Monthly Archives: March 2012
On my last day in Vietnam, I went on a class trip to a university in Saigon to visit the English department and to mingle with some Vietnamese university students. We had a few hours of orientation and the history of English in Vietnam and then went out to lunch with the group. After lunch, we split up, and the two students I was with, who were Kim and (I forget the correct pronunciation of the other one) took me around the city which included the presidential palace, one of their favorite coffee shops, and the post office. Their English was very good, and they were very patient with me while trying to learn a little Vietnamese. I finished the day with some last minute shopping and post card scrambling. I was not able to finish all of my post cards and had to send a few without any messages.
Very briefly, this was our last day in Ha Noi and our last night in Ho Chi Minh City. Come and gone so quick.
Here are some quick pictures from Day 3 in Vietnam. We left Ha Long Bay in the morning, (after skyping with my family!) and made our way back to Ha Noi, the capital city. We went to lunch as a group, and I’m pretty sure we had dog for lunch. The rest of the day, we toured the city, and then finished the day with a water puppet show and then exploring Ha Noi at night.
I know people really just want to see pictures, so I am at least going to get those up for Vietnam because we only have less than 2 days in between Vietnam and Hong Kong. I hope to get up day descriptions as well.
Oh, and I recieved some questions from the students from Myers Elementary School who I have been sharing my voyage with through Vicarious Voyage. I was so excited to receive some of their questions, and I will get to them as soon as I can! If you are reading this, keep the questions coming!
I don’t know why I expected to see jungles when we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, but I was surprised with relatively booming city. For most of the day, I went with SAS to see the Cu Chi tunnels, a war history location of a tunnel system that the Vietnamese as part of their Guerrilla warfare style. I knew the experience was going to be deep, but I did not expect for it to hit me that hard. It was very overwhelming seeing the conditions of the tunnels, where whole families would live, cook, make uniforms, bombs, traps, ect. There were many different varieties of traps, each of them looking very painful, with usually a slow death. We sat down and watched a documentary of the video, and it was a war propaganda completely biased against the U.S. At first I thought that it was a joke, but Vietnam is a communist country and they won the war, and they will portray the war however they want. It was interesting to see the Vietnamese perspective in the video how “all of the people, old and young valiantly contributed to the war effort against the American devils” (at least similar to that) I just have to wonder how much of the info was completely biased. I do know that in the prison where the POW’s were kept in Ha Noi, the only information about them was a video of them smiling and happy in very good living conditions. We all know this is completely false. It just makes you think.
After the tunnels, I had dinner on the ship and then went to a wedding for two of my good Brazilian friends on the ship. They were one of a few who decided to get married in Vietnam. The wedding is only valid in Vietnam and it was a fun spontaneous experience! They booked a whole row of tables at the Rex hotel and about 50+ of us from SAS came out to support them. There was a band playing and they allowed us to do the ceremony there. Taylor, one of the students decided to get certified online for marrying people, so it was official. They even had the official marriage certificate. It was very thrown together, but it was one of the best weddings I have ever been too. Both Gabe and Suse are extremely talented, amazing, and super nice people. They are so good together and I wish them the best. (If you are reading this, keep in touch!! I miss you both!) After the wedding and a little “reception” celebration, I headed back to the ship to finish packing and leave for the airport at 4am.
Ever since Singapore, everything has been moving very fast. We have only one more day and then we are in China, so I’m trying to get caught up again with the blog and schoolwork. After China, we also have another 2 days before Japan.
I have so much to say about the last two days and vietnam preparation, but I’m am really tired and need to get some rest for tomorrow.
Singapore can easily be called the city of the future! The architecture here is amazing and the technology/infrastructure and cleanliness is superior. I guess this is partly by Singapores “strict” regulations and fine policies which include $1000 dollars for chewing gum, $500 dollars for jay walking, the death penalty for drug possession and more. After being in Singapore for a day, I realized they are not extremely strict with the rules, but it is still the safest city/country that I have ever been in.
I had a SAS trip at 1:30 so I couldn’t travel too far and I could not find anybody that was travelling where I wanted to go, so I went solo for the morning. I decided to go to the Botanical gardens which turned out to be a really large national park that was really well kept and did have some really beautiful plants. I found it a little boring because I’m really not into this kind of thing, but it was beautiful and Singapore is supposed to have one of the best Botanical gardens in the world. After I got bored from looking at plants I just kind of wandered throughout the city, and I came across a Singapore Bible College which I found really interesting and regular university. I eventually made my way back to the MRT station (the subway) and browsed around the harbor mall, which was where immigration was this time, instead of on the ship.
I met the bus for my SAS trip which was about the different religions represented in Singapore. I was originally trying to sell my trip because there is so much I wanted to do, but I’m glad I ended up doing it. If not, I would not have randomly met up with my friend and had the best last few hours in Singapore. For the SAS trip we went to three various ethnic parts of the city: little arabia (not formally called that), little India, and Chinatown. We learned a little bit about each culture and how they came to be developed in Singapore, but we also had a chance to shop in each district and visit temples in each area and learn about their religions. In little arabia, we went to a Islam mosque which was beautifully detailed, like all of the other temples we visited. It was a fully active and practicing temple and it was nice to learn some new background information to better understand their religion. We then went to little India and visited an Hindu temple which was a little more modern than the few I saw in India. There were also a lot of shops that sold the same souveneirs that India does, but at a higher price. Lastly, we went to Chinatown which has temples of Islam, Hindi, and Buddism. (I also saw a lot of Christian churches throughout Singapore).
During one of the temple visits, I ran into my friend Tammy and her family relative (Jen) who lives in Singapore. I decided to sign out of my trip and travel with them for the rest of the night. BEST DECISION EVER!! We spent a lot of time at a Buddhist temple and museum and I found it really interesting, especially about the relic display of different body parts from distinguished monks. For the rest of the time, we made our way over to Merlion park, yes Merlions. The merlion is the national symbol of Singapore and is supposed to represent the lions that used to roam Singapore when Singapore was a jungle. The mermaid is supposed to represent Singapore as being a fishing community. I learned this from a local shop keeper, and I’m not sure if it exactly correct or not. After posing with the lions, we just relaxed with some Starbucks and just enjoyed ourselves. I guess this doesn’t really sound that exciting, but it was the first time in a while that I felt extremely relaxed. Chilling in Singapore with amazing views of an amazing city hanging out with really cool people: just what I needed. This reminded me that travel experiences are truly about who you are with, not exactly where you are at.
It was getting close to onship time, so we took the subway back to the harbor, and Jen showed us some Vietnam food (great) and bubble milk tea which is my absolute favorite and have been craving it since July when I was in Thailand. At home, I have even tried to make it, but it just didn’t measure up. Milk tea, usually involves tea, sugar, milk, tapioca pearls or jello, and some sort of magic powder that kicks up the deliciousness level. I was super pumped by this time and just had a lot of embarrassing happy energy.
We rushed up to Immigration about 10 minutes before on ship time, said goodbye to Jen, checked our passports, and ran down the terminal to the ship. It felt good to run on something other than a rocking treadmill. It seemed like everyone else also tried to squeeze every last minute out of Singapore and it was an absolute mad frenzy. Singaporeans in the mall seemed really confused and partially afraid about the hundreds of students sprinting everywhere. We arrived in line about 4 minutes before dock time, and there was a crowd on the ship watching everyone come in. If you are late for on ship time, you get something called dock time, which is an allotted time that you are not allowed to leave the ship for the next port that we arrive at. If you have early trips planned for those countries, you are out of luck. I believe it is 2 hours for every 15 minutes you are late. Dock time is technically supposed to be when you are checked in on the ship and your passport is handed in to the Purser. Luckily, they decided to accept everyone that was in line before 8:30 (on board time) So I was safe. However, there were a number of people that were late; more than any other port.
I wish we had another day in Singapore because there is so much to do and see, and I was not able to get as many souveneirs as I had hoped. All in all, great day! Vietnam in three days!!
Until our next stop on this epic voyage around the world (or India if I get to it)!
While I’m in the blogging mode, I’m going to at least put some pictures up from Day 2 in India. We left early for the train station where we caught up the local news and food and got on the 6 hour train to Erode. Upon arrival we met the school instructor who we would be with the following day when we visited his school. After getting lost and asking multiple times for directions, we finally made it to the home we would be staying. The family, including aunts, granparents, and the immediate family was so gracious and hospitable and were happy and willing to answer any questions we had. They would be considered upperclass Indian’s, so they were very educated and well traveled. It was nice to even compare traveling in the U.S. with them, and other culture world wide. We learned how to eat a proper Indian meal (with you right hand and combination of certain foods); Indian food is well balanced and it is an art of taste- every dish in an Indian meal has a specific taste or flavour and they all balance each other out. We then took a tour of the families farm and got to see ginger being harvested and we were also treated to coconut milk.
Next, we headed out to the traveling marketplace which was a local village marketplace that moved location everyday between seven different villages for the week. Therefore, residents have to make sure they buy enough vegetables, herbs, tobacco, supplies, ect. to last them for the week. You could tell that foreigners do not visit the village often and everybody was either very curious/cautious of us, or excited that we were there and would approach us and ask us questions. One thing I found very interesting about India was that the people want to get their picture taken and to take pictures with you. We would walk around the market, and they would just ask us to take pictures with them on our cameras. In Ghana and other places, you would be yelled at for taking pictures at the market or of people in general. You had to be very selective. In India, carrying your camera around visibly is actually a great way to meet people (use caution obviously depending on where you are) I ended up shopping and talking with a few of the vendors, and this truly felt like the real India. India can be touristy, and if you don’t try, I think it is easy to never experience Indian culture and real life.
After the market, we headed back to the house for a late dinner (also delicious). The girls, 12, and 16 wanted to show us their swimming well, so we drove to the well for a late night dip. The water was so refreshing and so deep. It was a well, so there were walls surrounding it and you could jump and dive from about a 15 to 20 foot wall. After about an hour of swimming and swim photoshoots we headed back for tea. Tea, which can be compared to Chai tea with a lot of milk and sugar was amazing and it reminded me of the milk tea I had in Thailand and unsucessfully attempt to make back home. I should have gotten the recipe! We ended up talking for the next few hours about everything under the stars- politics, language for my class (I could write a whole blog just on the different languages of India, and how interesting it is) culture, and about life in general. We finally retired for a few more hours of sleep in preparation for another long day.
I wish I could describe it as good as everything actually was. Sometime you just have to be there to understand.
So I realize that I have not gone into a lot of detail about life on the ship. Today, was a discussion day, so we did not have any classes. Instead, we had seminars about Vietnam all day. We will be in Vietnam in 3/4 days and this was the only day we had to go into detail about it. As soon as we hit Vietnam, we have basically 3 straight weeks of travel: a week of Vietnam, 2 days on the ship, a week of China, 2 days ship, and then a week of Japan. After Japan, we have about 2 weeks straight at sea. For today’s sessions there were talks about the Vietnam war from the American perspective, Vietnam perspective, relations, cultural insights, ect. We also have two very special and distinguished guests on board for the Asian stretch of the voyage and it just amazes me how many intelligent and distinguished people are sailing with us. This is truly an opportunity of a lifetime. The two distinguished guests are Charles Robb, a retired Senator and Marine soldier during Vietnam, and his wife Lynda Johnson Robb, the daughter President Lyndon B. Johnson. They talked about their personal experiences during the Vietnam war, both in Vietnam (for the Senator) and at the White House (Lynda). They said that this was the first time that they publicly talked about their Vietnam experience, and you could tell that it was an emotional experience. This will be the first time that Mrs. Robb will visit Vietnam and I’m so excited for her. Also, Senator Robb was partly responsible for mending ties with Vietnam after the war and establishing the relationship we have today. From what I have heard and researched, the Vietnamese actually love Americans to visit and are trying rapidly to erase the image that they are still hostile to Americans. It is part of their culture to forgive and forget. I will see how true this is when we get there next week.
We will be in Singapore tomorrow for the day, and I’m so excited. I was seriously debating going to Singapore when I was in Thailand over the summer, so it is awesome that I now have the chance to visit. Singapore is a highly developed city country and is said to be the city of the future. The U.S. does not even have some of the technologies and use of architecture that Singapore currently has. There is so much to do, but I’m going to try to take in the Sentosa Island, a light show, and my SAS trip that I could not sell.
For some reason, India has been hard for me to put to paper, but I will get there.