Vietnam Adventure Part 1
Day 1: After meeting the team at the airport, we flew out to Hanoi from London Heathrow and arrived at 5:40 in the morning! Once in Hanoi we took a bus ride to our first hotel. I recall a funny moment when we passed a luxury hotel and the students thought that was where we were staying, it's fair to say they were a little disheartened by the difference between our hotel and the one we passed. After unloading our bags we took to the streets to explore the bustling City. It was a photographers dream, the world was moving a mile a minute with so many photographic opportunities. That day we explored Hanoi and quickly learned that the drivers in Vietnam have little regard for the safety of pedestrians, or other drivers for that matter! We happily ventured around the City, seeing the sights and trying local cuisine which was stunning in it's flavors and textures. Then after going to a few shops we got an early night and prepared ourselves for the adventure to come!
Day 2: After a slight lye in, we met in the lobby of our hotel. Most of us seemed refreshed although a few seemed to still be feeling the jet lag. We promptly left for breakfast, which was delicious! After that we once again took to the streets to explore Hanoi, where we bartered with the street vendors and purchased some gifts.
I continued to photograph anything I found interesting, until we stumbled into a park where the team took on some locals at a game of football. Which we won! When we left the park we came across a dancing flash mob who were practicing for an upcoming event. This was a taste of Vietnamese life and I have to say I loved it. Next we headed back to our hotel to pack up our bags and catch the 12 hour midnight train. Once boarded we promptly stayed up for hours playing card games and sharing stories, as the alternative was to attempt sleeping on what i can only describe as a moving metal sheet.
Day 3: After sharing some laughs we each went to the dinning cart for dinner. Which was apparently low on stock because our meal seemed to consist of supernoodels with what appeared to be pork sliced into it! Although the food was questionable, it did give us a few hours to sample some local beers before we headed to our very solid beds with a 'mattress' on them. We seemed to get a few hours sleep before the morning sunlight shone through the window of the train waking all of us up from our light slumber. Once awake we killed some time. I took photographs out of the window and was hit in the face by a dragonfly... ouch We then proceeded to talk and relax until we arrived at our destination for the next coupe of days, Hoi An.
Day 4: After an interesting few hours on the night train, we traveled by bus from Hoi An to Dangnan. Once we arrived it became apparent we had been dropped off outside the wrong hotel! So after a short walk we made it to the place we would call home for the next two nights. The students were pleasantly surprised by how much more accommodating this hotel was compared to our first one. They were most impressed by the the pool. Which I must admit was very tempting in the boiling Vietnamese heat. After we unloaded our bags, we ventured out to explore Dangnan, but just before we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant across the street (Cafe 41) little did we know that this would become our main food spot for the entirety of our time in Dangnan, mainly due to the great service, amazing hosts and exceptional service. They also made a mean Saigon coffee! After we replenished ourselves with a meal we went out into Dangnan and quickly discovered a custom tailors called Kimmy's. Long story short, the majority of us purchased Taylor made clothing for phenomenal prices. I myself purchased a custom made three piece suit for $100!
Day 5: Once we had designed our clothes, we headed back to our hotel where we got some much needed rest. The next day we had an early breakfast, I myself had a banana pancake and a delicious Saigon coffee! After breakfast we set off by bus to the Mi Son temples, a sacred Hindu place of worship which dates back thousands of years. Our guide for the day told us some very interesting stories about the Chom people whom worshiped in the district over many centuries. After a moving visit to the temples we observed a show by local people that was very well rehearsed and was a pleasure to watch. We then traveled back to our hotel, where we immediately went to our local restaurant for a hearty lunch of local cuisine. After that we relaxed at our hotel for a few hours and all enjoyed a swim in the pool, which was lovely as I've always enjoyed swimming.
After a swim and a few hours of relaxation. we walked back to Kimmy's for our fittings. I was amazed by the amount of work the tailors had done in just under 24 hours. The suit was a snug fit to my body, made of the fabric i had asked for and the quality far surpassed my expectations! That night we went for dinner at a local restaurant, we played cards and celebrated a students birthday, which was all good fun.
Day 6: That night we went to a local Lantern festival, which was an amazing experience filled with bright colours and lights! It was phenomenal for photographs as the lighting was just right for some night portraiture. After a great nights sleep in our cushy hotel beds we arose early to another great breakfast at our local restaurant, we then walked for about an hour trying to find a beach. However the map we had been provided with was not to scale so we had to turn back, this didn't register well with the students. Although after we had a good meal in us, they were right as rain. After lunch we went back to Kimmy's for one final time to pick up our clothes and say our goodbyes to the friendly staff. We then headed back to our hotel to pack up our bags and get ready for a bus that would take us back to the train station. Once there we boarded the night train once again, after a few beers and a dinner of super noodles we went to sleep on our rock hard 'beds' and after a night of tossing and turning we arrived back in Hanoi.
Day 7: We arrived back in Hanoi at around 5:00 in the morning and all felt a little groggy. We met our new guide Dan and after a horrifying trip to some local 'toilets' we boarded a bus to our project site, most of us took this chance to get a little shut eye and to see the sights out of the window. After about six hours we arrived in the Pu Luong distric, at our project site Nua village. Once there we traveled to our home stay, which was a lovely accommodating house with hosts that were very friendly. After we got acquainted and dropped off our bags, we began to play a game that involves kicking around a shuttlecock. This quickly drew attention as soon we had many children from the village checking us out and playing with us. After some relaxation we took a walk into the Vietnamese mountains, which was absolutely stunning and was brilliant for photographs! After a short walk we arrived at our project site, a school that was in desperate need of painting and refurbishing.
We then hung out with the kids some more and returned to our home stay for dinner, which by the way was some of the best food I've ever eaten to date! The Vietnamese certainly know their way around a meal. After a few games of cards and a few conversations we went off to bed and one by one fell asleep to the sound of frogs and crickets, It was actually very calming.
Day 8: The next day we were rudely awoken by several loud roosters, whom all seemed to crow simultaneously and with little rest. Although it was early, most of us felt replenished and all looked forward to some fresh pancakes with delicious local bananas. After breakfast, a few of the local children arrived from down the hill and began playing football with us while we prepared to walk to the school. Once we had taken our malaria tablets and made sure we had fresh water, we set off to the school. On our arrival we were greeted by the project hosts, whom were all very friendly and welcoming. We got ourselves set up with some paint & rollers and got to work. Our system was rather effective, half of the team were on wall duty and the other half began painting the doors and windows. Dan was very helpful, directing us and a Vietnamese gentleman who was assisting. After several hours we broke for a delicious lunch back at our home stay. I believe that day it was fried fish, mmm. Once replenished, we got back to work on the school and finished the first coat. Then we relaxed for the remainder of the day, playing foot ball on the school pitch and teaching some of the kids our names. We then had dinner and one by one more kids came to our home stay, we were amazed by all their energy and engaged in games for several hours. We then went off to bed one by one. I read a letter from my girlfriend at the time as I had the previous nights I had been in Vietnam.