In July/August 2018, working as Expedition Leader for World Challenge, I lead an expedition to Laos and Vietnam with a group from The Thomas Alleyne’s School. For the pupils this four-week expedition is the culmination of a two-year Leadership and Personal Development programme.
For photographs of this expedition see Laos & Vietnam – July/August 2018
This expedition is arranged by World Challenge
10th Jul 2018
11th Jul 2018
Arrival. Today is our first day in-country. We change money, make onward bookings, and buy supplies for our next phase.
12th Jul – 13th Jul 2018
At Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We rise early and observe the daily ancient ritual of alms-collecting by the city’s monks, then plan a trip round Luang Prabang’s renowned night market and a few R&R activities.
Yoga & Kuang Si Waterfalls
Why not get your zen on with a yoga class? Warning, this is not your typical yoga class! Whether you are an experienced yogi or just a beginner there is no better place for a yoga class than at the famous Kuang Si Waterfalls. Yoga offers a much needed grounding among the hustle and bustle of expedition.
While at the Kuang Si Waterfalls, we soak in the water views as we are guided through yoga postures. Then we enjoy the delicious food and smoothies on offer at the private waterfall location and relax in the tropical gardens and on the large riverside decks.
We spend some time exploring the waterfall park and swim in the turquoise pools and walk the path all the way up the multi-tiered waterfalls.
Tamarind Cooking Class
Tamarind\’s philosophy is to teach visitors about the unique flavors of Lao cuisine by providing cooking classes with the freshest of local ingredients and a hands-on approach to learning. We shop in the local market, sampling and learning about produce, before heading back to the lake side cooking school to prepare our own meals. Following instruction from a friendly and informative chef, we gain a better understanding of the dishes Laos is known for and also bring home the knowledge of how to cook our favourite meals from expedition.
14th Jul – 19th Jul 2018
Community Engagement Phase – The expedition project offers a unique opportunity to fully engage with community – passionate local people and organisations – seeking to make a positive impact.
As valued guests of a host community we undertake a task-specific project that will contribute towards the ongoing needs of local communities or other environmental priorities. We listen in order to gain a better understanding of the local challenges and work hard to achieve the best outcomes possible.
While our manpower and financial contribution are so valuable, our hosts also proudly share something of their culture with us. Cultural exchange works both ways so we come prepared with ideas. Photos of our school, community and families are great ways to make friends. Everyone loves to play sports, share songs and perform dance routines! We cook a meal for our hosts and learn to make traditional dishes. The more we engage with our hosts the more we will feel part of something bigger – a community.
20th Jul 2018
Luang Prabang to Luang Nam Tha – Today we make the journey north by bus, from Luang Prabang to Luang Namtha. It takes 9 hours!
21st Jul – 23rd Jul 2018
Trekking around Luang Nam Tha. We meet our guides from Phou Iu Travel and Eco-Tourism in Luang Nam Tha town before making our way to the start of our trek, Nam Ha Village. Nam Ha Village is home to members of the Khmu tribe, an ancient ethnic group in Laos who settled in the Nam Ha National Park several thousand years ago. Trekking out of the village we embark on a challenging trek passing beautiful rice paddy fields, where many of the villages farm during the day, and patches of jungle. The next few days we ascending and descending limestone mountains while making our way to Na Lan Village, an old home base for Pathet Lao Revolutionaries and Royalist Forces throughout the 1960s. While we’re trekking, we keep our eyes peeled for the huge array of wildlife including the Clouded Leopard, Pangolin, Asiatic Black Bear, Gaur, Sun Bears and even tigers!
At the end of our trek our guides will drop us back in Luang Nam Tha.
24th Jul 2018
Luang Nam Tha to Luang Prabang- Today we make the journey south by bus, from Luang Namtha to Luang Prabang. Another 9 hours!
25th Jul – 26th Jul 2018
Back in Luang Prabang. Book into accommodation for the night. We stray from the city to explore nearby waterfalls, religious caves, ancient wats (temples), crumbling French colonial architecture and jungle views.
We climb the stone steps up the hillside of Phu Si – the panoramic views of the city from the top are not to be missed!
Elephant Sanctuaries – the old name for Laos, Lan Xang, means ‘Land of a Million Elephants’. We contact Manda Lao, who provide a fantastic, ethical experience with these magnificent animals.
27th Jul – 28th Jul 2018
Our adventure takes us further north to the remote ends of Laos. Board a bus today and travel to Muang Khoua, where we spend the night.
INTERNATIONAL BORDER CROSSING
The following day we continue up to Tay Trang, the Laos and Vietnam border crossing. Here we pass through customs and border control. Our transport has us in Dien Bien Phu by the afternoon. On arrival we source accommodation for the night.
29th Jul 2018
Travel to Sapa. Continue our journey on towards Sapa, the staging post for our main trek. On arrival we check into our accommodation and contact our trek guides to ensure all logistics are in place.
30th Jul 2018
We have today to rest up and explore Sapa, do some laundry, update our journals and pick up some local handicrafts from the hill tribe merchants who come in from the surrounding hills.
We visit Thac Bac (Silver Waterfall), located towards the Tram Ton (Heaven’s Gate) pass on the outskirts of town.
31st Jul 2018
Travel from Sapa to Hanoi. Today we make the journey by bus, south-east across to Hanoi.
1st Aug 2018
Arrive in Hanoi. We have today to find our feet and get to know Vietnam’s charming capital.
Street food, thriving markets and legions of cyclos (tricycle rickshaws) make Hanoi’s streets something of a blur. Tree-lined boulevards will take you past temples, lakes, and leafy parks. Take in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum or visit the winding streets of the Old Quarter and pick up a bargain in the many stalls. Try the street food like bahn mi and pho to see what your favourites are. You can find some basic Vietnamese phrases in the Top Tips section of your challenger pack – today is a perfect opportunity to learn some of the essentials.
2nd Aug – 4th Aug 2018
Trekking around Mai Chau.
The spectacular mountain valley of Mai Chau is situated approximately 150 km west of Hanoi. Our trek takes us along mountain paths through traditional White Thai tribal villages.
These tribes are thought to have come here from Southern China several hundred years ago and share linguistic and cultural nuances with the Thai and Lao populations.
Our homestay accommodation offers us a unique opportunity to gain insight into traditional village life. The trek finishes in the village of Xam Khoe where we’ll be collected by our trek provider.
5th Aug – 7th Aug 2018
Return to Hanoi: We take a day to relax in Hanoi after the trek.
Explore more of the city, try some of the delicious street food or pick up a bargain in one of the markets.
Rest and Relaxation in Halong Bay. Travel from Hanoi to one of Vietnam’s most stunning natural wonders, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. Legend has it that a dragon descended from heaven and thrashed into the sea, carving out the many islands, coves, and thousands of limestone islets which jut out imperiously from the emerald waters. We explore the hidden lagoons and caves and stay overnight on Cat Ba Island and spend a day on the beach and watch the sunset over the Gulf of Tonkin. It’s easily one of the most beautiful sights in South-East Asia, if not the world.
8th Aug 2018
Hanoi R&R to Airport. Today is our final day exploring Hanoi and Halong Bay. Tonight you we head to the airport ahead of our flight.
9th Aug 2018
Departure day. 01:30am flight! Time to go.