custom school group & youth adventure travel specialists

Laos and Vietnam Expedition 2017

Laos and Vietnam Expedition 2017

Trip Highlights

  • Enjoy the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang
  • Experiencing the wonder of the Mekong River
  • Get amongst the bustle of Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi
  • Complete two ethical and necessary Service Projects
  • Sail amongst the beauty of Halong Bay
  • Learn about 2 of Australia’s important ‘neighbours’ and transfer that knowledge into your studies

Trip Summary

This remarkable journey through Laos and Vietnam will appeal to those students keen to appreciate the 'great sites', whilst also experiencing the underlying cultural fabric of this fascinating part of South East Asia. We begin in the World Heritage listed town Luang Prabang where we wonder the many temples, palaces and engage in our first Service Project by assisting the keepers and staff at the Free The Bears animal sanctuary. We then journey up the Mekong River to explore the Pak Ou Caves and the traditional Kamu Lodge where we have the opportunity to see first hand the rural life in Laos. A short flight takes us to Hanoi, Vietnam where we spend time in the capital exploring the many historical buildings, museums and teeming markets before before continuing onto the breathtaking valley of Tuyen Quang, the site of our second Service Project. Located in a deep valley surrounded by a patchwork quilt of rice fields and thickly forested mountains which provide shelter for a range of flora and fauna, all of which is just 4 hours from Hanoi. More than half of the provinces population consists of the Kinh ethnic group; there are also Tay, Dao, and Nung ethnic groups. It is in this region where you will conduct a 4 day community project building two new classrooms for the Phu Luu Village Elementary School which is in urgent need of assistance. A fitting conclusion to this remarkable journey is the time spent cruising amongst the 3000 stunning limestone islets of Halong Bay on board a comfortable traditional cruise boat.

Throughout our time in Indochina we will be looking to appreciate the human realities of Global Challenges as they manifest in developing nations. Participation will contribute greatly towards your studies of Senior Geography, Studies of Religion, Economics or Society and Culture. This is a learning and service experience to get excited over!

Suitability

The Whitsunday Anglican School Explores Laos and Vietnam trip is graded level 2 - Adventure Touring but we want to keep the ‘accent on the active’. We therefore suggest that any physical training you complete before undertaking the trip will be to good effect. Although there is no sustained physical activity during the trip, to get the most out of it you should exercise regularly before departure. There will be opportunities to ascend to hidden caves, or climb a hill for a magnificent sunset. The fitter you are the more this will enhance your experience and enable you to fully participate in the trip. You should be fit, healthy and mentally prepared to deal with 15 days travelling to some of the most beautiful places in South East Asia.

Sample Itinerary

After so many months thinking, preparing, and planning for your Laos and Vietnam adventure the departure day has finally arrived! Your Virgin Australia flight will take you to Brisbane where you board your Thai Airways flight for Bangkok, Thailand. Your flight to Luang Prabang does not connect and a forced overnight stopover is required. Upon arriving in Bangkok you will transfer by vehicle to your airport hotel (Best Western Premier Amaranth). No meals are included. Flight Itinerary: VA 600 25JUN MKY BNE 0630 0755 TG 474 25JUN BNE BKK 1400 2020

Meals:  Nil

Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met and transferred to the group hotel. Please look for the WORLD YOUTH ADVENTURES welcome sign in the arrivals hall. Luang Prabang, has been claimed by UNESCO to be ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’. The tranquility and charm of this town with its splendid natural scenery and cultural sights make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Laos. After a short rest we will have a group briefing with the guide before transferring to a local restaurant for lunch. Our first stop after lunch is the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun, a peaceful temple featuring the much-photographed Watermelon Stupa, and Wat Aham the site of Luang Prabang's most important spirit shrine. We then climb to the top of Mount Phousi Hill which cuts a distinctive figure in the centre of Luang Prabang skyline. The hill, with spectacular 360 degree views and is a popular place to watch the sun set. The Night Market here is a great place for wandering, offering a lovely variety of handmade textiles crafted by local and hill-tribe people, along with street food, knick-knacks and friendly banter. Enjoy dinner at local restaurant before back to your hotel. Enjoy dinner at local restaurant before returning to your hotel. Accommodation: Sala Prabang Hotel Proposed Flight Itinerary: PG 941 26JUN BKK LPQ 1005 1205

Meals:  L,D

We begin today by learning from the experts at The Bamboo Experience and discover Lao culture through the use and history of bamboo and its meaning to Lao people. Your guide will show you the technique of each bamboo product such as fishing tools and musical instruments. We start with a simple bamboo weaving class with an expert teacher. We then move onto the hands on bamboo cooking demonstration and help prepare such dishes as such bamboo shoot soup, bamboo shoot steamed in banana leaf, fermented bamboo shoot dipping and sticky rice and more. Savour your creations at the end of the session in traditional Lao house (Pavilion style) overlooking the wonderful scenery and rice fields. The emphasis is to have fun and learn a little about bamboo work and bamboo dishes then enjoy lunch which you have helped to cook before we return to town. This afternoon we visit Wat Xieng Thong, the largest and most splendid temple of Luang Prabang royal city, the temple is best known for its impressive Tree of Life mural depicting the Buddhist story. Next is the National Museum, housed in the former Royal Palace which showcases many treasures of Laos' royal past and features the Prabang, the sacred image Buddha for which Luang Prabang was named. This evening we will enjoy dinner at a BBQ buffet at a local restaurant. Accommodation: Sala Prabang Hotel

Meals:  B,L,D

An optional early start provides a fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (food & water) from the faithful residents. This tranquil Buddhist tradition experienced amongst the morning mist is well worth the early rise. We then drive 30km to the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre to spend time assisting the animal keepers to see first hand the good work being done to help the bears. We will be introduced to the bears and provide some background information about the ongoing work being done by Free the Bears in Laos. The sanctuary in Luang Prabang was opened in 2003 and is situated by the beautiful Kuang Xi Waterfalls and houses 16 Asiatic Black bears. The bears were cubs when they were confiscated by the Forestry Department as they were being taken to the markets for sale. All are growing rapidly and are in good health. It is a safe and happy home to bears that have been rescued from a range of different situations including poachers, the black market, the bile farm industry and businesses using them for entertainment, trades which often leave behind very young orphaned cubs. HOW CLOSELY WILL I BE WORKING WITH THE BEARS? There will be tasks that will not involve direct contact with the bears, but will benefit them greatly. These include building new enrichment's, repairing and maintaining their enclosures and maintenance of the area surrounding the enclosures. You will also get to work with the keepers giving out the daily feeds and cleaning the enclosures (the bears will be brought in to holding cages whilst you are in the enclosure). Obviously, direct physical contact is not possible as these are large wild animals and can potentially be dangerous. THE BENEFITS You will have a unique, once in a lifetime chance to get behind the scenes of this world class bear rescue facility. Your time and your financial contribution will provide critical aid enabling us to rescue more bears and continue to improve and enrich their lives. On a personal level you will have an amazing opportunity to work alongside these incredible animals and gain the satisfaction of helping to make a difference to their lives. In the late afternoon, we will return to hotel for refreshment before dinner at local restaurant. WHAT WILDLIFE SPECIES ARE THERE? Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre is home to over 25 Moon bears at the moment. However, Laos itself is rich in natural beauty and the centre is located close to some beautiful waterfalls and areas of lush rainforest. Accommodation: Sala Prabang Hotel

Meals:  B,L,D

After breakfast, we transfer to the Luang Prabang Pier. We depart from the pier and cruise upstream before stopping at the riverside villages of Ban Xangkhong, a well known handicraft village where you will learn more about saa-paper and textiles. Next is the sacred Pak Ou caves where thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues are crammed into two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. They range in size from a few cm's to the size of a human. We then cross the river to a riverside restaurant and enjoy lunch with a view before cruising up the Nam Ou river on a smaller local long boat to the Nam Ou Riverside Resort. The afternoon we meet the friendly staff and learn more about typical games such as archery, then walk to a nearby village and also try your luck using traditional fishing methods on the banks of the Nam Ou River where your guide will show you how to circle the net and you will orientate it and hopefully catch some fish to cook for dinner! The rest of the afternnon is free to enjoy the location of being on the banks of one of the worlds most important rivers. Accommodation: Nam Ou Riverside Resort

Meals:  B,L,D

Western set breakfast is served at the restaurant and then we take a short walk to the nearby village. At mid morning we start our cruise downstream on the Mekong River back to Luang Prabang. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant in front of Pak Ou Cave before continuing the journey down the Mekong and arriving in Luang Prabang at noon. There will be an opportunity to walk around Luang Prabang one last time before it is time to say goodbye and transferring to the airport for our flight to Hanoi. Xin chao! Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam! You are greeted by your guide and driver at Noi Bai International Airport for your transfer to your hotel located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Hanoi is one of Asia’s most enchanting cities, full of culture, history and the engaging contradictions of a rapidly developing and deeply traditional society. In the evening we will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Accommodation: La Dolce Vita Hotel Proposed Flight Itinerary: QV 313 30JUN LPQ HAN 1710 1810

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we have a full day of sightseeing where we visit the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the father of modern Vietnam. We walk through the grounds of the magnificent Presidential Palace, visiting the humble wooden cottage of Ho Chi Minh, the Pillar Pagoda and a museum dedicated to the life of Vietnam's first President. This is followed by a visit to the impressive Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first University built in 1017. Next is a visit to the nearby Museum of Ethnology which gives an excellent overview of the country's ethnic groups, their customs and ways of life. The highlight here is the large, beautiful outdoor area featuring genuine houses and compounds as built and used by the many different ethnic groups. From here, drive to city center for the Old Quarter walking tour. This walk provides opportunity to witness Hanoi’s richness in culture and history. Spend the rest of your day at Hoan Kiem Lake. Located at the heart of the city, it is one of the symbols of Hanoi, with Rua Tower and Ngoc Son Temple on the lake's two islets. You then have tickets for a performance of Hanoi’s famous Water Puppet Theater, a series of 17 stories presented by 11 puppeteers whom traditionally performed during the monsoonal period when rice farming in the Red River Delta was not possible. The stories reflect their way of life and dreams as well as providing respite from their demanding work schedule. Accommodation: La Dolce Vita Hotel

Meals:  B,L

After an early breakfast we depart Hanoi for Tuyen Quang province and the township of Tuyen Quang. Tuyen Quang is a very mountainous region with large rivers, pristine forests and some of the country’s most diverse flora and fauna. The main source of income for the residents is agriculture and the average monthly income is US$15. Tuyen Quang is home to the Red Yao, Tay, Nung and Mong minorities. Tourism is still very new and subsequently the hotel facilities are basic, yet clean and practical. This scenic drive takes around four hours. Along the way we pass fields of tapioca and sugar cane as well as rice paddies. Around noontime, we will arrive at our accommodation where lunch will be served. For the following three nights your accommodation will be at a guesthouse in Tuyen Quang town, yet your service work will be undertaken at the Phu Luu Village Elementary School located approx, 20-45mins drive away. After lunch and an opportunity to relax after the drive we will travel to the project site. The school currently has 30 students and consists of a dusty school yard and 2 classrooms which are in dire need of replacement. The detailed works will be updated to you once available. • Plastering the walls • Paint the walls & ceilings • Tile the floors • Install the windows & doors • Purchase 30 sets of tables and chairs The students and staff will be expecting our arrival and we will be welcomed into their village like family, prepare for lots of noise, singing and above all appreciation for the work about to get underway. We will first meet with the local foreman who will take us on a tour of the site showing us what work we will be doing and also conduct a safety briefing. The group will be divided into smaller work teams and each assigned separate tasks. Some of the work across the next 3 days will involve sanding, preparing then painting the surfaces of any exposed timber work, preparing then plastering the walls, sweeping and general cleaning, light load carrying or possibly some gardening work. You will not need any specific skills or experience, just the willingness to participate and the ability to roll your sleeves up and get a little dirty (you should wear suitable clothing), all for a great cause. There will be a local professional builder supervising the project and ensuring we get all the work completed on time and on budget. Regular breaks along with drinks and fresh fruit will be provided so as to keep energy levels high. In the late afternoon we will return to the guesthouse where there will be time for rest and reflection. Dinner is served at the guesthouse. Accommodation: Nam Phong Hotel

Meals:  B,L

After breakfast, we will transfer by private vehicle to the project site. There will be professional builders onsite to ensure that the project is completed correctly and on time. We will divide the group into sub groups to work on different components of the project. There will be a good deal of flexibility in the hours that you work each day, but it is anticipated that you will be involved in labor work for up to 7 hours a day. You should bring a pair of study workman’s gloves with you from home and wear clothing which you do not mind getting dirty. The people from the village will be very receptive to your visit and the improvements which you are making that will bring real long term benefits to the entire village. On the last day there will be a handover ceremony and celebration with plenty of opportunities for photos. You will then say good bye to your new found friends. Accommodation: Nam Phong Hotel

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we board the bus for our return journey to Hanoi where we will have lunch & then some free time before dinner. Accommodation: La Dolce Vita Hotel

Meals:  B,L,D

We leave Hanoi for the drive east to the stunning beauty of Halong Bay where literally thousands of limestone cliffs and islands jut out of the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, covering an area of 1500 km. We will spend the rest of the day cruising aboard a traditional ‘Junk’ boat around the myriad of tiny islands and exploring the many grottoes created by the wind and the waves. While on board we will have a fresh seafood lunch followed by a swim and some time to explore the limestone caves in this area. We will spend the night on board the boat in our own cabins. Accommodation: V-spirit Cruise Note: Cruise itinerary and schedule are subject to change due to weather, tide levels and operating conditions. Swimming or kayaking excursions may be cancelled due to poor weather. Unused services are not subject to a refund.

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we continue to cruise and visit more spots in Halong Bay. We will reach the pier around noontime where our vehicle will be waiting to transfer us back to Hanoi arriving in the afternoon. We will have access to a suitable number of rooms at the La Dolce Vita to prepare for your evening flight. We will have a farewell dinner before transferring to the airport for your flight home to Mackay via Bangkok then Brisbane. Flight Itinerary: TG 565 08JUL HAN BKK 2045 2235 TG 473 09JUL BKK BNE 0001 1150

Meals:  B,L,D

Upon arriving in Mackay all services conclude yet the memories and friendships will last a life time. Congratulations on completing a memorable service adventure. Flight Itinerary: VA 613 09JUL BNE MKY 1445 1620

Meals:  Nil

What's Included

  • Return Mackay to Brisbane flight including all luggage and taxes. Virgin Australia or QANTAS.
  • Return economy class flights with Thai Airways from Brisbane to Luang Prabang then Hanoi to Brisbane including all taxes and surcharges
  • One way economy class airfare with Vietnam Airlines from Luang Prabang, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam including all taxes and surcharges
  • Most meals. 12 breakfasts, 13 lunches and 13 dinners & 1 soft drink or bottle of water per person per meal. Snacks and fruit during the project days. All dietary requirements can be catered for.
  • Expert English speaking tour leader in Laos and Vietnam who will carry a group medical kit
  • Comfortable well located hotels/lodges/guesthouses on twin share basis
  • 1 night Halong Bay cruise on a traditional 'junk' and 1 night at Kamu Lodge, Mekong River
  • Private air-conditioned coaches used for all airport transfers and group transport throughout
  • All sightseeing and entry fees as listed in itinerary
  • Sourcing and project management required for the community project including expert local labourers and foreman
  • Global Learning Travel Shirt
  • All required VISA documents
  • Contribution to service activities
  • Pre Departure Information kit to help you plan and prepare

What's Not Included

  • Meals not indicated in the itinerary. (1 x breakfast - allow USD$10)
  • Expenditure of a personal nature such as souvenirs, additional drinks and laundry etc
  • Tips and gratuities - optional. Allow approx US$50
  • Vaccinations
 

AT A GLANCE

Duration:15 Days
Countries:Lao People's Democratic Republic
Vietnam
Starting Point:Mackay. From 19 Students
Activities:Adventure Touring
Day Walking
Cruising
Grade:Adventure Touring  Click for more information
Trip Code:SOG3961