Oakhill College Discovers Vietnam

Oakhill College Discovers Vietnam

Trip Highlights

  • Learning about Vietnam's culture, geography and history
  • Historic monuments and the colourful Old Quarter in Hanoi
  • Trekking and village homestay in the Mai Chai highlands
  • Emerald waters and limestone islands in spectacular Ha Long Bay
  • Service learning then learning of the imperial history in Hue
  • Sunday Mass in Hoi An
  • Experiencing the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City
  • Eye-opening wartime history at the Cu Chi tunnels
  • Returning home with a deep understanding of one of Australia's most important trade partners

Trip Summary

This exciting journey takes us through the heart and soul of Vietnam — a diverse and fascinating country steeped in ancient traditions and complex history. From bustling cities and colourful markets to isolated highlands and ancient ruins; tranquil lakes and sleepy beaches to wartime history and grand imperial architecture: this journey includes a heady mix of stunning natural beauty and rich culture that you won’t soon forget. Starting in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi we embark on a trek and homestay among the rural highland villages of Mai Chau. Returning to Hanoi we take in the historical monuments and colourful Old Quarter before heading to the coast where we’ll take a cruise through Ha Long Bay—a spectacular labyrinth of turquoise waters studded with towering, jungle-clad limestone outcrops. Returning to Hanoi we will catch a flight south to the elegant imperial city of Hue where we shift our focus to Service work and spend a day with De La Salle Brothers (TBC by Oakhill College). We will visit the many ancient citadels as Hue was the imperial capital of Vietnam. Making our way further south we drive via Haiphong pass to the laid-back town of Hoi An, where we have a guided walking tour exploring the many markets, merchant houses and temples. A short flight brings us to the bustling rhythm of Ho Chi Minh City and we visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels before a last minute chance to get amongst the chaos of Banh Thanh Market to purchase some gifts and souvenirs. If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience exploring the depth and beauty of Vietnam then this is the journey for you!

Suitability

Although there is no commitment to extended physical activity on this journey we nonetheless want to keep the ‘accent on the active’. We therefore advise that any physical training you complete before undertaking the trip will be to good effect and enhance your travel experience. The fitter you are the more you will be able to take part in each day’s adventures.

Itinerary

After so many months thinking, preparing, and planning for your Vietnam adventure the departure day has finally arrived! Your flight to Hanoi aboard Vietnam Airlines departs from Sydney Airport at 11:15am and after a brief stop over in Ho Chi Minh City arrives in Hanoi at 7:50pm. Xin chao! Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam! Hanoi is one of Asia’s most enchanting cities and full of culture, history and engaging contradictions of a rapidly developing and deeply traditional society. You will be met at the airport by your guide and transferred to your centrally located hotel. Upon checking into the hotel your guide will conduct a briefing to advise you of packing a small overnight bag for your 2 day adventure to Mai Chau which commences tomorrow. Your remaining luggage can be securely stored at the Pullman Hotel till you return on day 3. There are no further activities planned for this evening and we encourage you to have an early night so as you are ready to trek amongst the stunning valleys of Mai Chau! Accommodation: Pullman Hotel, Hanoi 5* 1 VN 772 08APR SYD SGN 1115 1600 2 VN 264 08APR SGN HAN 1745 1950

Meals:  B,L,D

After breakfast we depart Hanoi for Hoa Binh province and the town of Mai Chau. This scenic drive takes around three hours. Along the way we pass fields of tapioca and sugar cane as well as rice paddies. Around noontime, we will arrive in Mai Chau. Mai Chau is located in a beautiful valley with a patchwork quilt of rice, farms and stilt-houses. In the spring Mai Chau displays a riot of colors with blooming flowers and peach blossoms. Hoa Binh is home to both the White Thai and H’mong hill-tribe people. Upon arrival, we will check in at our home stay in Poom Cong Village and enjoy a welcome drink. The home stay is a cluster of stilt houses primarily constructed of bamboo and native timbers, with thatched roofs and built around a central courtyard. They are simple in design yet are perfectly suited to the conditions and the experience offers a unique insight into Vietnamese life in a rural setting. You will sleep on a mattresses located on the floor, beneath a mosquito net. It is dormitory style and depending on the room size, there will be between 4 and 12 students of the same gender sleeping in each room. Fans, sheets, towels and pillows are all provided. Meals are enjoyed in the clearing beneath the stilt house and this is also where you can find the shared bathroom facilities and showers. The hosts are very friendly and welcoming and they receive many school groups. In the afternoon, we start trekking from Cha Loong village to Na Phon and end at the small village of Lac. With time to stop any time to take photos and chat with the friendly locals the afternoons trek will provide you with an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Mai Chau and the relaxed rhythm of local life. The total walking time is about 3 - 4 hours and around 11km. Dinner is served at the home stay. Walking: Approx 3-4 hrs & 11km. Accommodation: Traditional Home Stay

Meals:  B,L,D

After an early rise we pack our bags and have a quick breakfast and farewell our hosts. We will not return to the Home Stay as a vehicle will collect you from a trail head after lunch. Today we return to the trails to further explore the surrounding valleys and villages. Today's trail undulates through beautiful landscapes of rice paddies, rural countryside, stilt houses and villages where we meet with a local family. At the village of Mai Hich we will reach the main road where our driver will be waiting to transfer us back to Hanoi. Tonight dinner will be at a local restaurant. Trekking distance: ~9 km / 2-3 hours Accommodation: Pullman Hotel, Hanoi 5*

Meals:  B,L,D

Today is an action packed day which will have you seeing and experiencing many unique, historic and interesting sites of this great city! We start our day by visiting the Ho Chi Minh complex, starting at the President’s Mausoleum (visit outside only). We continue to his humble “house on stilts”- see the French colonial Presidential Palace and the 11th century One-Pillar Pagoda. Then stroll the grounds of the Temple of Literature – the first university of Vietnam, built in 11th century. After lunch, we enjoy cyclo tour for 45 minutes around apart of 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. Our stop will be Thang Long theatre for the famous Water Puppets show. Vietnamese Water Puppets were invented thousands of years ago by farmers in the Red River Delta region near Hanoi, as a means to entertain themselves when the rains flooded their paddy fields. Finally, we join in Fat Emperor for Hanoi Food Tour with many delicious Hanoi foods such as noodle, sizzling cake, pillow cake, small baguettes, rolled cake with grilled pork, grilled pork skewer, egg coffee, Vietnamese spring rolls, vermicelli noodles with grilled pork, fried sticky rice cakes and tea. Accommodation: Pullman Hotel, Hanoi 5*

Meals:  B,L,D

We depart Hanoi for a 3 hour drive to Ha Long in our private air conditioned coach. On the way we stop at Vietnam Eco Adventure where you can gain an insight into the how the subsistence farmers of Vietnam live in rural communities and experience a variety of tasks such as replanting or harvesting rice, irrigating the fields in the traditional way, catching fish, paddling a boat up the Ngo river, riding a water buffalo, cycle through the most amazing ‘un-touched’ countryside in Northern Vietnam before sitting down to enjoy a meal and drinks while being regaled with stories from a former North Vietnamese soldier and women who have lived through Vietnam's tumultuous history. We carry onto our hotel in the city of Ha Long where the rest of the afternoon is spent exploring the surrounding sites. Dinner will be at a local restaurant. Accommodation: Muong Thanh Ha Long Hotel, 4*

Meals:  B,L,D

We board our boat for a cruise around the 3,000 islets that rise from the clear emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. This province shares a common border with China in the north and harbours some of the most stunning scenery in Vietnam. Bizarre rock sculptures jutting dramatically from the sea and numerous grottoes have created an enchanted, timeless world; the sails of the junk boats and sampans add further to the scenic beauty. During the 4 hours cruising in the “Bay of Dragon” with its most typical highlights: Heavenly palace (Thien Cung) & Wooden stakes (Dau Go) caves. Enjoy a seafood lunch onboard our junk boat before returning to the wharf to our waiting vehicle which will transfer you to Hanoi Airport where you catch a short flight south to the imperial capital of Hue. Upon arriving in Hue you will transfer to the Eldora Hotel. NB: there will be time to purchase dinner at Hanoi Airport. Accommodation: Eldora Hotel, Hue 4* VN1545 13APR HAN HUI 1955 2105

Meals:  B,L

Transport and a guide will be provided today to get you to your service learning location within Hue. At the conclusion of the day you will return to the hotel where you could enjoy a well earned swim. Dinner will be at a local restaurant. **Please provide more details which we can add to here.** Accommodation: Eldora Hotel, Hue 4*

Meals:  B,D

We will spend the morning exploring the elegant imperial city of Hue, which served as the political, religious and cultural capital of Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty from 1802 until 1945. Hue is famous for its grand imperial architecture: fortresses, citadels, palaces and pagodas, all set along the banks of the tranquil Perfume River. Imperial Citadel and the Forbidden Purple City, which was built only for the Imperial family, concubines and eunuchs. The Forbidden Purple City is still being restored many years after the destruction caused by street fighting and bombing during the American War in Vietnam. We continue by road to Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue’s oldest and most beautiful pagoda, built on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. From here, we travel to visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed Royal Tomb of Minh Mang. Late lunch at an Italian restaurant before moving southward to Hoi An. We arrive into Hoi An mid afternoon and enjoy an evening walking tour through the old streets. The streets are charming at night with lanterns hanging from shop fronts and café patrons spilling onto the streets. Among other things - Hoi An is famous for a particular noodle dish (Cao Lau) which we endeavor to sample during our time here around the historic town before eating at a restaurant for dinner. Accommodation: Mercure Hoi An 4*

Meals:  B,L,D

After breakfast, we join in the cooking class from 0815 till 1300. At first, we visit Hoi An’s colourful market, and experience the amazing sights, sounds and aromas of this busy market. We will have the opportunity to interact with the local sellers and purchase some of the ingredients to be used in the cooking lesson later. We board the boat for a leisurely cruise (25 minutes) along the Hoi An River to the Cooking School. This is a chance to view local river life, so make sure your camera is handy. On arrival, we explore the cooking school’s herb and vegetable garden, before learning about some of Hoi An’s and Vietnam’s well-known dishes. The cooking lesson runs for about 2 hours – each dish is first demonstrated by the chef’s, before we prepare the same dish ourselves. Included in the class is a brief introduction to Vietnamese food carving (plate decoration). After the lesson, we sit down and eat exactly what we have cooked. In the afternoon, we walk the ancient streets of Hoi An, lined with Chinese traders’ homes and wooden houses reincarnated as restaurants, cafés, and outlets for local artists, craftsmen and tailors. Explore the beautiful 16th century Japanese Bridge. Hoi An's unique fusion of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture is well displayed here, in what is arguably Vietnam's most tourist-friendly town. Finally, we join in the Sunday Mass which starts from 4pm. The Hoi An Catholic Cathedral was originally built in 1903, the structure was rebuilt in 1964 with the influx of greater numbers of Catholics seeking refuge from persecution in the North. There is a small orphanage and the Sunday Mass is delivered in Vietnamese and is a well attended affair. It is worth looking for the stained glass depicting the early French missionaries alighting in Hoi An. Dinner will be at a local restaurant. Accommodation: Mercure Hoi An 4*

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we will be transferred to Danang airport for our flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Saigon is one of the world’s true cosmopolitan cities with a history, culture and style obtained from colonial France, ancient China and the art deco era. Once the main port of Cambodia's Mekong territory, Saigon became the capital of France's Cochinchina and later the capital of the Republic of Vietnam. It remained the capital until the end of the American War in 1975 in Vietnam, when it was moved to Hanoi. Although the city was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975, the government soon realised that the proud 'Saigonese' would never stop calling it Saigon. Now it’s accepted that Ho Chi Minh City refers to the greater metropolitan area, while the older and central suburbs are called Saigon. Upon arrival in Saigon, we visit Cu Chi tunnels which are located in an area known during the American War as the ‘Iron Triangle’, on account of the strength of its Communist insurgency. Cu Chi was also the conclusion to many caravan paths that traced down from the Chinese border, across mountain borders with Laos and into the Mekong Delta, which later became known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The network, which is several stores deep in some parts, includes trapdoors, living areas, storage facilities, weapon factories, field hospitals, command centres and kitchens. Accommodation: Pullman Saigon Centre Hotel 5* VN 107 17 APR DAD SGN 0825 0955

Meals:  B,L,D

Today is a full and exciting day exploring the bustling city of Saigon. One of the city’s main sights is the Reunification Palace, an outstanding example of 1960s architecture that is steeped in modern history. It was here that the Vietnam War ended dramatically in 1975 when the city of Saigon fell after a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through the palace gates, from which point the city was known as Ho Chi Minh City. Other major landmarks include the Notre Dame Cathedral, an imposing neo-Romanesque Catholic cathedral built in the late 19th century; and the Saigon Post Office, a classic French colonial building bearing a giant portrait of ‘Uncle Ho’ and many grand architectural details. Next is a visit to the city’s War Remnants Museum, which offers an excellent collection of grim artifacts and photographs from the Vietnam-American War. Then for some last minute shopping we will visit Ben Thanh Market which is an enormous sprawling covered marketplace that is packed to the gills with everything from fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood and sweets; to suitcases, clothing and white goods; to traditional lacquer ware, handicrafts and kitschy tourist trinkets. Bargaining is key here, but even if you’re not shopping, it’s a dazzling spectacle to photograph. Tonight we’ll join our Vietnamese guide for a Farewell Dinner cruise on the Saigon River. Accommodation: Pullman Saigon Centre Hotel 5*

Meals:  B,L,D

Today is an opportunity for you to decide as a group as to what you would like to see and do. Your guide can provide ideas on how best spend your final day in this great city! At the suitable time you transfer to the airport for your flight home. VN 773 19 APR SGN SYD 2035 0915+1 (arrives SYD 20 Apr, 2017)

Meals:  B,L

Upon arrival into Australia the trip concludes, although the memories of this experience are sure to remain with you for a lifetime. Congratulations on completing a very worthwhile and educational service learning adventure!

Meals:  Nil

What's Included

  • International flights including taxes. Return economy class Vietnam Airlines airfare from Sydney to Hanoi then HCMC to Sydney
  • Domestic flights including taxes. One way economy class Vietnam Airlines flights from Hanoi to Hue then Danang to HCMC
  • Most meals. 11 breakfasts, 11 lunches and 10 dinners
  • Expert bilingual Vietnamese guide from day 1 to 12. Plus additional local guides at different sites of interest
  • Comfortable well located hotels on twin share basis
  • One night local homestay - dormitory style
  • Private air conditioned transportation throughout in modern mini buses
  • Airport transfers throughout Vietnam
  • All sightseeing & entry fees as per itinerary
  • Extensive medical kit carried at all times
  • Single entry 30 day Vietnam visa valued at $75
  • Detailed Pre Departure Information Kit to help plan and prepare

What's Not Included

  • Expenditure of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, extra meals etc
  • Tips and gratuities - not compulsory yet customary. Approx US$45
  • Vaccinations - if requried
  • Travel insurance policy - for example Suresave - Budget Policy valued at $140 (https://www.suresave.com.au/what-we-cover)
 

AT A GLANCE

Duration:13 Days
Countries:Vietnam
Starting Point:Sydney
Finishing Point:Sydney
Activities:Day Walks
Cruising
Service Learning
Grade:Adventure Touring  Click for more information
Trip Code:SOG4101