Glendowie College in Vietnam 2016

We just recently had Glendowie College return from their Vietnam Tour in the last school holidays. Here’s a little overview from the teacher, Michelle Simpson on how their trip went. It’s always great hearing how our school tours have gone and what the Teachers and Students took away from it.  

Xin Chao Vietnam! We arrived to the hustle and bustle that is Hanoi – full of anticipation of the journey ahead. The drive to our hotel had our heads spinning – the horns, the bikes, the tiny streets filled with anything and everything. A humid 32C adding to the assault on our senses. Hanoi is layered with history – the occupation of the French and Chinese and of course the mausoleum of the father of the nation – Ho Chi Minh. We hit the night market in the Old Quarter for a pair of the ‘3 generation’ elephant pants and a knock-off watch. The traffic was ‘crazy’ – crossing the street a mission not be undertaken by the faint hearted.

Our next stop after the capital was the beautiful World Heritage site that is Halong Bay – “Where the Dragon descends into the sea”. Imagine a splattering of towering limestone pillars rising from the emerald waters – truly amazing and peaceful, until we arrived! Our overnight cruise involved kayaking, swimming, squid fishing and tai chi.
The calm seas made way for the bumping and rocking that was the overnight train from Hanoi to DongHoi. We boarded the train with trepidation – 4 bunks in a tiny cabin and anyone taller than 5ft8 needed to curl up their toes. The rhythm of the train saw some of us get the best sleep yet.

Back on our coach we travelled via the Dong Ha cemetery and the Vinh Moc Tunnels to the DMZ – the demarcation line between North and South Vietnam. So we were now ‘in the south’ and it was getting hotter. Luckily our Hotel in Hue had a pool! Hue reflects the glories of imperial Vietnam so it seemed only fitting that we would dine like Kings and Queens while we were here. Our visit to the Duc Son Pagoda Orphanage was a revelation into human compassion and the unwavering love of the monks who tend the 160 orphans in their care.
We continued south on a winding coach journey through the clouds and over the Hai Van Pass to arrive at the beautiful riverside town of Hoi An. Here we had the opportunity to get tailor-made clothes, shop at yet another spectacular night market, take a cycle through rice fields, sit on a strategically placed water buffalo and cool down in the hotel pool.

Last stop on our journey was Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The temperature was now 39C and humidity at 100% was very challenging for everyone – especially those without hair straighteners! Our time in Saigon saw us brave the traffic again – but with a little more confidence having survived Hanoi. We were pros now! Saigon was our gateway to some historically important sites including the War Remnants Museum and the site of the My Lai massacre. We also experienced the Cu Chi tunnels and saw first-hand how innovative and clever the Vietnamese were during the ‘American War’.

One of the highlights of the trip was our expedition to the Mekong Delta on a series of boats which decreased in size with every step of the journey. Here we overnighted under mosquito nets, ate elephant ear fish and got up close and personal with a 2 metre long python!

This trip WAS the opportunity of a lifetime. The memories and experiences we had will last forever. The people of Vietnam showed us their hospitality, their pride and their determination to make their lives as full as they possibly can. We could learn something from them. The trip also helped bring history alive and challenged our perceptions of ‘historical truth’. We will be returning to Vietnam in 2018 and I can’t wait!

Ms M Simpson – Teacher in Charge of History and lover of Vietnam! 

 

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