A Smooth Ascent to Sapa and settled into Ban Ho
The Year 9 trip to Sapa has got off to a good start. We were the first trip to leave school and passed most of the journey in sunshine, which perfectly framed the beautiful scenery of Northern Vietnam. The two buses had an alternately festive and sleepy atmosphere at different stages in the journey.
We arrived in Lao Cai on schedule and ate a huge lunch at a hotel before switching to four smaller buses for the ascent to Sapa town. The journey was again blessed with good visibility meaning we could fully experience the stunning views of rice terraces cut into the hillside and the valley floor below.
In Sapa town, students split into house groups to tour the sights, including the church and local market, with plenty of smiles despite the arrival of some light rain.
Outside the church in Sa Pa
We then undertook the final leg of our outward journey, heading deeper into the mountains to our homestays in the village of Ban Ho. As I write, students are settling into their accommodation before reconvening in the central house for dinner.
Heading up to the homestay
The view from the central house
Tomorrow, house teams will compete across the village and surrounding hills in the Amazing Race.
- Warming up for The Amazing Race
- Hue finish their flag first
[caption id="attachment_2906" align="alignnone" width="755"]
Racing through the village[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2910" align="alignnone" width="755"]
On the way to the first checkpoint[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2911" align="alignnone" width="755"]
Waiting for Dalat[/caption]
House groups competed to make the quickest and best decorated flag before solving the clues to navigate through the village to the first checkpoint. Three teams completed the task in good time; the less said about Dalat's navigational skills, the better! When all 4 teams were finally united, they undertook the first activity: dragging team mates across a rice terrace on a bamboo frame. Amid much laughter and good natured competitive spirit, Dalat redeemed themselves with a victory.
The race continued through the hills around Sapa, pushing the students to challenge themselves mentally and physically. After another activity on the rice terraces, the outdoor lunch spot was reached in impressively quick time. Students and staff enjoyed a fully catered picnic by the river to fuel them for the afternoon ahead.
The post-lunch trekking was significantly more challenging and all four house groups showed impressive team work to get members through terrain that was alternately steep, narrow and muddy, and sometimes all three. All these hard efforts were back dropped by some of the most stunning scenery you could wish for.
Activities included a bizarre chopstick linking race, learning and performing songs in a local language and taking the grains off a Fanxipan-sized mountain of corn cobs. The blisters on our fingers took our minds off the blisters on our feet!
- First challenge
[caption id="attachment_2913" align="alignnone" width="755"]
Racing through the mountains[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2914" align="alignnone" width="755"]
A beautiful part of the world[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2915" align="alignnone" width="755"]
Nearly at checkpoint 2[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2918" align="alignnone" width="755"]
The second challenge[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2957" align="alignnone" width="755"]
On the way to challenge 3[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2958" align="alignnone" width="755"]
Lunch by the river[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2959" align="alignnone" width="755"]
Corn off the cob[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2967" align="alignnone" width="755"]
Making dye for the sticky rice[/caption]
The final activity was making the dyes for the four-coloured sticky rice that we then cooked over camp fires back at the central house. After a long, hot and demanding day, everyone was happy to freshen up ready for dinner before a well deserved night's sleep.
Getting local: school in the morning farming in the afternoon
There was a slightly later scheduled start on day 3, to let students recover from their Amazing Race exertions, and energy levels were surprisingly high post-breakfast.
We then had a gentle walk to the village secondary school where 163 students and their teachers gave us a warm welcome. After short welcome speeches, BIS students gave the donations of school bags (kindly donated by the parents of Vuong Phuong Nhi), clothes and shoeboxes of stationery to the local students.
We were treated to a traditional fan dance, and a less traditional hip hop number, before offering our own improvised performances. The sets of students from the two schools played a warm up activity to get to know each other. Competitive matches followed, with the tug of war, volleyball and the challenging feat of hurling corn at a very high target. The local students certainly impressed their BIS counterparts with speed and skill.
We said our goodbyes to the students then lunch was eaten back at the central homestay. The weather outside was rather TOO good, so a decision was made to postpone farming until a cooler time of day. Instead, students worked in their homestay groups to produce a performance incorporating a song, an advert and the story of the trip so far.
Tears of laughter rolled down cheeks as we watched the performances, featuring everything from rap to adverts for apples. It was almost a shame to announce a winner, but homestay 5 bossed the judges' vote.
- Welcome from the village secondary school
- Donating school equipment
- The bird in the birdcage game
- Bracing for the tug of war
- Tug of war
- Ban Ho School vs BIS
- The tension builds
- Maximum effort
- The story of the trip so far
- Rap king
- Another day, another hill
- Harvesting cassava
- Digging up cassava
With the sting taken out of the day's heat, we headed back into the hills to get our hands dirty, harvesting cassava and rice. The sight of our city-based students working the land was a beautiful thing. Day 3 dinner was well-earned.
[caption id="attachment_3217" align="alignnone" width="755"]
Relaxing by the river after an afternoon in the hills[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_3216" align="alignnone" width="755"]
At the river[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_3221" align="alignnone" width="755"]
[caption id="attachment_3220" align="alignnone" width="755"]
Final night campfire[/caption]
Ban Ho farewells, Sapa shopping and the homeward leg
A happy and tired Year 9 team is now winding down through the northern hills to Lao Cai and the final leg to Sapa. New experiences have been had, new friendships forged and students have pulled together as a year group in a way that is only really possible on an extended trip away together. I am immensely proud of all of them and know that their, and the staff's, memories of the trip will stay with them long after our return.
[caption id="attachment_3222" align="alignnone" width="755"]
'Do something silly'[/caption]
Head of Year 9 and 10
PLEASE NOTE: Students will phone parents an hour before arrival in Hanoi (currently estimated at 5.30pm), so please do not phone students on the bus.