Cambodia / Vietnam Experience
Day 1-2 Siem Reap – Cambodia
After a fairly painless flight to Siem Reap we arrived to temperatures in the 30's and rather quickly the group was enjoying delicious food followed by a swim in the pool at the accommodation.
The first evening was spent wandering through the markets and 'home' via tuk-tuk. Today we spent an incredible morning at Angkor Wat Temples, 'Tombraider' temple and finally the temple of 4 faces or Bayon Temple. The crowds and heat were immense but an incredible experience.
Tomorrow we are destined for Ho Chi Minh City and an introduction into recent Vietnamese history.
Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta (Day 3-5)
Day 3 involved a short flight from Cambodia into chaotic Ho Chi Minh City. The first stop was a sobering visit to the War Remnants Museum and a chance to consider a different perspective of Vietnams recent history. Lunch provided a taste for some of Vietnamese Pho and later after settling into our accommodation, followed by a delicious evening meal at a KOTO restaurant (Know One Teach One) where young people are given the opportunity to develop their cooking and hospitality skills.
Day 4 was a fabulous day spent meandering through some of the tributaries of the Mekong Delta, biking along the narrow pathways and learning about the many ways coconuts can be utilised, seeing how bricks are created and a rice paper making demonstration that many of the students were able to quite successfully master.
The final stop was a tasty lunch provided by Mango Cruises on the banks of the Mekong river. Tomorrow we end our time in the South of Vietnam by heading underground to experience the Cu Chi tunnels.
Day 6 – Danang to Hanoi
After a fascinating afternoon exploring the Cu Chi tunnels, we arrived into Danang and enjoyed a beachfront seafood meal before driving to colourful Hoi An.
The following day started with a 7km bike ride through the rice paddies to a local village where the group participated in some traditional planting and watering of vegetables and herbs. Then we boarded Jack Trans fishing boat and we all enjoyed rowing in round bamboo boats through the water coconut plantation and some antics on the river. The fishing theme continued and the students were taught how to throw a traditional net, some even managing a small catch or two. Captain 'Cook' prepared a delicious lunch whilst the group took part in a traditional dance and to show our appreciation we sang 'Tu Tira Mai'. The evening was spent wandering through the night market in the beautiful old town of Hoi An.
Today we have traveled to a rather wet Hue, visiting both the Imperial Citadel and Heavenly Pagoda. Now we are briefly in Hanoi before heading to Sapa for our community service experience and homestay.
Sapa and Hanoi
The weather has not been in our favour sadly but we managed to have a fantastic time in the Sapa region despite the rain. We stayed overnight in Sapa where there was a shroud of mist over the town.
The following morning we embarked on a 10km trek through bullock trails, concrete pathways that took us through minority villages to get to our destination in a quaint homestay in Tavan Village. We ate lunch on route and had hearty meal at the homestay. It was chilly and quite a change from what we had experienced in the Central and Southern areas.
The following morning we headed to the local Tavan Kindergarten to paint the final coat of yellow after some of the staff at the school had prepared it for us. The students worked efficiently and enjoyed seeing the young children playing in the school grounds. They were very appreciative of all the clothes kindly given by each student. We then headed back to Sapa for a pit stop before taking the overnight train to Hanoi via the border with China at Lao Cai.
Today we have had a rest day with a break at the NZ Embassy where we were able to gain insight into the contributions of the NZ Ministry in this country. Tonight we will enjoy attending a Water Puppet Show and tomorrow we will visit a variety of sites around the city including Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. Our next destination is Halong Bay.
We had a busy day on the 12th (Olivia's 16th birthday!) that began with a visit to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, and his home on stilits, then to the Temple of Literature and also sighted the B52 that crashed into a lake not too far from the city centre. Lunch was at KOTO followed by a visit to the Vietnam Women's Museum before the group were able to spend the last of their Dong.
The following day we headed out to beautiful (but very busy) Halong Bay. The 'junk' was far from junkish and we all enjoyed a little bit of luxury, saw the caves and kayaked to see cheeky monkeys on the cliff faces. Now back in Hanoi for one final meal before we head home Saturday morning.