Dhahran British Grammar School

Quality British Education in Saudi Arabia

Study Trips 2012

There will be two DBGS Overseas Study Trips for KS3 & 4 in 2012, the Vietnam Adventure and the Verbier Ski and Snowboarding Trip. You can read about the Vietnam Adventure below. Details of the Ski trip are here.

Vietnam Adventure

Dates: 22 March –April 5 2012

Adventure, kayaking, cycling, night trains, junks

The trip

This 14 day trip is partly over the school holidays. In choosing our dates we have tried to minimise the amount of school work that will be missed. Students will only be away for 5 school days as the rest of the trip is in the school holiday.

For an in-depth, active adventure in Vietnam this trip is a must! From Hanoi we transfer to the remote Mai Chau region, home to some of Vietnam’s 15 ethnic minority groups whose fascinating cultures and warm hospitality is experienced first hand as we trek through villages and stay as guests in their homes. Pretty scenes of lush prime rain forests, silver waterfalls, bamboo forests and tea and rice terraces complete our backdrop. From here we continue
to Ninh Binh, known as “Halong Bay on land”. We also have 2 days to enjoy the serenity of Halong Bay where we spend nights aboard a traditional wooden ‘junk’ boat floating amongst its 3000 limestone islets and emerald waters, and have the opportunity to take part in either Kayaking or rock-climbing. We then take the overnight train south to the World Heritage
coastal town of Hoi An. Venturing further south, we discover the stilted houses of the Mekong Delta by bike, before completing our adventure in amongst the markets and mayhem of Ho Chi Minh City. Photographs from the trip we made to Vietnam in 2004 are here.

Applications are open to pupils from Years 7 to 11 and from pupils who are currently in Year 6 (2010/11 cohort). Year 11 students will only be allowed to go on the trip if they complete course work on time. Failure to meet coursework deadlines will lead to the cancellation of their place on the trip and this could mean loss of any payments made. Students must have record of good behaviour and no more than one homework related after school detention over any three month period from 30 April to be elegible for the trip. Deposits, if you are offered a place on the trip, are not refundable.

Cost: SR14,500, includes all transportantion, meals, English speaking guide in Vietnam, two teacher chaperons, bike hire, entrance fees, boat trip, accommodation, insurance, visas. Additional costs may be incurred - clothing and backpack, spending money, vaccinations.

Payment schedule.

Deposit of SR1500 to be paid to the school office, together with the application form - by Wednesday May 4th. This will be refunded if the applicant is not offered a place on the trip. It will not be refunded once a place has been offered and accepted by their parents, unless the trip doesn't attract feasible numbers.

3 further installments. SR3000 due June 15th, SR5000 due October 2, SR5000 due December 4th.

Selection process

Students should complete the attached application form and return it to the school office by May 4th. Places will be offered according to various factors including academic effort and behaviour, previous school trip experience, strength of the application form, progress in course work, ability to swim and ride a bike.









Detailed itinerary
Day 1 Join Hanoi

Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to the group hotel.
We commence our exploration of Hanoi by visiting the impressive Museum of Ethnology, the finest museum in Vietnam. This museum is dedicated to Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minorities, several of which we will meet on our forthcoming trek. Afterwards we visit the Temple of Literature - one of the most interesting shrines in Hanoi, called “Le Pagoda des Corbeaux” by the French, because of the huge flocks of crows gathering in the mango trees near the entrance. Built in 1070, the complex consists of five courtyards dedicated to Confucius and the pursuit of Confucian thought and behavior. It is here that Vietnam’s first university was founded. Lunch will be taken at the Koto Restaurant.

In the afternoon, we take a walking tour to explore the vibrant Old Quarter, where the many tiny streets join to sell a huge diversity of products. Previously, each street bore the name of the product sold, e.g. “Shoe street”, “Noodle street” etc. The Old Quarter also houses some of the most interesting art galleries and fashion houses. We will walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, visit Ngoc Son Temple, and in the evening you will take in a performance of Hanoi’s famous water puppet theatre, a series of 17 stories presented by 11 puppeteers whom traditionally performed during the monsoonal period when rice farming in the Red River Delta was not possible. The stories reflect their way of life and dreams as well as providing respite from their demanding work schedule.
(NOTE: activities dependent on arrival time)
Welcome dinner at local restaurant.
Overnight in Hanoi

Day 2 Mai Chau

After breakfast, we depart Hanoi for Pu Luong Natural Reserve via Mai Chau. This scenic drive takes around 4 hrs. Along the way we pass fields of tapioca and sugar cane as well as rice paddies. We
will reach Mai Chau valley by lunchtime. Following lunch in Pom Coong Village, we drive 22km further into the reserve where we begin our trek. We trek for approximately 3 hrs before arriving at
Hang Village, which is home to Thai ethnic minority. We spend the night with a local Thai family who will be our hosts in a traditional house built on stilts. Before dinner we can stroll around the village
to observe daily life activities of the locals.

Accommodation will be in a simple homestay, dormitory style.
Trekking details:
Distance: 12km
Duration: 3 hours
Grade: Moderate (grade 2/5)
Trek route: Flat dirt path with stunning sceneries of mountain range, Ma River and beautifully green
rice paddle fields
Accommodation: Thai traditional family house

Day 3 Hang Village - Kho Muong Village

Enjoy breakfast at homestay before we set off for the big trek of the day. Today we will be walking for around 6 hrs on a rocky path running through jungle. Lunch stop will be in a village along the
way. After lunch we will pass through several Thai villages before arriving at the village of Kho Muong. As the name suggests this is a Muong minority village and we will be their guests for the night.
Trekking details:
Distance: 24 km
Duration: 6 hours
Grade: Moderate (grade 3/5)
Trek route: Dirt paths and undulating trails with stunning sceneries of Puluang Natural Reserve, beautifully green rice paddle fields.
Accommodation: Muong traditional family house

Day 4 Kho Muong Village - Hin Village

We bid farewell to the our hosts and set off for a challenging trek of the day. We will climb to the summit of Pu Luong mountain along the uphill and down hill trails through the tropical rain forest.
En route, we will pass several small hamlets with the villages of Muong ethnic minority. Arrive at the summit, you will admire the panoramic view of Pu Luong. Climb down and continue to trek to the Hin village of White Thai ethnic minority for our overnight
Trekking details:
Distance: 18 km
Duration: 7 hours
Grade: Moderate (grade 4/5)
Trek route: Flat dirt paths and uniquely undulating rocky trails with stunning sceneries of Puluang
Natural Reserve, beautifully green rice paddle fields and amazing landscape.
Accommodation: Thai traditional family house

Day 5 Hin Village - Canh Nang - Mai Chau

Today we enjoy the leisure trek through the verdant countryside, ethnic villages, rice fields and local people. We will reach Canh Nang point where our driver is waiting to take us back to Mai Chau. We will spend time to visit traditional markets (best on Sunday)
Trekking details:
Distance: 12 km
Duration: 2,5 hours
Grade: Moderate (grade 2/5)
Trek route: Flat dirt paths and uniquely peaceful village roads with stunning sceneries of Puluang
Natural Reserve, beautifully green rice paddle fields and amazing landscape.
Accommodation: Thai traditional family house

Day 6 Transfer and cycle to Ninh Binh

Following an early breakfast, we bid farewell to the members of the family and thank them for their hospitality. We will have the transfer southwards to Ninh Binh province along the back roads,
passing several local villages in Hoa Binh, Ha Noi and Nam Ha provinces. Upon arrival, we will cycle around the town of Ninh Binh to explore its highlights. We get off on our bike and ride to Tam Coc
where we will take 2 hour rowing boat trip to visit the natural grottoes near the rice fields, regarded as “dry Halong Bay” or “Halong Bay on land”. We will continue to cycle to Bich Dong Pagoda. Built on Ngu Nhac Mountain, Bich Dong pagoda is divided into three levels: Ha Pagoda (lower pagoda), Trung Pagoda (middle pagoda), and Thuong Pagoda (upper pagoda). On the mountain peak stands the statue of a scholar Mandarin looking at the horizon in hope of viewing the spectacular
landscapes of Hoa Lu. After lunch, our next stop is Thai Vi temple, built during Tran Dynasty in the 13th century and worship four generations of Tran kings. We will continue to Van Ninh stone carving village where we will have chance to learn more about how local people work to earn their livings. Here, we will visit the very old stone houses and the impressive communal house which honour the first craftman who created the carving works for the local people. We will ride back to the hotel and dinner at local restaurant
Overnight in Ninh Binh
Cycling details:
Cycling distance: 40km
Duration: 3 hours
Grade: Easy
Transportation: 100% cycle
Road: on flat ground dirt and paved roads

Day 7 Drive from Ninh Binh to Halong Bay

After breakfast at hotel, we leave Ninh Binh for a 3-hour drive to the Halong Bay, a natural wonder with thousands of islands rising out of the water, creating an unique and beautiful landscape. On
arrival, we board our traditional junk for a journey through the 3,000 limestone islands dotted with caves and grottoes.
After lunch your captain will find a secluded spot and from here the choice is yours. There is time for exploring the Bay at a leisure pace: swimming, sunbathing, relaxing and experiencing the magic of falling asleep on board in this beautiful part of the world. After you have finished exploring we retire to the junk and relax on the top deck and enjoy the scenery. In the evening your cook will prepare a delicious seafood meal using beautifully prepared fresh ingredients straight from the sea as we find a secluded place to anchor for the night. Overnight on Junk, Ha Long Bay

Day 8 Ha Long Bay


Start your day with Tai Chi on the Sundeck and enjoy early breakfast in the Dining Room. We then transfer to another day private boat for a full day Kayking, swimming or rock climbing in Cat Ba Island. We will return to the mother boat in the late afternoon. The vessel cruises back through the Bay to its overnight anchorage. Dinner on board and relax under the starlit sky before retiring to the comfort of your cabin.
Overnight on Junk, Ha Long Bay

Day 9 Halong Bay, return Hanoi, Overnight train to Danang

Early risers can enjoy a morning swim in a quite firth. Start your day with Tai Chi Class on the sundeck while complimentary tea and coffee are served. You will continue enjoy cruising through the Bay passing beautiful spots like Trong (Drum), Trinh Nu (Virgin), Mekong Caves, Coc Ngoi (Toad) islets and explore the Sung Sot cave (Surprise cave), one of the highlights of the bay. Buffet brunch
is served on board before the vessel cruises leisurely back to harbour. We transfer to Hanoi arriving in the afternoon and for a free couple of hours to explore the city. Enjoy the early dinner at Alfresco - Pizza Restaurant. We then transfer to the train station for our overnight train journey on the Reunification Express
southwards to Danang. The overnight accommodation aboard the train is four person cabins where we sleep in comfortable berths swaying to the timeless rhythm of the railroad.
Overnight on train

Day 10 A rrive Da Nang apprx 1035 - transfer to Hoi An (apprx 1 hour)

You will arrive morning into Danang and transfer hotel in Hoi An. Hoi An is a charming, small town which can be easily explored on foot. More than any other place in Vietnam, Hoi An retains the
feeling of centuries past and is a favourite with all travellers. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Hoi An was a thriving international trading port with a large Chinese and Japanese population. In the afternoon we will take a short walking tour through the narrow winding streets of the Ancient Quarter visiting Chua Ong Pagoda, Chinese Assembly Halls, the 200-year old Tam Ky ancestral house, the Japanese Covered Bridge. Evening at leisure.
Overnight in Hoi An.

Day 11 Fly to Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi - Transfer to My Tho

This morning we transfer early to Danang airport for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon our arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, we transfer direct to the Cu Chi tunnels. This network of tunnels, which
stretched for over 200km, became legendary during the 1960’s. The Cu Chi tunnels played a vital part in the American war as they allowed the Viet Cong to control a large rural area only 30 to 40
km from Saigon. At its height the tunnel system stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border. The network, parts of which were several levels deep, included innumerable trap doors, specially
constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centres and kitchens. Today the remaining tunnels have become a major tourist attraction giving the visitor a
unique experience and feel of what underground life in the American War must have been like. The tunnels have been widened for our benefit (otherwise we would not be able to enter them!). Along the way to our destination of My Tho we stop to visit a colourful Cao Dai temple. The Cao Dai sect is unique to Vietnam and is a hybrid of the world’s main religions. At My Loi we transfer by ferry to cross one of the many tributaries of the Mekong River, from where we continue through a particularly picturesque part of the Delta known as Go Cong. From here we travel to the town of My Tho where we will stay for the night.
Overnight in My Tho

Day 12 My Tho - Cycle to Tra Vinh

Today we combine cycling with ferry rides to get to the fascinating destination of Tra Vinh. From My Tho we cycle the short distance to a ferry crossing, which takes us to Ben Tre Province. Once off the ferry we cycle for approximately 12km along typical country roads to another ferry and then a further 25km. After a final ferry journey we arrive in Tra Vinh. From here we have time to explore this most remarkable of areas. Tra Vinh is home to over 300,000 ethnic Khmer who maintain their cultural integrity, including their practice of Theravada Buddhism. Here we can see authentic Khmer
pagodas including the Ong Met Pagoda as well as the colorful and ornate Chinese Ong Pagoda.
Overnight in Tra Vinh
Cycling details:
Cycling distance: 40km
Duration: 3 hours
Grade: Easy
Transportation: 60% cycle,40% transfer
Road: on flat ground dirt and paved roads

Day 13 Mekong Delta - Cycle around Tra Vinh to Ho Chi Minh City

After breakfast we continue from Tra Vinh and cycle through a beautiful landscape of rice paddies, lush green fields, waterways and fruit orchards. En-route we pass through several small Delta towns before arriving at Vinh Long where we load our bikes back on to the support vehicle for the return journey to Ho Chi Minh City. The rest of time is free at leisure.
Overnight in Saigon
Cycling details:
Cycling distance: 30km
Duration: 2.5 hours
Grade: Easy
Transportation: 60% cycle,40% transfer
Road: on flat ground dirt and paved roads

Day 14 Depart Ho Chi Minh City

Enjoy your final day in Vietnam by exploring Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. This is the largest and busiest city in Vietnam with a population of 6 million people. Much ofthe daily life takes place on the streets, which are lined with shops, stalls and vendors with their wares spread out on the footpath. Don’t miss the bustling Ben Thanh Market - a fantastic place for bargains of every kind! There are several interesting sights in Saigon. The War Remnants Museum has a wealth of images from the wars, the most moving being a gallery entitled ‘Requiem’, dedicated to Vietnamese and foreign journalists and photographers who perished during the French and American conflicts. The Reunification Palace was the former residence of the President of
South Vietnam until April 30th 1975 when the North Vietnamese tanks came crashing through the front gates, bringing the American War to a dramatic end. Close to the Palace some of the best examples of French colonial architecture are represented in the forms of Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. Notre Dame Cathedral was built between 1877 and 1883 and the stone used to create it was exported in its entirety from France. Next to the cathedral stands the Central Post
Office, finished in 1891. It is another fine example of French architecture and is Vietnam’s largest post office. For all its French colonial history, Ho Chi Minh City is by far Vietnam’s most modern city. It has numerous shopping malls, cinemas, discotheques and a bewildering number of bars. (The activities today will depend on your flight time home). We will ensure you are transferred to the
airport in time for your flight back home.

Country information

Vietnam is a country of immense beauty and geographical diversity. The country is roughly divided into three main areas – Bac Po (north), Trung Bo (centre) and Nam Bo (south). The
main feature of the north of Vietnam is mountains and forests along with the vast Red River Delta. The north is also home to the Gulf of Tonkin and a maze of islands in the bay. Central Vietnam is made up of agricultural plains wedged between the Truong Son Mountains and the South China Sea making some dramatic mountain passes overlooking ocean vistas. The Mekong Delta dominates the south of the country. Vietnam has been the site of battles and invasions for over 2000 years. Influences of invaders or modern day ‘liberators’ have left the country with a unique cultural identity and a complex and fascinating history. This history
has given Vietnam a diverse population made up of different ethnic groups. The predominant ethnic group is known as ‘Kinh’ and make up about 90% of the population. There are dozens
of other ethnic groups including Cham and Khmer particularly in the south of the country. Since the early 1990’s, Vietnam has been opening its doors to tourism. Although the relatively long periods of isolation and a history of war has not produced a laid-back tourism paradise like Thailand facilities and infrastructure in the country are changing rapidly. Vietnam is still a communist country although the Government is at times very pragmatic and forward thinking.
You still need to carry with you an abundance of patience and a good sense of humour to overcome the overt bureaucracy and the inevitable delays, however, the fascinating history and culture; the resilient and proud people; and the beauty of the varied landscape help to overcome any possible frustrations.


Vietnam’s climate can vary markedly from region to region due to its length stretching 1650 km from north to south. Generally two distinct seasons prevail in Vietnam. From November to April, the temperatures are usually fairly cool, especially in the north of the country. In the mountain areas temperatures can be as low as 0oC (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and there can be a constant light drizzle. Hotter temperatures and heavy monsoon rains characterize the months from May to October although you can experience rain at any time. The hottest months of the year are June, July and August. Southern Vietnam’s weather patterns are more constant with a rainy season from May to October and a relative dry season from November to February. The temperatures in the south can rise as high as 35oC (95 degrees Fahrenheit) from March to May.

What you carry

During the trek you will just need to carry your small day pack with essential items such as sunscreen, raincoat, sunglasses etc, porters will carry the rest of your gear. This means you
will need to provide a soft bag for your gear e.g a duffle bag or backpack. Hard suitcases are not suitable. Please pack a minimum for the porter to carry. Additional luggage not needed
for the trek can be left in Hanoi. For the rest of the trip you will need to be able to carry all your luggage on and off transport and to and from your hotel room. During the day when out touring you will just need to carry your day pack with essentials.