Most rail tours of Vietnam and many Cambodia and Laos tours are escorted by Frank O’Brien; a former soldier & officer in the Australian Army who served as a soldier/linguist in South Vietnam during 1969/70. (1)
As a young soldier, Frank studied Vietnamese in Australia for a year and then spent his tour of Vietnam living within the local community at Ba Ria, touring all districts of Phuoc Tuy Province on a daily basis. The experience led him to continue his studies of the language, culture and history of Vietnam long after he returned home in 1970.
His military career began as a 15 yr old Army apprentice in January 1964. After language studies, his specialty became weapons systems - particularly on armoured vehicles. As an 18/19 yr old he served a year as a member of a military "burial party", acting as pallbearer at military funerals for young men struck down by the Vietnam War - a decade later he was a member of the casket party at the funeral of Sir Robert Menzies ...the Prime Minister who sent Australian troops to Vietnam. Frank served through the Army's ranks to Warrant Officer and then to Lieutenant Colonel, and besides Vietnam saw service in Singapore, W. Germany, Israel, Egypt and Beirut. His last military appointment was as Commanding Officer at the Australian Army Command & Staff College, Fort Queenscliff in Victoria.
Frank has returned regularly to Vietnam since 1989. On one visit, in 1992, he participated in the very 1st "rail tour" ever conducted in Vietnam. After that experience he left the Army and became a tour manager on Dorothy Button’s (Vietnam Ventures*) rail tours in Vietnam. In 1995 he started a small import/retail business (FEONS P/L) and by 1996 had ceased touring but continued visiting Vietnam on business - sometime later (before 2000) Dorothy closed her rail tour business. (*see "Background to our Rail Tours of Vietnam" )
In 2003, following renewed and growing demand by Australian tourists and encouragement by the Vietnamese Government, he set about resurrecting the rail tourism sector in Vietnam and established his own travel company:
FRANKO’S Rail Tours of VIETNAM
Frank's knowledge of the Vietnamese language & culture has certainly served FRANKO'S well ...opening many doors.
Over the years he has witnessed the war era, the years of economic hardship, and the later re-emergence of Vietnam as an intriguing tourist destination following years of isolation from the West. After more than 80 visits, he remains fascinated by the people, their past, their future and their beautiful country.
His passion is VIETNAM and THE TRAIN!
His football team is the mightyGEELONG CATS! He likes Tiger Beer!
Note: (1) Some tours are escorted by Frank’s daughter, Natalie. "Nat" is an experienced traveller and tour escort who has the happy "knack" of leading happy tour groups.
In 2013 (the famous) Mister ZEN became a manager on tours ...clients love him! He does a terrific job!
*All Rail Tours in 2019 will be escorted by Frank O'Brien
Besides a tour manager (Rail Tours) on tour with you, FRANKO’S employ the services of a national guide (Vietnamese) to accompany each tour group for the duration of the tour.
Our Ticketed Rail Tours and Short Stay Tours provide a different guide at each destination - to meet you on arrival, and accompany you until departure.
Our guides in Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos do more than show you the sights, they become your best friends on tour! Need laundry done? Help with finding an address you want to visit? Not up to drinking warm beer (like most other tour groups)?
Fear not ...our guides are informative, friendly and very helpful towards ensuring your tour becomes a great holiday.
INFORMATION / PRESENTATION NIGHTS
For Club/Association organisers: Frank and/or Natalie are happy to respond to any requests to provide a Presentation or information session to your club members. Our formal presentation is around 40-45 minutes (including DVD) then happy to respond to questions from attendees. A Free DVD will be available to audience members.
Interested persons/clubs should contact us initially on 0414 403038 or via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org