Without a doubt travelling through the rural and urban settings of Vietnam is one of the finest ways to discover the country’s charm, culture and stunning landscapes. Traveling with our local guide we gain a wonderful insight into Vietnam and its people. We start the adventure by taking in the historical and cultural highlights in and around Hanoi. We then head on a 3 hour drive to the breathtaking valley of Tuyen Quang with its deep valleys, thickly forested mountains and a variety of ethnic minority groups. You will be guaranteed a huge welcome when you start your service learning project at a local school. We will work side by side a local labour force and the local community to improve conditions at a remote local school in need. From here we travel to the hill station of Sapa. We have a day to explore this fascinating village town before embarking on a 4 day trek through remote hamlets and hill tribe villages while staying in dormitory guest stays. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience first hand the lifestyles of rural Vietnam. We return to Hanoi before driving to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Ha Long Bay where we set sail among the limestone pinnacles and admire the grottoes, caves and sheltered water ways. We return to Hanoi before flying home to Perth. Throughout your time in Vietnam, you will be discussing with your guides the local geography, biology or history and learn about the complex cultures of Vietnam. Participating in this learning experience will not only greatly help a remote community in need it will contribute greatly towards your studies and personal development. This is truly a life-changing Service Learning experience!
After so many months thinking, preparing, and planning for your Vietnam adventure to begin, the day has finally arrived! Please make your way to Perth Airport to check in for your flight to Hanoi via Singapore. On arrival in Hanoi you will be met at the airport by your expert local guide and private coach and transferred to our centrally located hotel. We will have a number of rooms ready for immediate check in so we can freshen up before heading out to begin our exploration of Hanoi. Your guide will have a full trip briefing with you in the hotel, out lining your movements over the coming days. 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. We enjoy a walking tour to explore the vibrant Old Quarter. Here many tiny streets join to sell a huge diversity of products. In the old days, each street bore the name of the product sold - “Shoe Street”, “Noodle Street” and the like. Today, the streets sometimes sell a variety of items, but often the names are accurate. The Old Quarter also houses some of the most interesting art galleries and fashion houses. We will walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, visit Ngoc Son Temple and 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. We will have a low key dinner at a local restaurant and an early night after your long flight.
Today we have the full day to explore Hanoi. After breakfast at our hotel we head out to Ba Dinh Square and start our day visiting the historical and cultural highlights to be found in Hanoi. Our visits will include The Presidential Palace (formerly Palace of the Governor-General of French Indochina), Ho Chi Minh’s house-on-stilt, the Temple of Literature and the nearby One Pillar Pagoda. This afternoon we also visit the Museum of Ethnology, which gives an excellent overview of the country's ethnic groups, their customs and ways of life before we head to the North.
After an early breakfast we depart for Tuyan Quang province and Ham Yen. Tuyen Quang is a very mountainous region with large rivers, pristine forests and some of Vietnam'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 3 hours. Along the way we pass fields of tapioca and sugar cane as well as rice paddies. For the following five nights your accommodation will be at a guesthouse in Tuyen Quang town, yet your service work will be undertaken at Village Secondary School located approx, 20-45 mins drive away. There are a number of potential sites and the students and teachers at Willetton High School will have a chance to decide on the appropriate project depending on the fundraising.
The students and staff will be expecting our arrival and we will be welcomed into their village, prepare for lots of noise, singing and above all appreciation for the work about to get underway. We will 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 to conduct a thorough safety briefing. The group will be divided into smaller work teams and each assigned separate tasks.
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 and dinner.
Overnight Tuyen Quang Guesthouse
After breakfast, we will transfer by private vehicle to the to the project site. 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.
The project is set up alongside our Travel, Give, Grow concept offering unique experiences to help foster respect for the natural world as well as the diverse peoples and cultures that live in it. This style of travel helps develop confidence, resilience, tolerance, problem solving abilities, team work, fitness and key life skills.
This morning we wake early and embark on the drive to the old French hill station of Sapa. Ethnic minorities or ‘hilltribe’ people as they are otherwise know inhabit the mountainous regions of Vietnam such as in Sapa. Each group is distinguished by its own dress, language and culture and there is 15 separate groups that make up the population of over 4 million minority people. This afternoon we have the opportunity to explore this beautiful hill station founded by the French in 1922. We have the opportunity to wander the streets and visit the many markets dotted around town. Tonight we have some down time to prepare for our 4 day trek.
Over the next three days we will trek through several villages where we will be able to meet Tay, H’mong and Xa Pho ethnic minorities. We will have time to take in the beautiful rice paddy terraces and the surrounding mountains as we traverse ourselves around the valley. Our trek will range from 10km to 13km each day through undulating terrain. On the way we can visit local schools where we will learn a little about Vietnamese education and meet the students. Our lunch will be prepared each day and served in a local house. Our trek enables us to experience life in the rural hill tribe villages of Vietnam. It will be challenging at times, especially if it has been raining, and this is what makes it such a rewarding experience for the group. The ability to overcome adversity and the camaraderie built up by the group will be something that stays with you for years to come. We stay in a rudimentary communal guest stay as a group each night and wake to the sound of people heading to the fields each morning.
Overnight dormitory guest stay**
*Trekking approx 11km over undulating terrain. 5 - 6 hours each day
**When on the trek in Sapa the communal equipment will be transferred by vehicle and porter. You will be responsible for carrying your personal belongings and water in your bushwalking backpack.
Today we continue our trek with a challenging uphill section to start our day. We leave the pretty village of Ban Ho and head to the Red Dao village Nam Toong. The beautiful scenery spreads out before us as we cross a suspension bridge at the bottom of the valley. A short walk takes us to the Xa Pho Ethnic community, this group is one of the smallest ethnic groups in Vietnam. We trek back to Sapa town and are met and transfer to the train station for our overnight train back to Hanoi. The train ride is a great opportunity for everyone to really take in and reflect on the previous nine days as a group.
*Our accommodation is in 4 berth cabins in air conditioned sleepers. We will book the whole cabins so they are for Willetton High School students exclusive use.
We arrive in Hanoi early this morning and after breakfast we depart Hanoi for Ha Long Bay (3hr drive) in our private air conditioned coach. Upon arrival at Ha Long Bay you will be transferred by motorized boat to our junk', which awaits us in open water. Once you have settled in we can begin our cruise around the majestic Ha Long Bay and out into the Golf of Tonkin. After lunch your captain will moor off a secluded beach where you can relax on the sand. In the afternoon we will visit a floating fishing village. There will be a cooking demonstration on board in the late afternoon. Later as evening descends you may take in the views of the top deck before you enjoy a delicious meal using beautifully prepared fresh ingredients straight from the sea. We then find a secluded place to anchor for the night.
Accommodation: Syrena Cruise
Built in accordance with traditional Vietnamese style and modern luxury, Syrena Cruises have maintained the high standards of luxury cruising in Halong Bay. The Syrena Cruises offer a total of 17 luxury cabins & suites accommodating a total of 34 passengers.
Early risers can enjoy a Tai Chi class on the sundeck. We will continue to enjoy cruising through the Bay passing magnificent geographical formations, we will explore the Sung Sot cave (Surprise cave) which is one of the highlights of Ha Long Bay. Buffet brunch is served on board before the vessel cruises leisurely back to the dock where our coach is awaiting your arrival. We then drive back to Hanoi stopping enroute for lunch.
You will have access to day rooms at the hotel in Hanoi for you to use to shower, change and freshen up for dinner and your flight. A farewell dinner at a Pizza restaurant will be enjoyed before transferring to the airport for the flight home departing Hanoi International Airport.
This morning we arrive in Perth
Per Person, Twin Share