We're just back from the Olympics! That is the 11th regional university and college olympics for northern provinces around Tuyen Quang, at the Lao Cai Teachers Training College. Held every two years, as well as in sports and athletics, there are also competitions in mathematics, IT, informatics (?), English, performing arts and probably some others I've missed. Owen was to be a judge in the English competition so we went as part of the Tan Trao University contingent.
Thursday morning we piled into five small buses and headed off in convoy for the 4 hour journey to Lao Cai. The first half travelled through some lovely scenery along winding roads through towns and tea plantations before getting onto a highway for a speedier second half. At one point we pulled over beside the motorway and headed into the bushes for a "pee" break. We weren't the only ones, I noticed several other buses doing the same. I was then somewhat astonished when 5 minutes later we pulled into a petrol station and everyone piled off and bought snacks. Why we didn't use the perfectly good toilets there I don't know. I can only assume we were avoiding the VD10,000 (5 cents) fee for using them.
Lao Cai is a somewhat bustling border town - literally. We could see the border gate into China across the river from our hotel. There is much building in progress around town, both housing and public buildings, also tourists passing through on their way to Sapa, which is a very popular tourist destination.
The competitions were held over two and a half days with a closing party and concert followed by the handover of the olympic flag to the next institution to host the event in 2018. Each morning we would pile into a 20-seater bus along with about 26 others and head out to the college for the day's proceedings. We didn't manage to see much of the sporting events, but the English competition was impressive and the arts performances stunning. The region is home to many ethnic groups and the performances reflected this in the dances, songs and costumes. I was trying to record them with lots of photos - dodging heads, lighting effects and smoke machines. I couldn't resist recording some video snippets to reflect the variety (sorry the librarian syndrome again) so this post is mainly to share some of them ;)
On the last day, after the early morning football match, we headed off on a quick visit to Sapa - famous for it's rice terraces, ethnic groups and colourful markets. Unfortunately cloud cover restricted the views somewhat on the way there, but it was a great day's outing nonetheless.
We returned for the closing party - mountains of food and students dancing enthusiastically to LOUD pop music. (I think students are the same the world over). Then for the final demonstration performances, announcement of the results and flag handover. The announcements were in Vietnamese, so other than that Hung Vuong University was the overall winner I have no idea who won what, there were no trophies, medals or prizes and no-one discussed the results. And that was rather refreshing.
Tuesday morning we woke up to rain and it rained most of the way back to Tuyen Quang. Since getting back it has been wet and cold (17 degrees) so maybe this is the turning in the weather we've been waiting for. The winter clothing is emerging at last. I think I'm over it already.