On June 15 Whittlesea Secondary College embarked on a journey of a life time to Vietnam with 12 students and 2 staff members.
First stop was Ho Chi Minh City where we were introduced to the chaos of early morning traffic in a major south-east Asian city. The humidity, traffic noise, number of bikes/scooters, endless electrical wires (known locally as noodle soup) and unusual smells of foreign spices alerted our senses that we had arrived. We enjoyed the history lessons at the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum along with the social interaction of many locals. Whilst in the South of Vietnam we took advantage of visiting some local attractions, such as the Cu Chi Tunnels. The students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of crawling through the Viet Cong Tunnels and firing AK47’s and the like at the local firing range.
Next stop, the ancient town of Hoi An which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must for any traveller who visits Vietnam. A delight for all was the traditional Vietnamese cooking class and the chance to have suits, dresses and shoes hand made to fit. Our accommodation was appreciated by all for its relaxing pool. It was whilst in the centre of Vietnam our students had the time to reflect and realise what a wonderful opportunity international travel can be.
In the North of Vietnam we visited the World Heritage Site of Halong Bay and enjoyed an overnight cruise, stopping at the Dau Go Cave and the Thien cung Grotto. Lunch being a scrumptious seafood feast, obviously caught locally.
Once back in the city of Hanoi, our group ventured even further north via overnight train to the mountain tribes of Sapa. We walked through three local ethnic minority villages marvelling at the differences in traditional dress. The poverty of these tribes really hit home, as many students felt compelled to support them by buying hand made gifts and trinkets. The constant enticement to buy their goods soon lost its novelty and to venture out of the hotel became a bartering battle.
Our last leg of the tour was to explore the city of Hanoi, including Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Old Quarter and of course to catch up on last minute shopping at the local markets before heading home.
International travel for students is a wonderful way to introduce them to different cultures in a fun, safe and affordable manner. To have the opportunity to visit and experience another country is far more educational and memorable than anything that can be offered within a classroom. I know all students made the most of their experience away and that their memories will be ever lasting. I am proud that they went with an open mind and were willing to embrace anything outside their comfort zone.