Community Service and Adventure

Vietnamese adventure

From the dramatic rice terraces of the North, through the unique karsts of Ha Long Bay and the mighty caverns of Hang En Cave, to the bustle of the Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, 36 pupils and staff experienced the diversity of Vietnam on this summer's four-week expedition.

Split into two teams, the groups travelled the length of the country.

In the far north, near the Chinese border, the teams set out on a nine-day trek from Lao Cai. They explored the remote communities making their living on the sheer slopes. Weaving in and out of rice terraces, the expeditioners made their way off the beaten track, staying with the Flower Hmong and other ethnic groups.

There was no tent or hotel to be found, the accommodation was in local houses, often on stilts, living with the locals and sleeping under mosquito nets. So unvisited were these homes that local children were brought out to watch the pupils, as they were the first westerners ever to stay in the area! The trek, whilst beautiful, was also challenging, with the temperature rarely dropping below 37C for one team, in addition to the constant humidity.

Welcome relief and a deserved reward from the ardours of the trek came in the form of some R&R on the junks of the iconic Ha Long Bay. This gave the chance to swim in the warm waters, kayak through hidden lagoons and explore floating villages. The worst cyclone flooding in 30 years tried its best to prevent one group travelling, but all made it and enjoyed this experience!

Central Vietnam provided the teams with an entirely different experience. Trekking through the jungle and wading through warm rivers, the teams worked their way to the Swallow and Hang En Cave system. Whilst the smaller cave - where tents were erected and an incredible feast was prepared - was impressive enough, nothing could have prepared the teams for the the sheer magnitude of the main cave. At over two km long and 80m high, the beautiful cave merited a thorough explore and did not disappoint.

Further south, the teams stayed amongst the noise and traffic of Ho Chi Minh city, where they soon became adept at dodging hordes of mopeds as they worked around the city. This stay provided a base from which to explore the famous Cu Chi tunnels, learning and getting a feel for what life must have been like living underground during the Vietnam War.

From Ho Chi Minh, the teams headed out across the canals of the Mekong Delta. Based in a local homestay, they travelled each day by barge to a local primary school. Industrious and determined, they transformed the school from a run-down building in desperate need of attention, to a place fit for education for many years to come. They painted, dug, mixed, cleaned and re-laid paths solidly, despite the exhausting heat, earning the significant respect of the builders and locals they worked alongside.

All in, it was an incredible month. There were tough times and exciting times, and the expeditioners' determination and resilience shone through enabling all to enjoy a fantastic time in a wonderful country.

For more information on arranging your own expedition in Vietnam then please contact us. Alternatively, you can see some sample itineraries and learn more about the destination on our Vietnam inspiration page.