Vietnam, Asia -
TEEN ComMunity Service Trip AND Cultural Immersion PRogram
June 27 - July 21, 2019
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's documentary on Vietnam on your local PBS station. For the broadcast version of the film, click here.
Length: 25 Days
Length: 25 DaysCompleting Grades: 9-12
Completing Grades: 9-12Service Hours: 50-60
Service Hours: 50-60Arrive/Depart: Hanoi, Vietnam: HAN
Arrive/Depart: Hanoi, Vietnam: HANTuition: $5,250
Join us on a 25-day teen community service trip and cultural immersion program in Vietnam! Bạn Thân, or “Best Friends” in Vietnamese, is the once in a lifetime opportunity to visit one of the world’s greatest destinations: Vietnam. Participants on The Road experience this nation that is filled with beauty, gracious people, and a culture that is deeply rooted. We experience city life in Hanoi before partnering with the Center for Sustainable Development to empower students at Friendship Village, where children living with the effects of dioxins from the herbicide “Agent Orange”, find support. We adventure through the splendor of Sapa Valley before spending time in Hoa Binh province where we help plant trees, facilitate day camp, and teach English to children in the village. Genuine interactions, meaningful service, amazing food and fun await you in Vietnam.
A true memory for life and an amazing opportunity to grow and become himself.” - Parent of RLT Alum Tucker W.
Join us for a unique journey through one of Southeast Asia’s top destinations, making meaningful connections, and inevitably, new best friends that will last a lifetime.
Keep scrolling to learn more about this community service trip and cultural immersion program in Vietnam!
Vietnam // You Don't Want to Miss...
#1 Hanoi Old Quarter
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam for almost a thousand years, has a beating heart called the Old Quarter. The streets, typically divided by trade (ie: silk, jewelry, woodcraft), beg to be explored by the curious, with new discoveries around every corner.
#2 Friendship Village
Be a part of the “symbol of international solidarity, reconciliation, and the continued efforts to heal the pains of war caused by Agent Orange,” while sharing skills, helping in the garden, and playing games with the residents.
#3 Splendors of Sapa Valley
It’s a view like none other: the diverse ecosystem among the carpet of paddy fields with green as far as the eye can see! Mix in the Gothic stone church in the middle of town from the French missionary roots and come away with a unique blend of the past and present.
#4 The Pho!
Simple yet oh so incredible, the broth, noodles, herbs, and more of pho have a way of feeding the body and the soul. Don’t miss out on Vietnam’s most popular (and many say most delicious) dish!
#5 UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay
Meaning, “Descending Dragon Bay,” Ha Long Bay is made up of countless limestone karsts and gorgeous rock formations. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994, the floating houses of fishermen, along with the antelopes, monkeys, and lizards call this magical area home.
#6 Teaching English in Hoa Binh Province
Easy to take for granted, speaking English is a coveted skill by many because of the near universal acceptance and use of the language. With a little preparation and planning, you will be able to help those who lack funding for full time English teachers advance their abilities. You may be surprised at how much you learn through teaching.
#7 The Tranquil Side of the Hustle & Bustle
Though there is plenty of action to be found in Hanoi, it is sometimes called “city of lakes” because of the peaceful waterfront settings found throughout town. These places are popular spots to bicycle, paint, unwind, and enjoy the lotus ponds! Breathe, stretch, and be present.
#8 Tam Coc, Paddling through a Postcard
Imagine you're on a boat exploring new lands full of twists and turns through colorful rice fields and Karst towers. Down the Ngo Dong River, peacefully we'll sail, exploring caves and keeping our eyes open for mountain goats, kingfishers and monkeys.
#9 Connect through Culture
From the city to the countryside, Vietnam and its people are rich in song, dance, and music. Bring along some of your favorite tunes and best moves to share and connect with everyone along the way. You never know, one song may just lead to a new best friend!
50-60 Community Service Hours
Working with victims of Agent Orange at Friendship Village by assisting students in special education classes, helping in the garden, & socializing with children and veterans; Planting trees, faciliting day camp, teaching English in Hoa Binh province.
A Certificate of Community Service indicating the total number of hours worked and a Presidential Volunteer Service Award will be issued upon successful completion of the program.
Explore: Hanoi, Sapa, Ha Long Bay, Hoa Binh, Bat Trang Pottery Village, Cat Ba and Freedom Islands, Hoan Kiem Lake
Trek: Sapa Valley
Courses: Vietnamese Cooking, Basic Vietnamese Language
Float: Tam Coc on the Ngo Dong River
Cultural Exchange: Peoples of Vietnam including Muong, Hmong, Tay and Dao people
Kayak: Ha Long Bay
In Hanoi, we sleep in bunkbeds in a dormitory. While in Hoa Binh and Sapa we enjoy group homestays where we all stay in our hosts home, and in Ha Long Bay, we sleep for two nights on a boat. Showers are available; however, we shower every three to four days to conserve resources and support sustainability.
Tuition (Airfare and baggage fees not included)
A leader-escorted round-trip flight will be available (but not required) from LAX for those travelers who wish to fly with a leader. Please contact our office for details.
Deep in a dream about a summer full of meaning, where discoveries unfold around every corner and fulfillment is found in genuine projects and genuine people, we open our eyes as the plane touches down in Hanoi, Vietnam. Bags in hand, we hit the ground running, breathing life into the vision. Settling into our group homestay, we embark on a neighborhood tour. Ban Than, or “Best Friends” in Vietnamese, reminds us to make the most of opportunities for connection. From the Temple of Literature and the Vietnamese Women Museum, to the historic Hoa Lo Prison and peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi sparkles with richness and lore.
After experiencing the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, a striking memorial remembering the country's past leader, and enjoying a famous water puppet show, a tradition dating back as far as the 11th century, we venture into the Old Quarter and Hanoi’s markets to gather local ingredients for a Vietnamese cooking course. Feed the soul while fostering culinary skills! Venturing out of the city’s limits, we see Tam Coc, “Three Caves,” for a boat cruise along the Ngo Dong River. Swirling through colorful rice fields and ancient karst towers, we learn about the region and the wildlife who call it home: monkeys, mountain goats, kingfishers and more. A visit to the ever-tranquil Thai VI Temple rounds out a day full of majesty and mystique.
Ban Than and Friendship Village await us: a residential health and education center for children living with the effects of dioxins from the herbicide “Agent Orange.” We spend four days at this “symbol of international solidarity, reconciliation, and continued efforts to heal the pains of war.” Assisting students in special education classes, playing sports and games with children and veterans, and helping in the center’s vegetable garden are some of the ways our group lends a hand. Bookending our time here, we share in a cultural exchange night full of music, dancing, and recognition.
Packing bags, we board an overnight train ride to Sapa, a must-see region of the country. Bearing witness to sprawling, green mountains, we set off through the town center and surrounding villages on an all-day trek of a lifetime capped off by a stay in one of the ethnic villages. Impossible to find a poor view or bad meal, we prepare for four days of English teaching in the Hoa Binh Province. With ten to fifteen students per class, we support local staff in the language curriculum, in addition to acting as facilitators and leaders in the local children’s day camp experience. Here’s to authenticity off the beaten path!
Saying farewell to our friends in Hoa Binh, we head to the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay for an overnight voyage to Freedom Island full of kayaking, swimming, and starlit evenings. The perfect setting to celebrate our journey of service, we soak up the awe-inspiring setting surrounding us before returning to Hanoi for a traditional pottery making experience, a final banquet, and a Poet’s Campfire.
Gone are the days together, as Ban Than comes to an end; yet, as we board our return flight home, we know the friends we’ve made and the memories we’ve forged will remain for years to come.
Arrival (Day 1-2):
Gather in LAX, California to board the optional escorted flight bound for Hanoi. Arrive in Vietnam the next evening, settle in, and get the lay of the land.
Orientation (Day 3):
We have our group orientation in the morning before setting off on walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood. Participate in an introduction to Vietnamese culture, language, and history while gaining insight into life in Vietnam.
Explore Hanoi Old Quarter, Traditional Art Performance, Cooking Lessons (Days 4-6):
We'll explore Hanoi's Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnamese Women Museum, and the lively Old Quarter. We'll visit beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake – a cultural and social focal point in Hanoi. After seeing Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Museum, we'll witness Vietnam’s oldest traditional art performance right in the center of Hanoi, then stop at a market to purchase the ingredients we need for our Vietnamese cooking lesson.
Ninh Binh Boat Tour (Day 7):
Embark on a day trip to Tam Coc (Three Caves) for a boat ride along the Ngo Dong River. Visit Thai VI Temple before returning to Hanoi for service project preparation.
Friendship Village Service (Day 8-11):
Activities at Friendship Village will include working with children in special education classes, observing and working with students in the vocational training classes, playing sports with children and veterans, gardening and most interestingly, talking with Vietnamese veterans about the U.S. & Vietnam War.
Cultural Exchange and Transfer to Sapa (Day 12):
We spend the morning leading English language lessons with local students before shopping in the area and preparing for our magical overnight train in private cabins with beds to Lao Cai and onward to Sapa.
Experience Sapa (Day 13-14):
We explore the town center, market and surrounding villages seeing a different side to Vietnam life. The following day we'll hike in the mountains to visit Hill tribes, such as the Hmong, Tay, and Dao. We'll spend the night in one of the villages and return to Sapa the following morning to take the train back to Hanoi that evening.
Teaching Preparation and Hoa Binh (Day 15):
Arrive via train back in Hanoi from Sapa for orientation and preparation for teaching English. In the afternoon, we transfer to the Hoa Binh Province.
Hoa Binh Service (Day 16-19):
We have the chance to teach English to primary and secondary school children in addition to helping facilitate their day camp activities as leaders and counselors. Games, gardening, song, and dance forge friendships during our time here.
Ha Long Bay (Day 20-22):
Board our boat, explore caves, swim, sea kayak, visit Cat Ba Island, and continue the overnight cruise to Freedom Island.
Bat Trang Pottery & Final Banquet (Day 23):
Return to Hanoi, visit the most traditional pottery villages in North Vietnam. Try our hand at making our own pottery and have a chance to get last minute souvenirs. Share in a final banquet and Poet’s Campfire to close off a remarkable experience.
Homeward Bound (Day 24-25):
Gazing one final time out over the wild landscape of Vietnam, we board our return flight home from Hanoi still in awe of the last three weeks.
Ken Burns & Lynn Novick's Documentary "Vietnam"
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's documentary on Vietnam started airing Sunday, September 17, 2017, on your local PBS station. (If you miss this showing, there is no doubt that the documentary will be available for viewing at other times). Whether you agree with Ken's politics or not, The Road Less Traveled recommends that you watch the documentary. For the broadcast version of the film, click here.
Tourist Visa Requirement:
Travelers are required to obtain a tourist visa prior to entering Vietnam. These 30-day tourist visas can be obtained from any Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate.
International Traveler’s Health
The Road Less Traveled does not require any vaccinations or immunizations other than an up-to-date tetanus shot or booster (within the last nine years).
Please visit the CDC’s website to read more about recommended vaccinations for travel to Vietnam. The decision to get some, none, or all of the recommended vaccinations is a personal one, and should be discussed with your family doctor.
Vietnam: Ban Than Packing List coming soon!
If you’d like to receive an emailed copy of this program’s day-to-day calendar, please give our office a call anytime between 9am and 5pm CST at 773-342-5200.
General Travel Info
It is imperative that no one make any travel arrangements until RLT provides instructions for specific arrival and departure time windows. Those details are typically released in mid-spring.
Families are individually responsible for booking their own airfare to get their student from home to the starting destination on the first day of the trip, and from the ending destination back home on the last day of the trip.
This program offers an optional leader-escorted flight for those families who are interested.
If you wish to have your participant fly directly into the starting location, please call the office for details.
A Note on Service Work
We are proud of the profound and meaningful service work we take part in at Friendship Village for students living with various mental, emotional, and physical conditions. For that reason, a certain level of maturity is required for successful participation.
We ask that all of our Ban Than participants be prepared for the cultural and emotional sensitivity that will be needed to work with the population at Friendship Village.