Sunday, 7 August 2011

Am having a few issues with the blog...

I have finished the blog, however can not get it loading correctly... will finish later or upload final bits tomorrow x

Goodbye Vietnam...

As I sit at the computer with Biz reflecting on the last month of our epic adventure, I am amazed with the adventure of a life time we have all had. The trip has been awesome, life changing for all, physically and emotionally challenging (which has made us all stronger in individual ways) and inspiring. We will be setting off from Saigon at 3pm today, checking out of a lovely hotel which Molly booked for us and then heading towards Ho Chi Minh Airport and then making the journey home!

Yesterday Molly was our group leader and had us all in the reception of the last hotel at 6.50am ready to check out and catch a public bus at 7am heading towards the heart of Saigon City. (The buses stop running at 7.30am and do not re start till later in the day) After fitting students and rucksacks  on buses during rush hour we finally arrived in the bus station ready to walk to our new hotel called the Duc Vuong Hotel (District 1, Saigon) before heading off for breakfast at Sozo (a great cafe near the hotel which employs young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and educates them and provides them basic life skill training). Then the exploring started....

Before lunch we were given some time to go exploring and all headed towards the huge indoor market in the centre of Saigon. The market was at times a little scary if you are not used to masses of people all trying to get your attention and sell you stuff. The sellers would come up to you and physically grab you to get your attention. A firm "No" and stern face made them back off.

After lunch we headed towards the War Remnant Museum which was thought provoking and also upsetting in parts due to the graphic photos and descriptions. After this we then headed towards the Plaza for a game of competitive bowling. We hired three lanes and had a great laugh. Mr Jack Clarke - we salute your excellence with a bowling ball! After this, we then had dinner!!!

Dinner! Molly was our leader for the day and had already done an excellent job of organizing the hotel, the various activities and keeping us on track. Dinner was no disappointment and as we tuck in to either a two or three course meal at a traditional restaurant

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Saigon again...

After an early start we headed to the Mekong once again to see the busier floating market, trade was happening and we had to move our boat through the masses of other tourist boats and actual traders. About half way through this, Harry, Cam, Paddy and Tom Battye boarded a trading boat and purchased pineapple as a mid morning snack. They all looked at home as this was carved up for them with a machette. 

We spent about two hours on the water this morning, briefly getting off to see a version of a garden centre, where seedlings were being prepared for trade and transportation. The Mekong was peaceful, with the exception of the churning engine from our boat and gave us a chance to get some fresh air before hitting the mini bus for the journey back to Saigon (only took about 4 hours with lunch in between)

We are now back in our hotel in Saigon and the 'food group' have gone out on a dinner finding mission - different roadside BBQ is available, though Biz and I might pass on the BBQ frog option  or stewed snake.
We are currently waiting for our room to be cleaned so seized the chance to blog.

Molly is in charge tomorrow and has great plans for us as we head in to the city part of Saigon (shopping of course is on the menu). In the morning we are catching a public bus and heading towards the War Museum, the Opera House, the old town market and Notre Dame Cathedral (not the one in Paris).

Will let you know how our last full day goes tomorrow before logging off from Nam as we head towards home on Monday afternoon. 

With best wishes

Biz and Weeksey xx

Friday, 5 August 2011

Mekong Delta!

We have spent two days now on the Mekong Delta in a combination of being on the water on the boats and on the land whizzing to new destinations along the way via mini bus. The hotels we are in are 3 * so we have also regained some luxury which has made us all feel special and made the long days nice to end in white crisp sheets.

So yesterday, we left Saigon at about 8am and travelled for a few hours along the main highway of Vietnam. We then boarded the boat and saw a smallish floating market (we will be seeing a bigger one tomorrow and much earlier so will be able to see more trading happening) we then went on the water for a while and saw a small village, tasted honey tea, saw rice paper being made, saw Vietnam's version of pop corn (from rice) being made, was introduced to a few phythons and then we  headed back to the shore line to board small rowing boats. There were four of us to a boat and we went through the most peaceful and beautiful part of the river before hitting land to taste local fruit. After a short walk and another small boat trip we landed at our lunch destination, where the food was prepared in front of us. We all tasted Elephant Fish which was de-boned and then made in to spring rolls in front of us.

After lunch we boarded the mini bus to take us to our overnight destination and hotel in Chau Doc (Did I mention the hotel was rather nice!!!)

After a lovely breakfast this morning we boarded the minibus to take us to the foot of the mountain in Chau Doc (Sam Mountain) we climbed this (only about 2km) and witnessed spectacular views - at the very top we were able to see Cambodia. (Chau Doc is only 4km away from the boarder).  Climbing down the mountain was harder than going up it, 2km worth of stairs downhill and not all of them stable! However it was worth it!

After the mountain, we boarded two boats and saw a mosque, fish farm and spent about an hour on the water. Again the experience was really good!!!

Lunch soon followed and then back to the minibus to take us to our overnight destination. Ben has been the leader today and did a very good job of herding us. Tonight we ate in a western style cafe where burgers, chips and pizza were on the menu. (Happy faces all around!)

Tomorrow an early start to see more of the Mekong Delta and then back to Saigon. Not long till we will be home, eating through the various shopping requests that have been made and sharing the photos and memories from this trip. We have all missed home comforts and family, though have bonded as a group well. This experience has changed us all in some way - either being more confident, able to try new things, more adventurous with food and developed a love of travel of the beaten track.

Will be back in touch when we hit Saigon and our hotel (I will leave the students to explain about the decor on the walls of the Saigon hotel upon their return home!)

With love to all, Weeksey and Paddy xx

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Cu Chi tunnels

The Cu Chi tunnels (  we went and visited yesterday afternoon where brilliant and the whole area thought provoking. After travelling for about 30 minutes we were taken to a government run and owned work factory for people still effected by the aftermath of the chemicals used in the 1970's by the Americans against the Viet Cong. The work factory, where the people live and work had impressive (though expensive) craftmanship and we got to see how some of the vases and plaques were made using Mother of Pearl and duck egg shell. 

After leaving and travelling for another 40 minutes we arrived at the tunnels (which in total run for 250km) We had a tour guide who took us on a route through the history of the Vietnam War and pre 1948 when the French occupied Vietnam. The history was interesting and gave context to the Viet Cong and their actions. We were shown different escape and entry points in to the tunnels and tried to fit our rather large Western size bodies in spaces made for small, lean Viet Cong members. We all managed to squeeze into the spaces with a little shuffling, breathing in etc. (There are quite a few amusing photos of this on various cameras). We were then shown the traps (ouch, is all I can say to that!) 

After the history and tour of the grounds we were then taken to the shooting range. Those who wished were able to fire 10 rounds of either a M16, AK47 and other guns of that style which I have no idea of what they are called. All I can say is that the boys loved this aspect and that all fingers and toes are still in tact!

Then the tunnels! We had the opportunity to travel down an orginal tunnel (about 100 m long) which had been slightly widened to enable larger 'western style bodies' as the tour guide put it to fit. We all went down in to a dark (we put our head torches on) slightly damp tunnel which then got more narrow as you progressed. Cam, the largest member of our group (rugby build) and Tom Battye (tallest member) manged to do the entire length of the tunnel, some had to belly or bum shuffle to get through - an entertaining and surprising physically challenging experience.

We arrived back at our hotel for a spot of dinner either shrimp and rice or chicken and rice before an early night in preparation for an early start to get to the Mekong. We will be staying in hotels on both nights that we are on the Mekong Delta and hopefully there might be internet access so that we can keep in touch with you all. If not, we will be back Sunday afternoon to Saigon and will update you all again then.

Loving the song suggestions!!!

Morning, Weeksey x

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ho chi min!

Well, here we are in Saigon (or Ho Chi Min)! We have just arrived at our hotel and have all had a well deserved nap after our experience's on the night train down here, 15 hours of swaying (endlessly) back and forth and... cosy conditions made for an exciting journey but also a tiring one with our 5a.m. arrival. It was a lot of fun however, a few of us got on the train to find some strange vietnamese lady sitting in our beds, washing apples on a moving vehicle is not an easy task as I found out and Molly and Josie made a new mouse friend which was living in their cabin on the train! But we survived and that's the main thing!
         We are soon heading off to go and see the tunnels! I'm not entirely sure what the tunnels are but I hear they're one of the things to visit while your in the area so I guess it will be good! Tommorow we're off to the mekong delta for a few nights so much more excitement to look foward to our end, not long now until we're back to our homes either, which many of us (including myself) will be very much foward to seeing again!
        We're all missing you all and will update you soon im sure! Thanks for reading everyone, its lovely to have your comments! Jack x

Monday, 1 August 2011

Shop Shop Shop!!!!

Hoi An has had Midhurst Rother College students spend, spend and spend! Suits, dresses, jackets, shirts and trousers have all been made to measure and purchased. Jack has ordered a tweed suit, Weeksey a cashmere one (suit sorted for next academic year!) Bizzle has got herself a couple of evening dresses made to measure, Alice and Lucy designed and got their own jackets and the majority of the boys have got tailored suits (Ben and Cam look particularly good in theirs - sharp, crisp in the style of a Hugo Boss advert) Sprinkles has a purple suit!

On top of that, Hoi An has offered us the chance to swim in the pool (the largest hotel pool in Hoi An) have some really good food and play a couple of games of pool, potter around the art and craft part of the city and walk down to the river. 

Hoi An is bustling with young tourists so has a really nice vibe to it, a bit more chilled than Hanoi and less motorcyles to have to contend with a dodge.

With best wishes