February 28, 2019 | 04:07 am PT

Foreign tourists factor Trump-Kim summit into Hanoi tour

Some foreign tourists chose to visit Hanoi precisely at the time the Trump-Kim summit would take place.

They said they wanted to be in the city when a globally significant event was happening, and to catch a glimpse of Kim and Trump in person.

They were not disappointed.

The atmosphere was exciting, with security forces everywhere, people wearing T-shirts with pictures of Trump and Kim, and the huge floral designs of North Korean and American flags decorating the street.

Lee Parry and Neel Sapre are two of the tourists who planned their Hanoi visit to coincide with one of the most awaited political events in the world. They booked a Young Pioneer Tours tour about two weeks ago, as soon as the White House confirmed the time and place of the summit.

The 6 day 5 nights tour for following U.S. President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi cost 445 pounds ($591) per person. Parry is a British citizen so he did not need a visa to enter Vietnam, while Sapre, an Indian, had to get one.

Lee Parry (left) and Neel Sapre on Hanoi’s street on Monday morning. Photo courtesy of Gareth Johnson.

Lee Parry (left) and Neel Sapre pose in front of an armored vehicle on a Hanoi street last Monday morning. Photo courtesy of Gareth Johnson

Gareth Johnson, from England, took on the role of the Trump - Kim summit tour guide this time. The idea came to Gareth when he happened to come to Vietnam at the beginning of February, and knew that the important political event would take place in Hanoi.

"This is a historic event, I personally wanted to be there, so I could bring that opportunity to others," he told VnExpress.

On February 25, Gareth flew with Lee and Neel from China to Hanoi, and took them to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Lenin’s flower garden, and other sites.

The following day, they arrived at Melia Hotel on Ly Thuong Kiet Street, where the North Korean delegation stayed, to wait and see the Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard bringing Kim Jong-un, along with people waving flags and flowers on the sidewalk.

Gareth was excited the moment he saw Kim’s car. While he had seen the leader himself once during the Mass Games in North Korea, the feeling of seeing Kim in Vietnam was very different, because this time, he was appearing to people from all over the world, Gareth said.

Gareth (right) has come to Vietnam many times. He thinks Vietnamese people are very hospitable. Photo courtesy of Gareth Johnson.Gareth (right) has visited Vietnam many times and admires the hospitality of Vietnamese people. Photo courtesy of Gareth Johnson

On Wednesday morning, Gareth brought the two guests to visit President Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum again while waiting for the convoy bringing President Donald Trump to meet General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong.

However, the mausoleum stopped accepting visitors at 10 a.m, and the group arrived two minutes late. They had to wait outside Ba Dinh Square at the mausoleum area and were lucky to catch the moment when Trump entered the Presidential Palace.

In the afternoon of the same day, Lee, Neel, and Gareth joined the crowd outside Sofitel Metropole Hanoi. They were waiting for the two leaders to arrive for their face-to-face meeting and dinner with senior advisers.

"We really wanted to explore everything in Hanoi, but most of the time we spent following the leaders, without sticking to any fixed schedule," said Gareth.

He said he had felt the festive atmosphere in Hanoi earlier during the football World Cup season.

The national flags of South Korea and North Korea always go hand in hand with tourists during their visit to Hanoi, Lee (right) intends to buy more Vietnamese flags. Photo by Pham Huyen.

The foreign tourists had the national flags of South Korea and North Korea wherever they went. Lee (right) said he intended to buy more Vietnamese flags. Photo by Pham Huyen.

This was Lee’s first visit to Hanoi. He was impressed with the very different architectural styles and how many motorbikes there were on the streets.

During their days in Hanoi, Gareth, Lee and Neel also enjoyed famous Vietnamese dishes including the banh mi, the hotpot, grilled meat as also the local beer.

Banh mi, a kind of sandwich that consists of a Vietnamese single-serving baguette filled with various savory ingredients, is one of Vietnam's iconic street dishes.

Lee particularly loved the Vietnamese coffee, because of its strong, distinct taste compared to the imported coffee he drinks in China.

Gareth said hoped the second summit between the U.S. President and North Korean Leader would lead to improvements in the lives of North Koreans. He was also hopeful this event would open the door for North Korean tourism to develop. Lee wanted negotiations to end hostilities in the Korean Peninsula.

When the meeting ended, the three tourists made plans to visit several museums, the Maison Centrale Prison, the Huu Tiep Lake where vestiges of American B52 airplanes can still be seen, and other historic sights.