To travel is to live

Travel blog

Volunteering trip to Dalat, Vietnam

3 Comments

It was my first time embarking on an overseas volunteering trip. It was a personal milestone.

To start off with, my colleagues and I flew to Vietnam via Vietnam airline. It was only a 2 hour flight from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh.
image

Inflight food was decent and considered appetising. Though we ate before this, we still managed to finish the food on the plane.

image

When we reached Ho Chi Minh airport, the airline staff informed us that our plane flew off earlier in the day, due to possible bad weather condition. We were stunned. Coming to think about it, we were informed via email just before we were about to fly off to Vietnam. We were at the Changi Airport gate already. However, the email does not highlight what is the change. The timing looks the same, and we realised it is the date which has changed. We were rescheduled for flight the next day. I think the airline could do better in their emailing instead of making us ‘spot the difference’.

So… we were going to spend a night in Ho Chi Minh. The airline staff checked us into Ramana Hotel, which is a 4-star hotel. Hotel is decent but the furnishing looks dated. Definitely not classy.

image

We had dinner at Cuc Gach Quan. There was this very calm and peaceful atmosphere in the restaurant. We went there because it is highly-rated on tripadvisor. We were pleased with the food. The best dish we had was the fish stewed in a claypot – tender with a pleasant taste. We also had lemongrass drink and it was quite an unique experience to drink from a veggie straw. You can click on this link http://www.cucgachquan.com.vn/en/a-vietnamese-family-moment/menu for the menu. There were four of us and we only paid around SGD 12 each. Definitely worth it.
image

Our next stop is Chill Skybar. I had been there last year during unit trip. I was pretty impressed when I first stepped into the bar because it felt high-end there in a city like Ho Chi Minh. The bar was bustling with people when I was there last year. Probably because we went on Saturday night. This time, we were there on Thursday night and it was only around 8 plus. The bar was rather empty.
image

Nevertheless, it felt good to be up there because the night scene was spectacular.
image
image

Afterwards, we had quite a long walk around the city, with no particular direction in mind.
image
image

The next day, we set off to eat the traditional pho, Vietnam beef noodle.
image

There were fried dough sticks and vegetables on the table. But we did not touch them much because they seemed to have been left on the table for quite some time already.
image

Heard from my colleague that this is one of the more popular places to try Pho. Indeed, the crowd began to come in when it was nearing lunchtime.
image

We decided to play an escape room game after lunch, as there was nothing much to do. It was my first time and now I’m hooked on to this game. It is so much cheaper to play this overseas as compared to Singapore. We paid VND380 each for a game – supposed to guess the murderer and find the key to escape.

In the evening, we made our way to Ho Chi Minh domestic airport and took the flight to Dalat. Thankfully, there was no delay. Else, it would have defeated the purpose of the trip.
image

I was slightly disappointed that we were flying to Dalat at night because there would not be much view at night. Surprisingly, the night view of Ho Chi Minh from the plane was amazing.
image

It felt really nice upon getting off the plane at Dalat. We were greeted by the cold weather. I didn’t really appreciate HCM much and was glad to finally reach Dalat. Somehow, feeling the chill weather made me feel that I was really overseas.
image

We had a driver who brought us from the airport to the Elephant village in Dalat. Most of the roads do not have street lamps so it was quite dark. The journey was bumpy as well and there were times whereby the car was almost at the edge of the cliff. Nearing the village, the road was so rocky that the driver had to go really slow.

We were then greeted by a local translator and he led us to the EcoLodge. The walk wasn’t very long but it was dark and the road could only be seen with the aid of torchlight. The steps that we climbed are rocks.

We had our dinner at the dining area. I guess it is because the place was built for ecotourim purpose, it was more comfortable than I thought. It was not exactly a village experience, if you get what I mean. Food was decent to me, but not up to standard for my friends who have exquisite taste.
image
image

There was this female dog which was apparently hungry. She was eating whatever meat that we gave to her. She had this sad-looking eyes that earn pity.
image

After dinner, we went to a hut just next to the dining room for the bonfire. It was nice being away from the city and embracing the nature. The translator told us quite a bit about Vietnam. I am not someone who is interested in history but it was mind-boggling hearing a different perspective. I am not even sure whether this is appropriate to put it up online. The translator is an university undergraduate. He is saying that their citizens have no freedom. Not that we have much here but at least the citizens here vote though most of us probably care more about other aspects of life and I do want to acknowledge that our government is doing a good job. Anyway, the translator was saying the schools hide certain facts in history. However, he knows the truth because his grandfather always tell him details about the war. Although his grandfather is mentally unstable, the memories of the war is still vivid in his mind – the sound of gunfire, people crying… We are quite fortunate that we do not have to go through such painful experience.
image

The place where we slept was not as run-down as I thought. Each of us slept on a double bed and there is mosquito net to keep the insects away. The weather was cold so there is not a need for fans and aircon. Toilets are decent in that there are proper basin and toilet bowl.
image

This is the exterior of the EcoLodge that we stayed in. There is no electricity in the day and at night, someone will come to run the generator for electricity.
image

We bought bread, margarine etc the previous night for breakfast. The translator then brought us to the school. It was a short walk from the EcoLodge. The view from the school is good.
image

This is the school that the indigenous children in Dalat attend during weekend. They come from villages and they will climb up to the school over weekend to meet the volunteers.
image

This is Ms Suong and she is the teacher of the school. She is the one who will go down to the village to inform the children if there are classes. We can tell that she is genuinely happy receiving all the help from overseas.
image

We taught the children English, conducted singing and arts and crafts lesson. I was surprised that the kids know about gangnam style. They were singing “if you’re happy and you know it, gangnam style… gangnam style”.
image
image

Happy to see the smiles on the children’s faces. I was sitting with the younger group of girls and they were curious about the braces on my teeth. However, they don’t understand English and neither do I know how to speak the Vietnamese language. Couldn’t tell them why I am wearing braces.
image

The kids are really active. Unlike me, they are not afraid of falling down and they were running about in the wild.
image

Our lunch was also at the dining hall and the translator bought the food from a restaurant.
image

We checked in to Du Parc Hotel in the late afternoon after leaving Elephant Village. It is only a 3-star hotel, unlike Ngoc Lan Hotel (rated 4 stars) which we had booked for our first night of stay in Dalat. Nevertheless, the lobby looks grand enough. The highlight is the lift, which has a manual door at every floor.
image

The room is small but cosy. There is no aircon, only fan. Nonetheless, it is not a problem to me because the weather is cold.
image
image
image
image

View from the room
image

We then took a cab to Crazy House. It was highly recommended by the previous volunteering team.
image

Ticket is cheap.
image

The gist about this place is that the design of the house is strange.
image
image
image
image
image

You can get pretty good view from the top of the staircase at Crazy House.
image

Afterwards, we walked to the Xuan Huong lake. Along the way, we tried various street food. Was good being able to relax and enjoy street food. Life should be like that.
image
image

Xuan Huong Lake
image

Time passed in a flash and it was time to bid farewell to Vietnam.
image

~~

While we tried to teach the children all about life, the children taught us what life is all about…

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152858335242295&l=592476673856069434 

Though the stay at Elephant Village was short, this meaningful trip gave us many fond memories. Will definitely like to stay longer next time to make a greater impact. (:

Advertisements

Author: Adalyn

This is for me to know, for you to find out.

3 thoughts on “Volunteering trip to Dalat, Vietnam

  1. Hi Adalyn,

    We (me and my colleagues from KPMG Malaysia) will be going to Da Lat this Friday to continue on the outreach program. Really learnt some insightful stuff from your blog. Great job!!

    Would also appreciate if you have some further tips or advice before we leave for Da Lat.

    Cheers
    Afif

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Afif,
      Your team can bring some simple English books for the kids there! I brought my Polaroid camera too to leave some memories at the school. Nothing much to prepare actually! Just bring whatever that you think will bring smiles to the kids. (:
      I do have some communication barrier with the kids though, especially the younger ones who can’t really speak in English. Hence, will be useful to pick up a few Vietnamese phrases! Something to do on the plane as well! Most importantly, do enjoy the trip!
      If possible, will be glad to know how your trip go! Have a safe flight!
      Cheers,
      Adalyn

      Like

  2. Hi Adalyn,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. It was really helpful for our trip.
    Ms. Suong showed me some Polaroid pictures where the students gave her and said thank you. She said she really appreciated the gift. You really left an impact there 🙂

    I thought the older kids. The boys were quite naughty, but I think they just craved some attention as I would reckon they hardly get any visitors around. Nonetheless, meeting them definitely engraved a sweet and eye opening chapter in my life.

    Thereafter, we went to the Crazy House as per your suggestion ant it was mesmerising and so much fun! We also went for a walk along Xuan Huong lake and to the flower park. The cold weather makes the walk more comfortable compared to Ho Chi Minh and here in Malaysia.

    I extended my stay in Ho Chi Minh for another 3 days, so I also had the chance to visit Cu Chi tunnel, Independence Palace, War remnants museum just to name a few. I can relate to you when you say it was mind-boggling hearing a different perspective. I ate at “Malaysian street” near Ben Thanh but slipped your suggestion on Cuc Gach Qua. Maybe next time when I go there again.

    Anyways, thank you again for sharing your experience in Dalat. I will definitely recommend your blog to all my other collueages who will be going there in the future and hope you don’t mind 🙂

    Regards
    Afif

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s