Vietnam Red: Our last blog entry

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Freya

The trip to Vietnam really helped to show me that everyone, everywhere face similar problems and issues. We share the same values of family, safety and security. All that is different is the cultural approaches in dealing with the issues people face

Will

In Vietnam I learned about their amazing culture and ways of living especially in the village.  It has opened up my eyes to a whole new way of living for me.

Lucy Jackson

I once thought it was impossible to fall in love with a place but I stand corrected.  During this shared experience I made many new friends. I enjoyed the language, the landscape, the food and the loving nature of the Vietnamese people. It was truly amazing whether in Hanoi or the village, Ha Long Bay or Ho An, Hue or Ho Chi Minh. All had their own charm and excitement.

Finn

Before going to Vietnam I didn’t think that I would be able to communicate with the people, but I have found that using hand signals and facial expressions went a long way.

Lucy D

I thought Ha Long Bay would just be a fun activity as part of our Big Experience trip.  Instead I experienced a perfect moment in a beautiful and unique environment. Watching the sunset in Ha Long will stay with me for life.

Vas

This Big Experience has shown and taught me about Vietnam through experiencing the culture that I couldn’t have found out any other way.  By living with the people and travelling to many different parts, I learnt so much about the people, the food and their way of life.

Bronte

I learned that the most important thing in life is being with people and caring about each other. You don’t need money or expensive products but strong bonds and relationships.

Jack

Before Vietnam I would never have gone abseiling.  I conquered my fears and would now do it again.

Peter

I used to think that Vietnam was just another Asian country, but now I think it is an amazing country full of eye-opening experiences and its own diverse culture.

Nick

Anyone can live happily anywhere so long as there are people.

Ben S

Before going to Vietnam I thought that the people would be unfriendly and hostile towards Australian people due to our involvement in the Vietnam war, but I found out they were friendly towards foreigners.

Andrew

I used to think the Vietnamese would be unfriendly to westerners but actually they were very nice which was humbling.

Tilly

After visiting the War Museum I was overwhelmed by the effect Asian Orange had on the people on both sides of the conflict. I have learned to accept what I have and be happy with what I’ve got as other people have it far worse.

Abbey

Even if you can’t speak the language you can still communicate.  I now know that I would be able to travel the world and experience what I did in this trip.

Emily

I didn’t really know what to expect.  Going to different places, seeing all sorts of things has made me appreciate the people of Vietnam.  This is an experience I will never forget.

Alaric

Vietnam has taught me more than I ever thought possible.  I have learned that I as a person am stronger than I thought that people in all corners of the globe share the same human spirit, so we can all understand each other.  The laughing and smiling faces across the country taught me that.

Emma

My first thoughts on Vietnam were that it was an impoverished society that counted on others for help.  In Vietnam I found the sense of community spirit overwhelming as a whole and I enjoyed every minute.

Henry

I felt Vietnam gave me a whole new perspective on how people live their lives and what they go through just to make a living and to feed their families.  Everyone seemed to be busy working from the young to the very old; from farming rice to selling goods.

Grace

Vietnam was another world, totally different from our suburban life but it’s only by diving headlong into another culture can you come to identify your place in life.  In Vietnam I met parts of myself that I haven’t seen before and I hope to know them better back home.

Holly

This trip will be something I will always remember.  My view on the word has changed and I am so grateful for what I have now, more than ever.

Matt

They have a great sense of neighbourhood love. When we were in the village; all of the neighbours came to help us build the house.

Kiran

This trip to Vietnam has taught me so much about the culture and the people.  The people I have met on the trip both within our group and the Vietnamese community made it an excellent and rewarding experience.

Annie

Before this trip, Vietnam was just another Asian country, now it means so much more to me.  I have a much better understanding of the people, the countryside, the cities and the food.

Luca

In Vietnam I found that 20 thousand dong can go a long way.  They don’t have as much as we do but they are still happy.

Ben M

I used to think that people couldn’t live without luxuries.  I was wrong after I saw the way the people live in the village.

Max

In Vietnam I learned how privileged I am education-wise compared to the greater majority of the Vietnamese people.

Issy

The Vietnam trip was the best experience of my life.  We learned about another culture and our group has become like one big family.

Tim

Vietnam used to be a war for me.  Now it is a paradise of culture, people and food.

Toby

It has opened my eyes to a new way of life, food, people and experiences that I appreciate.

Ryan

Before Vietnam I only had taste for western culture.  After living in a remote Vietnamese village it has broadened my thinking on life and made me more mature as a person.  I am grateful for the opportunities I have in Australia.

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Vietnam Travel update

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Vietnam has arrived in Melbourne early, 7.18am. We’ll update this post with an estimated time of arrival at school as soon as they are leaving the airport.

UPDATE: The buses are loading up at Melbourne airport (8:35am). It is expected that both Vietnam trips will arrive back at the College at approximately 9:30am, depending on traffic.

UPDATE 2: The buses have just turned off Todd Rd, Port Melbourne (9:15am) so should arrive at approximately 9:40am.

Day 15 Our last day in Vietnam

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Vas and Lucy J

The heat hit us as we walked out of our hotel on our last day in Vietnam. We boarded our bus and set off for the one and a half hour drive to the Cu Chi tunnels, 60km northwest of Ho Chi Minh. We set off to explore the history behind the Cu Chi Tunnels during the Vietnam War. They were a hide out for the Viet Cong, who at one point managed to tunnel under the US army base in the area. The tunnels are three levels deep and they extend up to 250km. These tunnels were a huge advantage for the Viet Cong as they could make surprise attacks.  We were shown how the tunnel entrances were disguised and how they were covered with leaves. Some of us took the opportunity to crawl through the tunnels to get an idea of what it would have been like. It was hot, dark, cramped, and hard to breath and you had to crawl. We were amazed that people could live like this underground and for long spaces of time. We finished this experience with some local food which was different to most foods we had been eating on this trip.

Our experience at Cu Chi made our visit to the War Remnants Museum more significant. We were shocked by the overall impact the war had on the people and especially the children who have been born deformed as a result of the extensive spraying of Agent Orange. It is tragic and hit many of us close to heart. To shine light on this horrible tragedy, there was a display of paintings by children our age and younger from all over Vietnam promoting peace.

Our day was completed by a final walk around Ho Chi Minh City. We had to use all our bargaining skills at the local market. Our last dinner was a Vietnamese style barbecue where we were able to cook our dinner on a hot plate. We laughed and sang together at Karaoke to finish a long but excellent day.  It was a great way to finish our Big Experience trip to Vietnam.

Annemarie, Barry and Joss

Day 15 Ho Chi Minh City

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Vietnam Red have had an action packed last day in Vietnam.  Vas and Lucy J  are to write our blog entry. They will do this tomorrow as they are at present packing.

The following pictures will give you an idea of our day until then.

Waiting in the foyer of the hotel for our 7.30 am bus pick up

Henry and Jack ready to go

Lucy J with typical flower arrangement in hotel foyer

Leaving busy Ho chi Minh City

Cu Chi Tunnels guide showing us how the Viet Cong disappeared so quickly into the tunnels

Going

Going!

Gone

Various life size models of Viet Cong soldiers give us an idea of the lifestyle of the Viet Cong during the American war

Jack and a captured US Tank from the American War

One of the many home made traps made by the Viet Cong

More life size models at Cu Chi - weapons area

Buying blank bullets for the shooting range at Cu Chi

Experiencing the tunnels for ourselves

Eating local food at Cu Chi - fried rice, fried noodles or soup

War Remnants Museum Ho Chi Minh City

Last dinner out together in Vietnam - special BBQ Vietnamese style

We finished the day with Karaoke

Day 13 Our Last Day in Hoi An

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Luca and Henry

Today we swam in the warm South China Sea. We were lucky because the conditions improved from yesterday and made swimming possible. However, a few of us got “dumped” by a couple of big ones.

It was a beautiful hot Hoi An day, not a cloud in the sky with a cool breeze off the water. At the beach we swam, caught some waves, sat on sun lounges under large palm umbrellas or played games on the beach.

In order to get to the beach we rode through the outskirts of Hoi An then out into the country side. We saw women working in the rice fields and a white crane sitting on a buffalo.

The buffalo didn’t seem to mind. There was a man on a motorbike that followed us on our 60 minute journey carrying his display of Ray Bans for sale. He was hopeful of selling some of his sunglasses. He had a wasted trip because no one purchased anything.

We had some free time in the afternoon to relax by the pool, pick up our tailoring or be pampered at the beauty salon. Most people are sad to leave Hoi An as it is our most preferred place so far in the trip. After the hard work of the village, the craziness of Hanoi and the poor weather of Hue it has been a relaxing change for everyone. The chilled setting of Hoi An it has become a favourite among the students.

We finished our last day in Hoi An  with a cooking class with a legendary  Vietnamese chef Trinh Diem Vy who has published many cooking books about the flavours and food of Hoi An. We were taught how to make enjoyed Vietnamese style chicken on a stick with various spices as well as spring rolls and green papaya salad.

We are in the process of packing because tomorrow morning we have an early flight bound for Ho Chi Minh City, our last stop.

Day 12 Hoi An

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Peter and Nick

Today we were able to ‘sleep in’ until 9.00 am; our first ‘sleep in’ for the entire trip. We were able to rest and relax today. We enjoyed a lovely buffet breakfast before heading off for a boat trip on the Hoi An river.

The relaxing boat ride combined very nicely with our sleep in. The banks of the river were lined with small fishing boats and we were able to view Hoi An from the river.

The water was murky however that didn’t stop the local fisherman showing off his considerable skill of throwing a large net by hand into the water, to bring in the biggest fish.

The river is very high and we were told that Hoi An was flooded a few weeks ago. People were boating through the streets as the water rose 2 metres. Apparently this happens frequently and people have to move all the contents of their shops each time it does.

After the boat ride we came back to the hotel and spent a leisurely hour by the pool. Come lunch time everyone was refreshed after one and a half weeks of solid activity.

Lunch was free choice in Hoi An and there was a lot of different foods to choose from.  Free time in the streets of Hoi An was appreciated as this gave people opportunities to get some tailoring done and purchase gifts. Some people tried a Hoi An manicure and pedicure.

  We learnt a few things about Hoi An today. It is an ancient town that goes back as far as the 15th century. It was an important trading city between east and west. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the area, and then came the Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, British and French.  The houses and shops have been fixed up and the town itself is very attractive despite the flooding.

The river silted during the 19th century which caused Hoi An to decline economically. Today everywhere you look there are tailors, t shirts, ties and visitors as well as the local markets for all kinds of fruit, vegetables and fish.

Day 11 Abseiling at Marble Mountain

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Andrew and Ben

Howdy all. Today has been a very adventurous day in which some fears have been overcome. We are of course referring to the abseiling we took part in today at stunning Marble Mountain.

The day started with a chocolate coated breakfast in which many pancakes were consumed. Shortly after our chocolaty breakfast most of us were on the bus. To our amusement some people had slept right through the wakeup call and were still asleep while everyone was on the bus. Fortunately
this minor hiccup was overcome and the bus only departed 20 minutes late. The bus ride took us along a coastal road directly to Marble Mountain.

The real journey began at the foot of the mountain due to the fact that instead of taking the high tech elevator we were made to take the stairs “for the experience!” Once we had climbed the endless set of stairs we fitted with harnesses by the expert team of trainers. Strapped in tightly we all had a practise and then began another climb to the starting point.

We all abseiling to the bottom of a 20m cave or down the 35m sheer cliff wall of the mountain. All in all it was an exhilarating experience and everyone felt a great sense of achievement.

After a picnic lunch, we climbed down the mountain and reboarded the bus and headed for the bustling river side town of Hoi An.

Arriving at our hotel we were pleased to see an inviting swimming pool set in beautiful gardens. After checking in we went out exploring.  Hoi An isn’t like the other cities and towns we have been to. We noticed that Hoi An was cleaner, probably due to the fact that there are rubbish bins located around the town. We believe that bins make a drastic improvement to pollution in the town. Hoi An is the
capital of the clothing industry in Vietnam. Watch out mothers, there might be presents coming your way! After a couple of hours spent wandering around the riverside town with our friends we had a pumpkin soup, lasagne and salad dinner for a change. Any way that brings us up to date so goodnight everybody.

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