'For Adventures of a lifetime'

Friday, 21 December 2012

Final Blog From Vietnam and Laos (Kinross College)

Hey Guys

We are almost at the end of our amazing expedition to Laos and Vietnam...I’m sure you’re all looking forward to seeing your son/daughter again and hear all about their adventures. Don’t expect too much but they will all have photographs to show you and may tell you about some of the strange goings on in some the weird and wonderful places they have visited.

Just as a reminder please remember to pick your child up from the Perth International airport on Sunday 23rd December, at 05.20 hours (That’s morning in old money)...We (the staff) have had our fill and done our stint and are looking forward to off loading them ;-).

The guys are so so excited to see you all and have left each of you a personal note below Enjoy!:

Jayden: Hey mum, I’m missing you heaps so I am really excited to come home, I will tell you all my stories when I get home. Make sure you are there ages before we are even due to land because when I get out I will just want to leave, can you please bring money for maccas on the way home because I am craving it, can you also make me an appointment to get my eyebrows done because they are disgusting at the moment! I think that is all, as I said before I miss you heaps and can’t wait to come home and have Christmas. I also hope that on Christmas day I will get my jellybeans that I got last year, Lots of love, jayden xxx

Alice: Hi dad and mum, Can you make sure you remember to pick me up and if those Christmas lights aren’t up s*** is going down. Also please bring my cute doggies and you can bring grace if you want hehe. Please bring money for maccas and fully charge my phone and please bring to the airport. Also if you go in the bathroom in my 2nd or 3rd draw down there is my new untouched foundation can you please also bring that as Ive been missing it. I would be very disappointed if you fail any of these requests :-). Miss you lots, love alice xo

Moules: wassup mamma mole and papa mole, don’t fo’ get some sweet ass treats for when we get our ass’s of that big mudda pucker plane, please bring us some caramel slice, brownie, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, cruskits, coco pop checks and if we had nachos for lunch and steak and snags for din dins we wouldn’t be disappointed. Oh, and please have pitch perfect in the dvd player ready to go, mikaela’s sick ass phone charged and pretty please don’t expect presents till we get our sweet ass’s home. Love you all longtime and can’t wait to see your gorgeous faces. Moule holes, xoxoxooxox

Cassidy: hello mum please don’t forget to pick me up :-) also please bring my vans and some delicious food :-) cant wait to see you all. Also please bring some money for maccas coz I haven’t had it in ages. Please don’t forget me so be there ages before we are due to land. I brought lots of presents and can’t wait to give them to you... love you and can’t wait to see you <3 xx="xx">
Luke: alright mum and dad how are you guys? im home soon when u come to the airport bring food please only joking can u please be there on time missing you all. X

Shay: Mum your always late, please don’t be late Nottle and Posner won’t be very happy people! Bring the kids and my babies (if Baylee and Carlos aren’t bathed, smelling clean and been fed well I won’t be happy)! OH and I want a whooper with cheeses, minus pickles and mustard heavy ketchup and heavy mayo with a coke and a large fries! Love you guys heaps, see use soon <3>
Get ready for the tears btw :-)!

Jared: hey mum and dad not missing you that much so just remember to pick me up. Dad if ur home u should come too because I want u to and bring some yummy food too please. Oh and BTW you both jinxed me for the whole trip!!! :-) x can you also bring money for some maccas

Alison: hey mummy and daddy I have missed you so much, would you please make Emily and Kate come and pick me up I would like to see their lovely faces (bright in the morning hahaha xxx) and also please be prepared to buy me heaps of food at maccas xxxx thanks :-) love ya xoxoxoxo

Sarah: hey guys, don’t forget to pick me up ;) you already know the plans for that day and have already prepared myself for the chaos that it might bring. I have been missing everyone heaps and can’t wait to see you all at the airport. Now on a serious note, please bring my sim card for my phone, and maybe we can get some frozen raspberry fanta for the trip home from the airport. Can’t wait to see you all! Xoxo

Ffion: Hi mum and dad please remember to pick me up; I particularly don’t want to be stuck at the airport at 5 in the morning, although I know you won’t forget. But if you could please get me a big tub of my favourite ice cream from cold rock (double chocolate and raspberries) for on the way back from the airport as I have a big craving for ice cream (you know I have not eaten any good ice cream in Vietnam and Laos) and a blanket for in the car if you don’t mind. I can’t wait to see you, miss you load’s see you soon, love you always!!! :-) fi xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and more!!!

Glen: hope everyone has been enjoying themselves back home, should see you on the 23rd of December, Sunday morning at 5.20 at Perth airport. (Just making sure you will be there ;) ) if you can bring sapphire and the pups I would appreciate it, if it isn’t too hard :D.

Michaela: hello mother and father, I only have a few requests when you come and pick me up at the airport. Firstly would you be able to bring my laptop and my phone (can you charge it as well because I forgot to put it on charge when I left), my Duvet cover and pillow, money to go get food, Dexter and Chloe (and I expect Dexter in his Santa hat as well), bring Amber along as well however, that is only if she survived you guys for a month without me. I want nana’s sausage rolls, caramel slice, peppermint crèmes, coconut ice or just bring nana to the airport instead to bake the food for me, also I would like my advent calendar to catch up on. Hope you all are well and see you soon. Hope Uncle Michael’s collarbone is okay and Lola hasn’t been killed by the bitch black cat next door. There better be Christmas lights up at the house and we better be going to see Christmas lights in connonlly as well. I miss you so much and I hope you all are well. Love you lots Michaela xxxxxx (ps. Please don’t forget to pick me up at the airport hahahahaha.) xoxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxo.

Mathew: yo waddup family, hows it going. I hope that you have taken good care of Sid and that he has started eating again. Bring Toby to the airport too please as I have missed him loads. I have missed you all but am happy that I came and feel I have gained a lot from it. I will love to get home to a full fridge and warm pool. And can Megan please be there too. See ya later

Kyle: Hey family, hope all of you are ok, bring everyone to the airport, even the dog ;). Dad you better of been starting my motorbike regularly! Bring a Harvey Fresh Mocha to the airport please, I’ve been craving one :D. Hope the Snake has been eating well and has shed, Remember to pick me up at the airport at 5:20 am Sunday, Missing all of you, Cant wait to see you. :D

Ellis: Hello people of Australia (family). I’m all ok can’t wait to see you, got drew a b’day present. Hope the dog is ok. I can’t believe it has gone so quick. Bring food to the airport . Cliff the team leader is pretty awesome some of the girls are pritty upset. I don’t want to go home yet got so used to it here very bloody humid though. LOVE YOU ALL . be home soon. BYE BYE.

Sam: Hi there guys, I seem to be intact and all good and looking forward to coming home so much and I can’t wait to see you (Family) and all my friends back at home. Although I can’t wait to get home, I really want to stay here as well, the weather, locals and especially the food is great. See you soon.:-)

Mikhaila: Guys I’ve missed you so much! Can’t wait to see your beautiful faces again! Dad, I may have actually missed you waking me up by rattling around in the kitchen instead of a knock on the door at 5 in the morning I’ve been having here. Mum, can’t wait for a hug, please don’t cry too much because I will too, Maddy don’t hate me but I didn’t take many photos and you can bring Dave if you really want too hehe, Kaitlyn, our insides jokes are too inappropriate for a public blog but you know what I mean, Steph, (the order was not importance so don’t get your undies in a twist) fair warning I’m giving the presents on Christmas not at the airport. Love you guys! P.S. Prepare yourselves for a Harry Potter Marathon and this is not a request, you must bring me MASH POTATO and tomato sauce to the airport, thank you very much.

Narakorn: hi guys doing fine coming back in a few days. I love it here a lot more than home. I want to play a lot of games bye.

Tina and Mel: Hey Westy!! Tina would love a sugar free red bull and I would just love to see your face and the photos from our staff party! Very excited to see you! Love us x

Cliff: Please bring all those people and animals who love me unconditionally (just as well!) to the train station, especially my beautiful and special little granddaughter...but I understand if it’s only my lovely wifey! :-)...Hun Can you try n get me an emergency dentist appointment for 24th please...I have lost some tooth and need it covering for Christmas...Looking forward to seeing you all xxx No food requests BTW just make sure my mates B & J's are in the freezer :-) x

Ha Long Bay - 3 days Left in paradise.

“Morning everyone rise and shine it’s half past 3 in the morning” Cassidy screamed.

“LEAVE ME ALONE” “GO AWAY!!!!” everyone else yelled across the sleeper train.

Trudging out of our bunks, hitting our heads we tried to open our cabin door. The door handle had fallen off and the sheet we had put up as our door was stuck in the door because a stupid person had slammed the door locking it shut. Yippee what a great way to start the morning off. Cassidy, Glen, Alison, Alice, Jayden and myself all tried to break open the door finally Cassidy flung open the door. Last night everyone was busting for the toilet the girls found out it was a squatter so the girls who were prepared used there she-wee’s (Cassidy slapped Ellis over the face with her she-wee...a new experience happens every day :-)).

Tired and hungry, Challengers got off the train looking forward to the R & R ahead and excited to explore Ha Long Bay later today. Pre arranged transport had arrived to take us back to the Backpackers hotel in Hanoi. All of us desperate to get clean, we quietly went upstairs to the 5th floor chill out space where we grabbed our stuff and headed to the shower. Everyone had to have a shower and put on clean clothes because the stench of us would put anyone off. Afterwards, we packed and got our bags into storage just keeping everything we would need for the bus ride, on the boat and toiletries in our day bags.

Packed and sorted for a 6:30am breakfast downstairs with a budget 150.000 Dong, most got big breakfast still tired but happy we had food in our tummies. At 8am we met our guide ‘Lucky’ who would be our tour guide for the bus trip and on the boat. Alice, MS and MJ had all planned the R & R activities, so only they and Lucky knew what was install for us!

The bus journey was 4 hrs but as we were all tired it was easy to get some sleep. Unfortunately Jared, after being designated to bring the world challenge duffle bag which has all the team gear and first aid kits, of course forgot it. Luckily Miss Posener remembered before we had gotten too far. So being calm and collected, as we had learned to be throughout this trip , we rang the hotel. Lucky talked on the phone for us and got a taxi to bring it to us when we stopped at a souvenir shop along the way. (Never leave anything important and valuable in Jared or Sam’s possession! ;-)).

After Lucky’s long speech on Vietnam and Ha Long Bay (spoken in very good English but interesting pronunciation of sounds), most of us slept, listened to music or drifted off into the clouds. Unfortunately, it was not a very good day for weather. Mist and fog covered the sky and hills! When we arrived we loaded our gear into a small tender that took our group to our tour boat in two short trips. We had an amazing lunch (although the vegetarians complained that there was not that much variety), while the rest of us carnivores tucked into some exceptional seafood including fresh squid, fish, prawns and more. We then visited a cave called Surprise Cave, the biggest in Ha Long Bay. We sailed through the limestone Islands and while the mist and fog stopped us from seeing them properly, it was still an eerily calm and beautiful place to see. Despite the weather, we went to Tip Top Island and some of us climbed to the top of the island to check out the view while others played Volleyball and had a swim (freezing!!!). We then returned to the main boat to have warm showers (yay - hot water and nice bathrooms!!!)

Before dinner we had a cooking lesson with the apparently multi-skilled Lucky, where we prepared and made spring rolls to have with our dinner. They we very tasty! After dinner there were activities such as fishing and karaoke. The girls all had a ‘mocktail’ (non-alcoholic cocktail) while the boys went fishing. Then we joined for karaoke that was so much fun that no one could resist joining in. We all wrote our messages to send to our families, and then tired and all sung out, we went to bed.

Bright and early we had breakfast at 7:30. The weather for the day improved, even the sun came out encouraging some of us up onto the sun deck to sun bake, take pictures and enjoy the peacefulness. The boat travelled back to the bay where we had a big lunch said goodbye and travelled back to Hanoi. Lucky returned us to the Backpackers Hotel sorted out our rooms realising it was really our last day together as a team but ready for home. Went to Gecko’s for tea/dinner where I am writing this after everyone has eaten we will be heading to the night markets bargaining for our last gifts and presents then returning to the hotel having a shower, packing our bags for our trip home.

Can’t wait to get home, but sad that I will be leaving my friends that have become my other family. (I am giving everyone a hug I don’t care if they don’t like hugs I am giving them a hug) I know I will see some of them at school next year but the weird conversations and company of them always being there for you would not be the same. I am going to miss everyone dreadfully, I know I will especially miss the boys (I know that’s weird) that has helped me when I needed help and have made this adventure even more fun. The teachers that have become a second mum to us on the trip, always giving you great advice. The girls that have become big sisters to me offering there help and support through tough times. (Ed. What about me :-))

I am going to miss everyone! Only 2 days left!!!!

Lots of love always from the team and me


Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Amazing Sapa Trek Experience (Northern Vietnam)!

We started our morning bright and early, getting off the sleeper train, not as efficiently as normal, due to some lost property (Ed. ok it was Sam who this time had ‘miss-placed’ his boots).Then we got straight on to an hour long bus drive into Sapa, arriving to a lovely breakfast of pancakes and bacon and eggs at the Mountain View hotel. Doing a very similar trek to us was a small group of female world challengers from South Africa. It was really interesting meeting people from another place in the world going through the same situation as us. We then met Johnny, our guide for the trek who was quite a character, with his catch phrase being “Cheers mate” and “Cool beans” in an Australian accent.

After storing our extra gear, in a very funky (Ed. I can tell you it wasn’t that funky!) smelling room we started our trek around midday. Following us were some very helpful women from the hill tribes of Northern Vietnam named the H’mong people, they provided interesting informative conversation and a helping hand when it got particularly rocky and slippery, although they were in thongs they were certainly pro’s at trekking. The ladies wore beautiful up do (Australian for hairdo) using various combs and clips. If a lady had a comb it meant she was married. All the women did however wear knee length black robes with embroidered edges and material leg warmer sort of things. While some members of our group found the hilly terrain challenging we supported each other successfully through the first day. Finally making it after around five hours, to a traditional wooden and bamboo home stay probably had a lot to do with the delicious lunch of baguettes with cream cheese, omelette and salad and the phenomenal sights of the mountains and surrounding scenery.

At lunch the H’mong women and children were selling various homemade objects from bags to bracelets, some took this opportunity to splurge, maybe on Christmas gifts for you guys at home. Continuing with our delectable catering for this hike, upon arrival at an extremely comfortable home stay, we were given garlic butter French fries which were gone within the minute of being placed on the table. After a race to get in the showers we sat down for a dinner of rice, stir fried vegetables, tofu, chicken and what has to be the best spring rolls any of us has ever tasted. It was shocking to think this food had all been cooked in an open fire in a kitchen with a cement floor. We then hung around, talked and got ready for bed. The boys managed to get themselves actual beds (Ed. Nothing to do with me honest!) while the girls all slept up stairs on mattresses on the floor. I guess chivalry is dead (Ed. hahahahahaha). Although this was more comfortable then the home stays we stayed in on the project, we were still faced the fact that their home was pretty basic; wood, cement and minimal furniture and we were all definitely relieved and shocked by the warm shower and the westerner toilet. (Ed. no squatters!)

After a very cold night (Ed. The best night’s sleep so far in country!) we awoke still pretty sleepy but our moods were lifted by pancakes with sugar, lime, chocolate sauce and bananas. We dug in knowing a hard day of trekking was ahead of us (Ed. we didn’t expect extreme though!). We trekked a near constant uphill then downhill, both difficult in their own way for six hours before lunch. This was very physically and mentally demanding on the team and included the negotiating of slippery ankle deep mud. For lunch we had noodle soup and mandarins, this went quickly as our group of 22 eagerly slurped up our meal, trying and failing at using chop sticks; Miss Posner is the master at this and only this. We headed off again for two hours of trekking to our next home stay. When we got there we all ripped off our boots and barely moved for half an hour, the tough day had taken affect on us. We did however, move quite quickly when the garlic butter fries were served and tucked into the very similar dinner to the previous nights. After all this we had a team meeting and discussed the trip in summary as it is coming to the end.

After a good night of sleep we arose, quickly packing and eating a breakfast of bananas and pancakes again. The trek although challenging was nothing compared to the previous day of hiking with three hours before Lunch and one after. We encountered the traditional Dzao women who shave from their eyebrows to the top of their head, the rest of their hair covered by a red head scarf. We then returned to, you guessed it, garlic butter fries, then a very similar dinner yet again, both still very delicious.

The last day we only had three hours trekking, this went by pretty fast and just like that we had completed our main trek, the one some had been dreading, while the others had been looking forward to for months. We immediately got onto a bus back into Sapa and had a lunch of baguettes with omelette, salad and cream cheese yet again. After we all tucked in we had two showers to get through 22 very smelly challengers. So this took a good couple of hours. We then walked for a bit around Sapa, shopping and taking in the new environment. We returned back to the hotel to grab our packs and jump on another bus to the train station. Our last ever sleeper train, thank god, especially when Cliff a.k.a the annoying Ed guy, was bunking with a mouse! (Ed. she forgot to mention the cockroaches!!).

Mikhaila Smith

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Day 4 & 5 in Vietnam (Glorious morning of arrival in Hanoi...and overnight train to Sapa)

As we set foot off the overnight train at 5:30 in the morning, with a good night sleep in our system, we made our way outside of the train station to be approach and harassed by 5 or 6 people asking us if we wanted taxis/mini buses. We persisted on the street across the road to put our big bags on the ground and escape from the chaos.

One problem which we were about to face was created by the accommodation people who had failed to contact any hostels and had nothing booked...This is not a good idea when you have 22 people who need a bed and a shower. Luke and Ellis copped a bit of s*** from the team for this, however they were soon on the phone calling a hostel using one of the taxi drivers mobile phones (Ed. The accommodation people also failed to charge the team phone so this was dead and exasperated the whole situation we found ourselves in!). Luke and Ellis managed to save face by booking an amazing hostel which happened to be run by some Australians (The Hanoi  Backpackers Hostel). I think Luke and Ellis had booked a winner. As we made our way to our accommodation the boys had booked that morning, we all had our fingers crossed it was a good one. When the group arrived, the atmosphere was amazing and as the accommodation boys got the keys for the rooms the rest of the team waited outside hopping for the rooms to be clean and nice. As the girls’ room was not yet ready they put their bags in storage on the fifth floor and the rest of us gathered around the pool table also on the same floor to plan what we could do for the rest of day.

We still of had a lot of things to do as we set tasks for everyone that had to be done by 1 in the afternoon. After all the jobs had been completed we set off on a walking tour of Hanoi with Miss Nottle and Narakorn leading us through the city. It’s probably worth mentioning what Hanoi city is like...It is certainly the busiest city we’ve been in, with bikes, mopeds and scooters going in every direction pavements (filled with parked motorbikes) made getting around rather risky, so much so that the staff imposed a limit on where we were allowed to go. We stopped to have lunch at a French influenced cafe, which served amazing cakes and coffees. We were in there for about an hour enjoying a lovely lunch. After we finished we continued walking all the way back to the hotel through the scary streets of Hanio. The team was so excited over the prospect of Nacos that most ordered them for dinner that night at the hostle, however they where tasteless and bland.

The next day in Hanoi started off with a lie in, best day ever! We slowly got up and went shopping at a large Mall however, when we got there we found that most of the shops were closed and that included the money exchange, but it did have one of the biggest arcades we have ever seen (Ed. they lead a sheltered life in Perth folks). We managed to spend two and a half hours on rides and games while a bunch of the team (the girls and Cliff) watched twilight (Ed. I like Chick Flicks ...Alright!!? lol). After about all the gaming one can do in a day (on a small budget at least), we spilt ways, Luke, Mat, Mickalea Johnson and Nottle going to the Army museum and the rest went to prison.

Let me say that some made a better choice than others. The Army museum was cool with loads of weapons, traps and guns (some bigger than Kyle’s). We spent a few hours looking at the history of the nation and some cool traps, then it got into the Vietnam War. When we got back to the hotel we discovered that the others had a less enjoyable experience at the prison, most saying that it was small and boring, although “informative”. . However not long after we had to venture back out to find dinner and after being led through the busy streets for 10 minutes by Mathew and Caitlin which felt like years dodging mopeds and bikes, we found a place to enjoy dinner.

The team then voted on who would receive the five shirts given to us by the Google hotel. The results:

  • Most helpful and supportive, Mat

  • Teachers choice, Cassidy (Ed. what a star!!! :-))

  • Best leader, Shay (Ed. she mothers us all!)

  • Most positive, Ellis

  • Most organised, Caitlin

After dinner we sat around enjoying the atmosphere of the traffic light party going on at the hostel (Ed. I didn't know what one of these was!), before grabbing some taxis to the train station and setting off on our over night train to Sapa to begin our main trek.

By Luke and Mat.

We're Back From Sapa and our Big Trek

Hey Folks ....Just to let you know we are all safely back from the spectacular Sapa area after successfully completing our main trek (4 days 3 nights), The guys did extremely well including one day where we went for 7 hours without food, slipped and squished in knee deep mud and trekked for nearly 9 hours.  We are a little behind on our Blogs but looking to rectify that today before going off on our R & R activity in Halong Bay.

The guys are also going to send each of their parents/guardians a personal message in one of the last blogs which will give you confirmation details of what time to pick them up from the airport, but also what they are looking forward to when they return to Perth :-) .

They all know that you have been checking on the blog as we have had nearly 1,000 hits since leaving for Sapa.

Hope you are all well...not long not people :-)



Friday, 14 December 2012

Day 3 Vietnam – Imperial City and overnight to Hanoi – Rails and Ruins

We started off the day with an early wake up to pack and be ready to leave for the Imperial City. We walked the short distance to the palace which used to be the home of the last Vietnamese emperor and capital of the country. However when we reached the palace we found that most of the once awe-inspiring wonder was now gone, ravaged by wars and time. The restorations efforts have begun however they still have a long way to go with only the walls and a few of the original buildings remaining. The experience would not be any better if it wasn’t for Lam our wonderful guide who spent one and a half days with us, and three amazing volunteers who spent some of their spare time braiding and platting the girls hair.

We had free time in the afternoon to shop for food to take on the overnight train. Some of us ate at KFC as the temptation of fast food was too strong to resist. True to Luke’s unlucky nature he spilt a whole container of potato and gravy on himself. After lunch we finished packing our bags and set off for the train station but had a lengthy wait ahead of us. When we boarded the train we found our rooms and realised some of us needed to get over our claustrophobic f ears. The tiny hallway that was our rooms had 3 levels and 6 people to a room. The stories of a full packet of M & Ms going all over the floor, people going to the toilet without footwear and just thinking it was wet with water and Miss Notle getting trapped in the tiny smelly toilet will have to wait until our return.

Currently waiting to go to bed and arriving in the Northern Capital City of Hanoi tomorrow morning around 5am Vietnamese time (13/12/2012).

Glen and Matt

Thursday, 13 December 2012


OneHappy Buda!

Today we were so excited when we woke up :-) because we had booked a day long tour. This tour consisted of visiting two tombs, monasteries and the natural elephant springs. Although we were a bit grumpy as we have been waking up at 7 most of the time, after a while we all woke up and we were back to our normal selves :-) (Ed. you have to remember folks their normal is not that normal ;-)). We then sat down to a big delicious breakfast as it was free :-) (Ed...Not really just part of the costs of staying here but free sounds good).

After finishing our amazing breakfast the bus arrived to take us on our tour, we were so excited. We all got on the bus and set off :-). The streets are amazing here in Hue, everywhere you look you see mopeds, motorbikes, scooters and Cyclos (one person carrier type thing), but strangely not many cars...At first the traffic was quite scary and some of the group needed reminding from Cliff as to how dangerous it could be if you were not switched on. How there is not more accidents with other bike type vehicles is difficult to’s the most organised chaos I’ve ever experienced!

Our first trip took about 20 minutes to get to from the hotel; this was a monastery on the banks of the Song River. Not many people were very happy as it was raining and the first thing we saw was a big pile of stairs (Ed. at least 20 steps :-/), but after we got past that we had a great introduction to the culture of Vietnam. The pagoda and tomb was ancient but beautiful. We didn’t have professional tour guides but we did have 3 lovely Vietnamese girls that study English and one of the staff of the hostel giving us a great experience and new knowledge. They explained about the history of the place and told stories. Walking around the temple was a beautiful sight due to the amazing scenery and history.

King Glen
Then back on the bus we went. Before we headed back to the hotel for lunch we went on a Tomb tour (Tu Duc Tomb) which was interesting experience especially when Posner convinced some of us that they kept dead people in the water. The architecture around this tomb was incredible and very peaceful. After our long morning of lovely tours, everyone was quite eager to put some food in their belly’s and head off to the Elephant Springs an hour’s drive away from the centre of Hue.

For lunch we decided to give everyone the choice to eat at the hotel restaurant or the restaurant next door. 0nly four of the boys stayed at the hostel while the rest of us ate a delicious meal at the Manderin Cafe. The cafe is owned by Mr Chu who is a photographer and has his worked displayed all around the cafe walls. He sells the photos (for a great price) to his customers (Ed. some of you will be getting these as presents:-) ). The photos are of the beautiful people of Vietnam and the surrounding areas and show some of the unique ways of life. The feelings coming through the faces give the impression of hardship and struggle but contentment too.

Following our Lunch we once again loaded up our hire bus and set off for the Elephant Springs. An hour and a half later we arrived at the springs and walked a short distance to a gorgeous rocky waterfall. Although it was freezing and very slippery we got into the water and enjoyed this beautiful natural pool. Highlights include doubling the slight waterfall as a slide, bombie competitions and some of the boys getting ripped shorts form the rocks with Ellis managing to rip two layers. As we loaded back on to the bus we heard a very feminine squeal. Glen had a small leech attached to his foot. Don’t worry Evans family the only thing hurt was Glen’s ego, which is already big enough to take some hits. This led to a frenzy of the group checking themselves for leeches all carried out on the bus as we travelled. As you can see this was quite eventful as far as bus rides go.

We went back out our lovely hotel for freshening up and then out to dinner at a place called Little Italy (really experiencing the Vietnamese cuisine there guys) where we all tucked into pizza, pastas and burgers. After dinner we headed off to the night markets, where we bought presents and way too many things for ourselves. After a couple games of pool we all retired to our beds and the first English speaking T.V.’s we have encountered.

Over and out,

Cassidy, Allison, Shay, Mikhaila and Cliff xxx (Team effort today folks :-))

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

We're in Vietnam!

Hi Everyone

Just to let you all know that we arrived in Vietnam late yesterday after a ANOTHER 10 hour journey and a pretty much uneventful border crossing (no passport lost or visa issues ;-)).

We are currently staying in a very nice, some may even say luxurious, Hotel/hostel in Hue City (central Vietnam)...the group had fun today visiting monasteries and tombs before a visit to another natural swimming/playing area and a trip around the local night markets...more buying :-)...You will hear more about this later...

Tomorrow we travel on an overnight sleeper train to Hanoi City and then onto Sapa for the main trek...the kids are apprehensive but kind of looking forward to the challenge.  I'm not sure what our internet access will be over the coming days but hopefully we will be able to up date you until we actually start trekking...remember we will be out of communication for 4 days/3 nights when we start.

I really hope you are all holding out...the guys are all having a great time...

All the best and stay safe


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Day 15 and 16 – Vientiane and almost into Vietnam – The meeting of Royalty!

Well we are over half way now and some are even starting to count the sleeps until our return...No doubt you parents have been doing this since day one!

Day 15 for the group was spent around Vientiane planning and booking transport and accommodation for our trip to Savanakhet and further into Vietnam. The plan was also to go to the local water park but after some investigation we found that this was closed due to some dodgy tax evasion by the owners. Most members seemed happy to chill in front of the TV at the guest house or go for massages...After a splendid evening meal at the Full Moon restaurant most finished the night off buying snacks and drinks for the long journey we have tomorrow.

Our 'Local' Bus
Day 16 started well with the entire group up and packed before breakfast, it then seemed to go downhill from that point on. We were due to catch the bus at 10.00hrs from the South Bus station. Eighteen members of the group got in a large truck type Tuk tuk and headed off to the bus station with plenty of time to spare...leaving four of us who were told that our transport would be along 0930hrs I was beginning to worry...but I was reassured by the staff of the excellent Mixay Paradise, where we had been staying, that it would not be too long...The transport eventually turned up at 0945hrs and we set off at 0950 for the bus station 5 km away...little did I know we would then go and pick many others up from other guesthouses and hostels. So it wasn’t until 1035hrs that we were climbing aboard our bus which the others had managed to persuade (just) to wait for us. (Cliff had Ellis, Coops and Glen with him – we were encouraging the bus driver to leave! ( Just joking). Tina)

The journey on this crammed bus was never boring with windows wide (no AC as it was a local bus) and the window drapes flapping we stopped occasionally for the driver to have a quick ciggy and the rest of the bus to have a pee. The rest of the bus included those sitting on plastic seats in the centre isle...only in Laos! At the stops food was available and it was with disgust we watched a couple of locals eating the duck egg embryos which a couple of the guys in our group have said they are going to try (watch this space).

After 9 long hours we arrived in Savanakhet. This was where the most bizarre moment on all my trips with World Challenge took place. It all began when we arrived at the restaurant for the evening’s meal...

We were told that we could get served but had to wait 15 minutes as the restaurant was busy, so we just hung around...some bought snacks and drinks while others just chattered and got our order ready for when we eventually got in. Outside the restaurant we noticed a car which for Laos seemed very out of place...It was a brand new black Rolls Royce. Then we noticed a few other very nice cars, Range Rovers etc and we thought this must be where the money is in Laos and speculated as to what business makes enough money to buy such cars. Miss Posner got all high n mighty saying it was corrupt “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer”...And that it’s got to be the Chinese business money. How wrong she was...and not for the first time on this trip :-). Everyone was starting to get a little agitated for all our waiting when Shay (The Tornado!) noticed that there was a table free if two guys moved to another table so she ‘stormed’ in Shay style and asked the guys if they wouldn’t mind moving...then someone else in the restaurant asked how many there were of us..with the answer of 22 the other guy said “oh ok we will leave then”...On their way out Miss Posner managed to chat to the gang who had been holding us up in the restaurant asking ‘What kind of jobs do you guys have to get cars like that?’...Only turns out that the lady of the group (the only one) was no other than the First Lady to The President of Laos!!!! Holy S*** did we feel embarrassed...But after chatting for a while to the First Lady and telling her how much we loved Laos and Mel (Miss Posner) telling her that if she ever visits Australia she was welcome to stay with her, we think we smoothed over any feathers that had been ruffled. (We were however poised and ready to hit the deck if a black car with tinted windows was to do a ‘drive by’- Tina). After they left, we were left with the strangest feelings...Had Shay just told the First Lady of Laos to get out of the restaurant so the Kinross posse could eat? hahahahahahahahah...This will be a story I will tell for a long long time!!!

All going well out here folks...the kids are missing you guys but really starting to get the swing of travelling in South East Asia.

Stay safe

Cliff (Ed.) :-)