As soon as we stepped out of Tan Son Nhat International Airport, we were confronted by the oppressive heat and humidity of Ho Chi Minh City, the buzz of locals waiting outside, and the exotic new smell of constant traffic. Among the swarm of unfamiliar faces, we were filled with a sense of excitement and nervousness for what was to come. For some of us, this was our first trip out of the U.S. For others, this was their first trip without their parents with them. For all of us, lay ahead an opportunity in a new country with a dark, violent past, and a gleaming future.
Characterizing this week as busy, fascinating, and somewhat exhausting would be an understatement. We began our journey with a visit to the local zoo and botanical gardens, where we observed exotic reptiles and greenery. We then toured the Reunification Palace, former headquarters of the Southern Vietnamese government, whose gates were charged by Viet Cong tanks to mark the end of the first truly televised war.
The following day we headed down South to the Can Gio district or Mekong delta, where we planted mangrove trees in the rich mud flecked with black. We then went from island to island via speedboat where we saw the most hilarious monkeys, wild boars, crocodiles, and bats. We ended the day with a spectacular view by climbing up a tower to a viewing deck just above the tree canopy as we watched the sun set over the seemingly infinite green forest infested with birds in all directions.
The next two days were spent learning history with visits to two significant places. The first involved taking a trip to the War Remnants Museum, a gruesome and terribly disturbing record of war crimes images and the impact of Agent Orange and dioxin on the Vietnamese people. We then visited the Cu Chi tunnels where we were able to crawl through the same tunnels that Viet Cong guerilla warriors decades ago.
On the way back from Cu Chi, we stopped at the Agricultural Institute of Vietnam where we learned about the futuristic agricultural techniques of growing mushrooms, cantaloupes, and orchids. Over the next few days we visited several different NGO’s, the Women’s Museum, the Natural Remedies Museum, Saigon Square, Chinatown, and a fantastic acrobatic performance about Vietnamese Culture at the impressive, French built, Saigon Opera House.
Besides all of the amazing excursions, the food here will definately be one to remember. With its foreign aroma and enticing flavor, many of us were surprised by how much we liked it.
In all, we would like to thank you for reading our blog and accompanying us on this journey to Vietnam. Tune in next week for updates!
James Blan – Editor
Kanishka Khatri – Writer
Shannon McCormick – Photographer
Xuan Li – Videographer
See photos below. Videos can be found at this link, https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1fRM83mXLaDpDl8hN8-ugfugnCYUm9qgu.