Greetings From Hanoi!
Greetings from Siem Reap, where today we sit in a breezy open space under a dozen ceiling fans. With laptops open and ice waters by our side, we are slowly acclimatizing to 33°C and the equally warm culture of Cambodia. Since Term One, our destinations have become more tropical.
Our Term Two journey began in Hanoi. Term One students arrived from Europe while Term Two students flew westbound from Canada. Our new arrivals invigorated us with their keen sense of adventure and enthusiasm bringing open-mindedness and adding new energy to the group. Friendships have formed quickly and we are now one big Blyth Academy family on an academic journey and exploration of Asia.
During our first full day in Hanoi, we enjoyed a walking tour of the Old Quarter, admiring some of the architectural influences of this former French colony. Admittedly, we braced ourselves when we learned that we would participate in a cyclo ride as we were not entirely confident we could pedal our way through Hanoi’s hectic traffic. It is an endless sea of mopeds and vehicles navigating in every direction and stopping for no one. Fortunately, the pedalling was done by local owners of cycle rickshaws who weaved through narrow streets while we sat comfortably in our double-seated bicycle taking in the sights, smells and sounds of Hanoi.
The next day, many of us went on an optional excursion to Ninh Binh, enjoying a quiet river tour in long narrow boats. With great agility, our rowers steered us carefully into the Trang An Mua Cave which required considerable head ducking. The adventure was followed by a visit to Trang An Village and a 500-step climb to the summit of Hang Mua Peak. We all made it to the top where we marvelled and captured photos of stunning views of the Red River Delta and towering limestone mountains.
Term 2 classes started on Monday. Teachers introduced the curriculum making connections to cultural sites and to places that we have yet to visit. Perhaps the highlight thus far has been our two-day cruise on the magnificent Ha Long Bay. After a fabulous welcome lunch, we were invited to kayak our way to a white sandy beach with an adjacent cave.
A friendly game of beach volleyball had us tripping over the sand and bubbling with laughter before we made our way back to our boat to enjoy the sunset party. A delightful dinner was followed by night fishing for squid. Plenty of squids floated to the top, but on that particular evening, none seemed to be biting. Could it have been our shaky rods and endless giggling that spooked them?
Of course, no boat tour on Ha Long Bay is complete without Tai Chai at the crack of dawn. Granted, not everyone rose in time to participate, but those of us who did were introduced to a uniquely serene activity. Finally, after an introductory lesson in sculpting vegetables into flowers, we tested our skills carving our own veggies the best we could and then learned how to stuff and roll our own spring rolls. We ate the fruits of our labour proudly and then hopped back on the bus to Hanoi. For one last evening, we explored the narrow, congested sides streets and alleys of Hanoi, where in the evenings locals perched atop tiny plastic stools spill onto the streets, dining on Pho, Bun Cha and Nom Bo Kho, just some of the Old Quarter’s delicious street food.
After an early morning flight from Hanoi we settled into Saigon, a much larger cosmopolitan Asian city. Friday morning found us exploring the tunnels of Cu Chi, an immense network of underground tunnels dug by the Viet Cong troops during the Vietnam War. This was both an eye-opener and for some, perhaps even a little unsettling, as we saw that war through the eyes of others.
Our last evening in Saigon was a memorable one as we attempted our first Noir Dining experience, sampling a wide variety of Asian foods completely in the dark. This culinary meal, served by blind waiters, appealed to our sense of taste, smell, touch and, of course, to our sense of adventure!
To keep up with the pace of excursions, and whenever there is a window, teachers are quick to call a make-up class. Occasionally, these take place during transit. Classes have been on-going and curriculum coverage will continue steadily throughout the program, integrating experiential learning with excursions and new cultural experiences.
And now the journey has brought us to Siem Reap, where the air is fresher, the pace slower and the ambience deeply reverent and serene. We are in the land of Buddhas, temples and sacred spaces. The second week of classes began today in Cambodia and will resume tomorrow, but not after an evening of Phare, a performance by the culturally popular Cambodian Circus. We look forward to this theatrical troupe to tell us their uniquely Cambodian stories through dance, acrobatics and drama. Possibilities for curriculum connections for some of our courses should prove very exciting.
As of now, our week-at-a-glance calendars are up to date and attached for you to follow along with us on our journey. Please take a moment to sign into Vidigami to see the many photos of our students on the Global High School Program.
Tạm biệt and best regards,
Head of School