.
In my opinion, in the tourism and service industry, making customers happy can lead to self-happiness, so I call this a happy career. If you want to be happy, you must do it from the bottom of your heart, make it the way you wish to experience, towards the customer and put the customer’s needs first. Therefore, the core value I orient to my team is always “delivering happiness”.
Only by perceiving customers as the biggest “boss” that keeps business running and helps the business pay for its employees, all of my teams are customer-centric, working for customers, and thus, contributing to Lux Group’s success over the past 15 years. After years of experience, “delivering happiness” has always been and will always be the company’s core value.
I think that to be a leader is also to serve: serve your people, your team and your customers to create the company’s revenue. With the same mindset, we can easily and harmoniously join hands in creating new generations of businesspeople who share the same thought. To me, “delivering happiness” means to deliver happiness for myself first, then for my employees, for my customers, for social communities and finally for company profits.
Before Covid, Lux Group mainly focused on inbound tourists. The global outbreak meant there were no longer international visitors, so the company quickly turned to domestic travelers, targeting the luxury customers of the domestic market. Conversion is a difficult decision as we have to retrain our employees to recaptivate the new target customers to understand them. Only after understanding them can we serve them better. It took us about a month to implement all the new changes after considering carefully between the two options – to close down or to adapt. Fortunately, everyone agreed to adapt to serve the domestic market. And once the decision has been made, everyone was very proactive in learning, training, and holding daily briefing sessions to create new products based on customer profiles and their consumption habits.
In addition, most of the company’s activities are digitalized, making it possible for our employees to work from home, and for us to manage more easily. Thanks to digital transformation, we could collect data, analyze customer sentiments and predict travel trends so as to offer suitable products to meet customers’ expectations.
When the social quarantine ended on April 30, we decided to immediately implement new plans for constrained travel demand in the Vietnam travel market. Therefore, as soon as the product was launched, people welcomed it very enthusiastically, helping us to recognize the signs of success as soon as we redefined the target market. In May, we launched 5,000 vouchers and they were sold out within 15 days. Moreover, Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan is also one of the busiest cruises that voyaged almost non-stop since April 30. This is another signal to help us realize that we are on the right path to recover, to develop and to generate stable cash flow.
In fact, thanks to Covid, we have realized that the Vietnamese domestic market has great potential with a rapid growing population of nearly 100 million people and increasing strength in consumption. 2020 marked the year Vietnamese got to know about luxury cruise trips for the first time, a part of which resulted from our incentives targeting Vietnamese tourists. What we did bears some resemblance to the motto of Bach Thai Buoi, which is Vietnamese travel within Vietnam and use Vietnamese service providers. Just like foreign visitors, many Vietnamese also want to explore the beautiful islands and bays of Vietnam such as Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Bay or Nha Trang Bay while attending interesting activities on the cruise. Thereby, we changed our direction to domestic middle to high-end customers last year and received certain successes.
From now on, I have decided to focus more on Vietnam high-end travel market and set up an office for domestic and outbound markets. To summarize, Lux Group will both retain the original target market and expand to other potential markets, which means approaching the inbound market along with the domestic market and outbound market. I think this will be a promising orientation and will invest wholeheartedly in the future.
Lux Group and I have planned to deploy the new project on Pu Luong. Pu Luong is a wonderful destination located in the middle of terraced fields, which are highly likely to attract both domestic and foreign tourists. Our team plans to launch a 35-room boutique resort to take advantage of nature and indigenous culture to target wellness travelers.
Regarding the cruises, the Emperor Cruises brand plans to add another 150-seat cruise to Nha Trang in 2021 and to bring more ships to Phu Quoc by 2022. With Heritage, we are currently inspecting and developing another ship named Bach Thai Buoi, which is expected to come into operation in 2022, following the success of Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan.
My deepest desire for the company is to conquer all rivers in the North and realize Heritage’s biggest mission: to sail along the coast of Vietnam – just like Bach Thai Buoi sailing from Hai Phong to Da Nang, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang and Saigon, then to Cambodia and other ports in Asian region. These are the upcoming plans and missions of Lux Group and Heritage Cruises brand.
The Lux Group is to launch Vietnam’s first boutique cruise bringing heritage alive in the Gulf of Tonkin and on the Red River.
Already operating in Vietnam’s Nha Trang Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay, under the five-star Emperor Cruises brand name, Heritage Cruises, a member of the Lux Group, will launch its first boutique cruise in the Cat Ba Archipelago in the Tonkin Gulf under the brand name of Heritage Cruises.
Launching this May, Heritage Cruises will offer authentic experiences for 40 guests aboard an architecturally designed boutique river and ocean cruise ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. Amenities include a luxury spa, movie under stars, two restaurants, indoor and outdoor lounges, pool bar and swimming pool and 20 suites with picture windows offering river and ocean views.
Heritage Cruises derives the inspiration for its boutique concept and design from the heritage ships of the patriotic entrepreneur Bach Thai Buoi, who transformed transportation on the waterways of Tonkin in the north of Vietnam in the early 20th century.
The cruise ship can accommodate 40 guests at the same time
Being a heritage-inspired designer cruise ship, but still with a boutique concept, Heritage Cruises care about the guest experience, offering them an upscale lifestyle with an artistic twist, together with concierge services.
“Like boutique hotels, boutique cruises are characterized by their intimate atmosphere and idiosyncratic style. They distinguish themselves from larger chain cruises by offering personalized attention and stylish, themed accommodation and a story to tell. We want to create memorable moments that focus on the local culture and arts encountered on the way.” said Pham Ha, CEO of Heritage Cruises.
“Our boutique cruise categorizes its ships not with stars but by “character, quality, style and the overall unique experience of staying there”. As Heritage Cruises’ first boutique cruise, which is positioned as four-star rating for the whole experience, we want to raise the bar for the art of cruising in the Halong Bay region. We ensure we give our clients the “ultimate in luxury and sophistication” and “out of the ordinary on- board facilities,” he added.
Beyond offering a cozier atmosphere, the small size of this ship creates a completely different experience, both onshore and on board. Smaller ships allow easy access to remote, less-visited places that the larger vessels just can’t get to, leading to refreshingly unique itineraries. This authentic experience offers the chance to cruise the Gulf of Tonkin (Lan Ha Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay, and Halong Bay) in an authentic and unique style, complemented by personalized service and on-request limousine transfers, which Heritage Cruises offers, taking the 5B highway from Hanoi to cut the journey down to just 1.5 hours.
Heritage Cruises is available for FITs (free independent travelers), small groups and charters. This top-notch cruising experience is for repeat travelers to Vietnam wanting something different, exotic, and out of the ordinary. The exclusive cruising experiences are highly recommended for heritage travelers, seasoned leisure travelers, active holidaymakers, honeymooners, families, fine-art enthusiasts, nature lovers, photographers, groups of friends, VIPs and celebrities.
Cat Ba Island has a surface area of 285km2 and retains the dramatic and rugged features of Halong Bay. This island belongs to Haiphong City – an important industrial city which, together with Hanoi and Halong, forms an important economic triangle in north Vietnam.
Approximately half of Cat Ba Island is covered by its national park, which is the home to the highly endangered Cat Ba Langur. The Cat Ba Archipelago boasts pristine beaches, secluded lagoons, coves, tropical forests, and lakes, allowing holidaymakers to swim, kayak and bike to fully experience the Gulf of Tonkin. The itinerary also includes the fishing villages of Lan Ha Bay, and watersports such as kayaking, squid fishing, snorkeling and wildlife spotting.
A pristine beach in Cat Ba Archipelago
On the three-deck Heritage Cruises ship, 20 suites range from 33 – 80 square metres, while food and beverage options include Le Tonkin and Indochinerestaurants for Vietnamese gourmet cuisine.
The ship also features an outdoor deck, complete with Vietnam’s first infinity swimming pool on a cruise ship, pool bar, and private cabanas, the Bach Thai Buoi Library for reading and relaxation, the White Lotus Spa offering massages and essential oil treatments, a dry sauna, fitness center, movies under the stars, and games room as well as its art gallery and auction center.
Heritage Cruises offers a floating exhibition, L’Art de l’Annam, with the first designer art gallery of artist Pham Luc, known as the Picasso of Vietnam, along with the works of other famous Vietnamese artists. Guided art tours can be arranged as well as occasional auctions.
Concierge services are a specialty on the vessel, with a one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio ensuring every need is attended to. On board are 40 crew members, including a cruise director and experiences manager.
Apart from daily limousine transfers between Hanoi and Cat Ba Archipelago upon request, the Heritage Cruises team can also arrange for private charter airplanes, helicopters or seaplanes.
“Our cruises operate from Got Harbor in Haiphong for the day cruise, with scheduled one- or two-night programs such as the Heritage Discover and Heritage Explorer. In addition, three- to four-night Heritage Expeditions to the former trading seaport of Van Don and private charters for leisure and professionals are available upon request,” said Ha.
“Travel is all about places, experiences, and memories. We will first sail this brand through the karst seascape of the Cat Ba Archipelago, linking to Van Don, then we will cruise upstream and downstream from the highlands to the capital, Hanoi, and the Gulf of Tonkin over 8 days, following the old river trading waterway, Hanoi-Pho Hien-Van Don.”
“My goal is to gradually build maritime connections from north to south, staying two or three nights in each destination, as part of a 10-14 day expedition,” he said.
Inspired by the heritage and noble spirit of the entrepreneur, Bach Thai Buoi, who was recognized as the ‘king of ships’ in Vietnam in the early 20th century, Lux Group founder Pham Ha rewrites the story of the country’s cruise industry.
In the mid-1980s, Pham Ha accompanied his father on the large cruise ship Thong Nhat, bought from Norway after liberation to help people earn a living, that sailed along the Vietnamese coastline, from north to south. As a boy from the countryside, Pham Ha’s eyes were opened to the outside world and the experience and beautiful scenery made a huge impact on him and captured his heart. From then on, his childhood dream was to own a cruise ship.
As he grew up, Pham Ha showed an ability to speak foreign languages and as a student he became interested in the tourism industry. Working as a tour guide, his fluency in English and French enabled him to show off Vietnamese culture and people to foreign tourists.
The journey with his father from Haiphong to Saigon helped him to realize that each new destination brings a new perspective, new vision and new thinking, which can positively affect people. The beauty of travel is not just going from one point to another, but a journey of life experiences.
Vietnam started to develop its tourism industry in the early 1990s when it opened its doors to foreign tourists, but more than a decade later, travel companies were still having to work hard to attract them to the country. Backpackers were coming in their droves, but the accommodation choices were limited, not good quality, and service standards were poor.
Thanks to his early good fortune, Pham Ha had a vision for the future combined with his personal determination to succeed, and he decided to take a totally different direction by concentrating on meeting the small, but growing, demand for quality accommodation and higher standards of service.
In 2004 he founded Luxury Travel, focusing on the niche luxury market for big spenders, creating the right travel products, providing authentic and unique experiences, and offering personalized service, catering to the wishes of individual customers. Very quickly he became the acknowledged luxury travel expert in the field. And he did this with only a starting capital of 1,000 USD.
For Ha, happiness is a journey, not a destination, and his aim was purely to make visitors to Vietnam happy and understand the culture and history of his beloved homeland.
Many friends and colleagues were sceptical about this bold idea and were worried that he might be being a little reckless. But Ha was determined, and he asserted that in order to succeed, he must find a new direction, be a pioneer, and become an expert in that field.
In the early days of his career, his father gave him a lot of encouragement, strength and faith in his own abilities. He advised him to go away to study in the city, always believe in himself, never get discouraged, and succeed without becoming arrogant. “Live well, my son” he said. He always strongly believed in the ability of his children and encouraged them to pursue their dreams and to strive to be the best, whatever they did. He urged him to take the first steps to opening his own business and not be afraid to venture into the unknown.
Always be a pioneer
Starting a business in Vietnam was difficult, especially in the early 2000s, and with such a small amount of capital. Red tape and policies changed frequently, and the internet was still a new thing in Vietnam. Pham Ha’s biggest challenge was to get the message out about Luxury Travel and to encourage guests to book through him. He had to find a new way to achieve this.
When many people didn’t understand the capability of the internet or how to use it effectively, Ha realised that this technology would be the key to helping him to make money. He tinkered around on the computer and started to build a website that met international standards and had the technology to take credit card payments. Right from 2004, when e-commerce was little known in Vietnam, tourists around the world who wanted to visit Vietnam were able to book tours and pay online through Luxury Travel’s website.
After just four years, https://luxtraveldmc.com was recognized by the Ecommerce Development Center (EcomViet) and Vietnam E-Commerce Association as one of the top 10 websites in the country.
“I dared to think outside the box and take a risk. If we pioneer and become the best in our field, we will be able to dominate the market. My success is thanks to continuing innovation, creativity, and taking those risks” Ha said.
Luxury Travel encountered difficulties in the 2008 financial crisis, along with everybody else. There were also difficulties when visitor numbers started to increase in general to Vietnam, as there weren’t enough high-end hotels available to meet the demand and the infrastructure was poor. The company found that it had to pay over the odds to 5-star hotels, to guarantee rooms for their guests, as hotels could easily fill their rooms and showed no loyalty to wholesale travel companies.
As tourism to Vietnam continues to increase, one of the biggest challenges for the tourist industry is human resources, finding suitable employees with the service and language skills to meet the requirements of international and increasingly sophisticated domestic tourists.
Fifteen years ago, this was an even greater problem. Pham Ha had to recruit and train young people who had excellent foreign language skills, but did not have the professional knowledge and expertise in the tourism service industry. He had to teach them sales techniques and soft skills, even writing emails to guests. But he stressed, the most important factor for the tourism industry is personnel having the right attitude.
“Young people, especially students, are a blank sheet of paper, but it is harder to train those who are already in the workplace and may have fixed ideas. For training, I prefer new graduates because giving them the skills to develop the appropriate attitude will be the first thing to draw on that blank piece of paper. In the service industry, attitude is of the utmost importance, but the most difficult to learn” Ha said.
Touching hearts to win over luxury travelers
For the Chairman of the Lux Group, it is not only customers who are the service users, but also his company employees. In order to please external customers, the guests, he must firstly satisfy internal customers, his employees.
“My management style is to look after my employees so that they will look after our customers as well” Ha shared.
Pham Ha treats colleagues the same way he expects them to treat their upmarket customers.
Pham Ha treats colleagues the same way he expects them to treat their upmarket customers, by listening and with consideration. He maintains an equal relationship between himself, the boss, and his employees.
He might have to wear an elegant suit when entertaining guests in smart restaurants, but in the office he dresses as they do, in a T-shirt, jeans, and sports shoes. Out of the office, at a company dinner, the employees always join the senior management team at the same table.
“I am a leader without position as I do not need power to be successful. Leadership is the art of influencing and sharing a vision for people to follow and achieve. Your vision is your future. Absolutely everyone is listened to and their ideas respected” Ha added.
As a leader, Ha always likens himself to being a bus driver, taking his employees on a journey with a mission of bringing happiness, based on the ‘5 Ps’: passion, people, purpose, planet, profit.
He ensures that his employees are aware that their clients are really the only ‘boss’ in the company. In order to bring in money and a better life for all, there must not only be many customers, but they must also be satisfied with the level of service they receive. That way, they come back time and again and recommend Luxury Travel to other wealthy guests. Word of mouth is free but powerful advertising.
According to the Lux Group management team, building a corporate culture is a must, one in which everyone must understand the thinking of the clients and translate this into action. The end of the working day is 5.30 pm at Lux Group, but many people often voluntarily stay at work until nearly 9 pm, to complete their work and ensure the best outcome for clients. Ha’s secret is empowering and trusting the employees to work well.
“If you believe, you have to give power, but if you want to give power, you must know exactly what your staff need and how to develop them. The key is to find the right people for the right work. I only employ the smartest people who share my values”.
The task of the leader is to set goals for employees and for them to work hard to find ways to achieve them. Empowering employees to be creative and innovative is important. For new recruits, the company ensures that it creates the ideal environment for them to use their talents, to listen to them and put into practice new ideas if they are feasible and effective. And, of course, to recognize their achievements by rewarding them well.
Leading with kindness is the key for Ha to retain his talented staff because, without training employees will inevitably leave, and training brings benefits and creates an environment where employees want to stay.
“My efforts go into creating an environment of creativity, empowerment, fairness and reward. This approach has encouraged everyone to contribute and the organization has gone from strength to strength with a consistently happy team”.
The biggest goal he sets is that 99% of customers must be satisfied with their travel experience of the company. The customer is not a king until the employee treats them as a king and, at the same time, treats their colleagues the same way to ensure the absolute best in teamworking.
According to Ha, there is not one simple definition of luxury as everybody has a different view depending on their own needs. For example, a person who has traveled to more than 70 countries like Ha, luxury is not a new concept so personalization to meet their requirements precisely is paramount.
At Lux Group, luxury travel is defined as experiences and personalized services. To win over luxury customers, the key is to understand the customer completely and to be able to provide experiences that meet their expectations, touch their hearts, and even give them a pleasant surprise. “Customers only buy the products that best meet their needs, so it is important to understand our customers to be successful in sales” Ha said.
High-end spenders only account for 3 per cent of the total number of visitors to Vietnam. Unlike mass tourism, where many people prefer to travel in groups, upmarket tourists often travel in small groups of family and friends with specific requirements such as privacy, unique, and unusual experiences.
Luxury tourism is no longer a narrow concept limited to staying in 5-star hotels, but ranges across the whole experience including the method of transport, such as helicopter or seaplane, and excursions that are not normally available to regular tourists, such as a private viewing in an artist’s studio. To these clients, the most important aspect is that it is memorable.
Seniors have money, education, experience, are well-traveled, and know exactly what they want, so Ha ensures his staff are particularly well trained and endeavours to offer new products regularly, continually upgrading to meet the highest standards.
Tourism is a key journey, so the Lux Group always focuses on creating heart-warming memories for customers at every point of dealing with the company, from the initial contact, either through personal recommendation or the website, talking to employees, and making the booking. Customers always enjoy personalized service at each stage of the booking.
“A brand is like a promise; customers buy brand promise. If expectations are met and even surpassed, the guests will feel completely happy and even wowed by the whole experience. They are then guaranteed to tell friends and family who will want to find out more” Ha shared.
Doing business is to show empathy, loyalty, and responsibility, qualities that Pham Ha particularly admired in the noble spirit of Bach Thai Buoi, who promoted Vietnamese society so that An Nam, at the beginning of the 20th century, could revive the economy, encourage development, and create a noble class strong enough to rebuild the country and compete with the Chinese and French.
Ha’s childhood dream of owning a cruise ship became a reality.
He was inspired to build Heritage Cruises, a boutique-style brand that is the essence of Vietnamese heritage, rich in culture, history, art, and the quintessence of the north. This unique ship is based on a design seen on old postcards and imbues the spirit of the ship, Binh Chuan, that Bach Thai Buoi launched more than 100 years ago on September 7, 1919.
This historic ship, the largest vessel in An Nam at that time, was the first ship to sail from Cua Cam, Haiphong to Saigon and arrived in port on September 17, 1920. It was warmly received by the business community there who saw the possibilities to create new markets and business and revive national pride – “le premier bateau Annamite à Saigon”- the first Annamese ship to dock in Saigon.
“I acknowledge the culture, traditions, and aristocratic spirit of the early 20th century. That is the reason tourists come, to learn about the culture and history and get under the skin of the country” Ha stated.
Bach Thai Buoi also implemented his principles for the market: trade, trust, perseverance, energy, respect for profession, trade association, public relations, thrift, and focus on the domestic market. His values and business lessons still apply to the current trading conditions to manage effectively businesses and succeed in the marketplace.
“Money is just a tool; the most important thing is what we bring to society”. For Ha, money is not the most important aspect of his work; his passion for what he wants to achieve is the main reason that led him to work in travel, and this helps him to continue his lifelong project and be determined to develop this service industry to the benefit of all.
Ha admits that he is passionate about art and culture. Collecting works of art is a personal hobby which helps him to maintain a work/life balance, as he feels that it is sometimes necessary to slow down to feel better, more creative and happier. You always do what you like and like what you do. He especially likes the paintings by artist Pham Luc, known as the Picasso of Vietnam, because they touch his emotions. In Pham Luc’s paintings, Ha relives his childhood, his parents’ war memories, and Vietnamese stories told through the intriguing combination of colors, lines, and shapes.
That is the reason why hundreds of paintings by Pham Luc are displayed on Emperor Cruises ships (part of the Lux Group) in Nha Trang and Ha Long. Heritage Cruises is the first floating art cruise in Vietnam, as Ha has created a small onboard art gallery featuring the artworks of Pham Luc, works of other famous Vietnamese artists, and rare artworks from the Indochina School of Fine Arts.
Ha said that visitors are very excited about this unique concept and he plans to hold an art auction on the cruise soon. He has just completed his second book about Pham Luc called “A life of art”, following his first book “Picasso of Vietnam, paintings and life”.
The founder of Lux Group said: “A good life is a successful one when judged by others. Our personal contentment, when we do something well, is felt deep within our soul, our heart and our mind”.
Bach Thai Buoi
Bach Thai Buoi was an inspirational entrepreneur of the early 20th century for many Vietnamese generations. Everything he worked on was aspirational, visionary and for the nation, with profits as an afterthought. He even created a dictionary and a newspaper for the Vietnamese. In the early 20th century, Bach Thai Buoi was ranked among the “four bourgeois tigers”. He was one of the richest, most respected men and the first Vietnamese person to own a car. He had many names, such as the “Lord of the Rivers in Tonkin” and the “King of Ocean Cruise Ships”.
An impoverished background
Bach Thai Buoi was born into a poor family, but became the fourth richest Vietnamese in the early 20th century and was always respected by the people. He was a patriot and placed great emphasis on social transformation.
Although his parents were poor, they sent him to school to learn both Quoc Ngu, the Vietnamese language script, and French. Every day, Bach Thai Buoi collected firewood from the banks of the Nhue River, sold it, and acquired the capital to start his business.
Bach Thai Buoi was always interested in machinery, so in 1894 he went to work in a workshop to learn how to organise and manage production. Shortly after that, he went to France to participate in an exhibition in Bordeaux.
On returning to Vietnam, a new opportunity presented itself when the Indochina Railroad Company needed a large amount of wood for the construction of the Paul Doumer Bridge. In the following years, he had earned much money and accumulated extensive experience in the business.
In 1928, Bach Thai Buoi invested in mining. At that time, coal mines were managed by the French, but he still gained permission for coal mining in Uong Bi and Quang Yen in Quang Ninh province. He also built a seaport, hired experts from France, and recruited talented Vietnamese people.
The King of the Tonkin Rivers
Bach Thai Buoi realised that the waterways between Nam Dinh, Hanoi, and Ben Thuy were always crowded, and, if developed, could bring greater benefit to the region.
In 1909, the Marty-D’Abbadie Company had just finished its contract with the French state for these waterways, and Bach Thai Buoi seized the opportunity and immediately hired three of their ships. He gave them the Vietnamese names Phi Long (Dragon), Phi Phuong (Phoenix), and Fai Tsi Long (Bai Tu Long).
He faced serious competition from the Chinese merchant ships. The French had been unable to take them on, but Bach Thai Buoi did so and started to run the Haiphong route as well, expanding again within just two years.
Besides his head office in Nam Dinh, he opened a branch in Ben Thuy in June 1914 and another one in Hanoi in August, which can still be seen in front of the Clock Pillar near the old Paul Doumer Bridge (now Tran Quang Khai Street). Bach Thai Buoi’s ships dominated the waterways sailing between Hanoi, Haiphong, Nam Dinh, Tuyen Quang, and Cho Bo.
In 1916, Bach Thai Buoi officially established his business on the banks of the Tam Bac river in Haiphong, the Bach Thai Buoi Ocean and River Transportation Company.
As the years passed, the company opened more branches, and his fleet expanded from the original three to thirty ships. The passenger vessels’ capacity varied dramatically, carrying between 55 and 1,200 people.
Bach Thai Buoi had overcome fierce competition, and his contemporaries hailed him as the “Lord of the Tonkin Rivers.” However, his dream was to sail across the ocean.Reaching the Ocean
His next milestone was when he designed and built the largest ship in Vietnam at that time. On September 7, 1919, Bach Thai Buoi launched the Binh Chuan ship, which sailed from Haiphong to Saigon and created new markets and new businesses.
With his abundant wealth, he quickly captured the market. It seemed that nothing could stop him, and he started to make plans to expand his business even further, but unfortunately, he passed away in 1932 in Haiphong at the age of 57. He was buried in the Uong Bi coal mine area in Quang Yen (now Quang Ninh province). To this day, there is still a seaport named Bach Thai Buoi in Uong Bi.
Designer cruises inspired by his heritage
“My admiration for Bach Thai Buoi encouraged me, and Heritage Cruises was born. We endeavour to apply his ethical practices and values to bring the heritage of our nation to our guests,” said Pham Ha, CEO of Heritage Cruises.
Heritage Cruises’ travellers will follow in Bach Thai Buoi’s footsteps to rediscover the Red River and its delta. This is the first step towards realising Ha’s dream of introducing cruises along the coast, bringing the beauty of the country to travellers.
“The encouragement and enthusiastic support of Bach Que Huong, the great-granddaughter of our beloved Bach Thai Buoi, has made us very proud and given us even greater belief in the success of this cruising project in Haiphong”, Pham Ha shares.
Huong shares a lot of untold stories, which will help Pham Ha’s team in the compilation of a book they plan to publish about him. She is also helping us to create a library rich in memories as well as a floating exhibition about the life and work of Bach Thai Buoi. At his grave, we promised to apply his successful ethical business practices to Heritage Cruises: kindness, righteousness, uprightness, wisdom, and faithfulness.