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Our Vietnam Expedition

As we set foot in what would be our home for the next two weeks, Vietnam, we were engulfed in a wave of humidity that many of us had not experienced before. It was here where we met our tour guide Mr T, as he liked to be known, who throughout the trip was immensely enthusiastic, funny and a good friend. With our luggage loaded into the truck we sent off through the magical night streets of Hanoi, with lights illuminating the night markets and roadside stools.

In the morning we had our first introduction to traditional Vietnamese cuisine of an assortment of rice and noodles. With the food being delicious and filling we set off on our first bus journey to the Tay village of Ha Thanh. There was a sense of joyfulness on the journey as we exchanged our pounds to Vietnamese Dong and all became millionaires! After arriving at the village and departing the bus we walked for two hours through paddy fields and around the village. We were mesmerised at the stark difference between the flat fields of East Anglia and the mountains of Vietnam. To conclude the day we arrived at our first home stay and were welcomed by our enthusiastic host and his lovely family.

After a breakfast of pancakes, the majority of the next day was taken by a long hike up and around the mountains, where we were surrounded by breathtaking views of the Vietnamese landscape. To end the day we enjoyed a peaceful swim in a nearby waterfall and partook in activities with the children, which included baseball and french cricket. Our next hike involved a visit to the palace where the king of the district used to live and some marvellous views of the Chinese border and the river below. After another wonderful meal of an assortment of rice, meats and vegetables we ended the day with karaoke – a great bonding experience, cementing our friendship and even Mr Ross joined in!

The next morning was occupied by our journey to the largest market I had ever seen. The smells and number of people were mesmerising, as there was commotion in every corner. With our market exploration over we commenced on our journey to the next homestay. A short stop for fried noodles at a roadside restaurant and we were dropped off and ready to walk to meet our next host named Fhu. The walk had spectacular views over mountains covered by a blanket of green. The homestay was a simple house on stilts with a singular room upstairs – nevertheless it was enchanting.

The next day included a hike through the beautiful scenery once again, but more importantly we helped pick corn for a local farmer. This was the first time where we fully experienced the culture and what day to day life was like for the rural farmers. We also learnt valuable communication and teamwork skills during the farming. Furthermore we experienced the taste of black chicken for dinner which was a first for everyone, helping further to immerse us within the culture.

The following day consisted of a longer bus journey and hike to the next homestay, where we were to
stay two nights. My favourite part of the day was a refreshing swim in a freezing river, which provided a welcoming coolness to the hot humidity.

We woke up bright and early on the 9th to start our morning trek through the mountains. The walk took us through the Ha Quang mountains, covered in dark green trees surrounding the mountains. The mountains towered over us providing shade in the hot humidity of the Vietnam sun. We quickly descended to the bus and bought refreshing drinks and snacks from a traditional Vietnamese store. After that we went swimming in the fast-paced river next to the homestay which was freezing, even colder than English water.

The next day we set off early to drive to the Ba Be Lake, which means three, as there are 3 parts to the river. We stayed on the shoreline, walking the last part and seeing how the locals fish with a traditional net. The following morning we woke to the wash of the water on the edge of the lake. We walked up the valley, past traditional tribal huts with animals such as goats and buffaloes kept for food. At the top, we met a small family who spent their time working on their field of crops, some of which they sold to make money. The children had an impressive musical talent, even though they didn’t have anywhere near the level of education that we have. We then went out onto the calming lake in boats, taking in the breathtaking scenery. Swimming in the lake was so refreshing and was a great way to end the day.

We arrived back in Hanoi the next day and went to see the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the presidential palace of Vietnam which looked incredible in a mustard yellow colour. It was unique compared to other buildings in Vietnam, as it was built by the French who occupied the area at the time. Our final visit of the day was to the temple of literature, which was an enchanting place where we were surrounded by knowledge. In the evening, we went on an exciting food tour through the hustle and bustle of the old quarter in Hanoi. We all thoroughly enjoyed the Vietnamese street food that we tried; Pho, dumplings, durian fruit, fresh smoothies and other assortments of fresh food. Our last trip was to the east coast, to Ha Long Bay where we would get a boat to Cat Ba Island. This was my favourite part of the trip, as the islands looked so pretty amongst the sea. We also had lots of fun cycling and walking on the island, it was an incredible experience and was so different from the rest of the trip. On the boat back to the mainland, we stopped at a little secluded beach, it looked like it was from a film! It was so much fun swimming in
the sea and jumping off the boat.

On our last day we took a tour of a Vietnamese traditional market in Hanoi. We all bought some dried mango as it was just unreal! To conclude our tour around Hanoi we stopped at the famous railway cafe for an assortment of refreshments. We had one last lunch with Mr T, which was quite emotional as he was a fantastic tour guide who had so much enthusiasm for Vietnam, and for showing us around. We then headed back to England, after experiencing a once in a lifetime trip that none of us will ever forget.

Will W, Year 12

WINNER: Ollie H is the winner of the Vietnam expedition photo competition, as judged by Mr Bartrum and Mrs Bryan
RUNNER UP: Tristan S is the joint runner- up of the Vietnam expedition photo competition
RUNNER UP: Rohan G-W is the joint runner-up of the Vietnam expedition photo competition

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