Reflections of Vietnam – Week 2

The days go by so slowly, but the weeks fly past. That seems to be the general consensus of our group when it comes to this trip. So much is packed into one day, that it seems like our guides slow time down to make it happen. Yet as I reflect and write about another week in Vietnam, it seems like yesterday when I wrote the first blog post.

Our second week started with visits to the Traditional Medicine Museum, the Southern Women’s Museum, Chinatown, and Saigon Square market on Thursday. The next day we had a Vietnamese language lesson, and then went to perhaps what is Vietnam’s biggest tourist site, Ben Thanh Market. We bargained a lot, and felt like we got good deals, but honestly we were likely still overcharged.

The weekend was spent, for the most part, with our host families, and we met up for a large dinner on Sunday night at one host family’s house. We took the two days to relax as much as we could, because the next few were to be a test of our resilience and perseverance.

On Monday morning we got on a bus and took a 3 and a half hour ride to Cat Tien National Park. Heavily protected by Vietnamese conservation laws, this park is massive. However, due to extensive use of Agent Orange over it, only 1% of the trees are from before the Vietnam War. Since we were in the middle of the jungle, our bedrooms were frequented by frogs, spiders, geckos, and mosquitoes. This led to many uncomfortable moments for the more… squeamish members of our group.

On our first day there, we saw gibbons in rehabilitation after being rescued from terrible conditions by a British charity. The rest of the day’s plans were washed away by a torrential downpour, but we were able to do everything we missed the next day.

Tuesday was our first test. An 8 mile (13 km) bicycle ride over rough rocks, gravel, and mud, to get to the village of Ta Lai. We were welcomed there by the local Stieng and Chau Ma people, and went on a walk to see their rice paddies, and longhouses. Soaked in more heavy rainfall, we watched and participated in a traditional ethnic dance around a large bonfire, with the Chau Ma people. We headed back at night, spotting many deer by assistance of a powerful flashlight.

The next morning we hiked 2 hours on flooded, swampy, leech-infested trails, which left us exhausted, wet, and dirty. We got back, and ate quickly before getting on the bus to Da Lat city, where we arrived at night.

Da Lat was an important city in French  Indochina. Officers based in Saigon used Da Lat as a place for their families to stay, or as a vacation spot, due to the wonderful weather and scenery. The mark they left can be seen in the hundreds of French villas, and pine trees that dot the city, and make it look like a small European town, rather than an Asian one. Instead of me writing about our first impressions of Da Lat, I asked my fellow Experimenters to give me their Three Word First Impressions of this city. The following statements summarize our thoughts well:

– “Busy but beautiful” Piper
– “Chilly and hilly” Diana
– “Misty palace’s dusk” Lance
– “Soothing, quiet, beautiful” Murphy
– “Mountain, rain cleanse” Chantelle
– “Best so far” Chase
– “Picturesque, enchanting, fertile” James

Thursday was a busy day. We visited a daisy farm, where we learned how to pick daisies from the root. We thenwent to a silk factory and say the whole silk making process, from silkworm to necktie. Then we visited a beautiful Buddhist temple, and a waterfall, where the viewing platform was quite precarious to get to. We then ate crickets at a cricket farm, and drank coffee with a beautiful view of the coffee plantation where the coffee was from.

As you can tell by my peers’ comments, Da Lat is unique and fantastic. I’m sure it’ll be a great place to spend almost a week, and you’ll find out what else we do here in the next blog. Thank you so much for reading, and check back next week for updates!



Editor- Shannon

Writer – Kanishka

Photographer – James  

Videographer- Diana

Two of the many shrines that we came across during our visit to a Buddhist temple in Da Lat

A side stream of the waterfall we visited in Da Lat City

A rescued monkey that is currently staying in Cat Tien for rehabilitation

During our stay in Cat Tien, we joined the locals as they taught us their songs and dance

Two of the many shrines that we came across during our visit to a Buddhist temple in Da Lat

In our stay at Cat Tien National Park, we biked 10 km through the forest when we came across a native picking grass to weave into a basket.