For Americans, the name Vietnam invariably conjures up images of one of the most horrific chapters in the history of the U.S. military. We have heard the stories of the vets who returned with post-traumatic stress disorder, without the use of limbs, and oftentimes, in bodybags. The least patriotic among Americans would hope our side is always aligned with the side of morality. In visiting the War Memorial Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, this harsh fact was presented: the line between right and wrong isn’t always clear. War is tragic, and has been since man first learned he could serve his interests through force. This was never more clear to me than when I saw the displays of photographs and re-creations depicting treatment of prisoners during the war. On both sides, there were rules broken, both in violation of any moral code, as well as international law. We were able to witness the collateral damage caused by the American military’s use of Agent Orange. I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the locals I had seen walking the streets with a missing limb or noticeable physical impairment were veterans of the side I hadn’t heard about as much. We find ourselves today in a blossoming trade partnership with the Vietnamese people, yet haunted by a mutual history that we cannot soon forget, and nor should we. Relationships can recover, between people and entire regions. The key to prevention of the same tragedies are places like the War Memorial Museum. To know the past and whether or not the methods once used were successful is to know which ways can work in the future, and to know how to make this world better and better by never being fully satisfied with the status quo. To never stop improving.
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MahaNakhon – a visionary new 77-story high-rise complex located on a 3.6 acre site in the heart of Bangkok’s Central Business District. The design for MahaNakhon dismantles the typical tower and podium typology to render not a tower in isolation but instead a skyscraper that melds with the city by gradually ‘dissolving’ the mass as it moves vertically between ground and sky. The Mahanakohn’s estimated date of completion is 2015 and it will be Bangkok tallest building.
So far, so amazing! Rio Berriochoa reporting to you from semester in Asia 2012. We are coming upon the third week and from what I have experienced culturally, spiritually, mentally is unlike anything I could’ve expected. In the past two weeks we have seen historical sites such as the bridge over the River Kwai, Hell Fire Pass, and area’s effected by the 2004 tsunami. We’ve also been introduced to cultural influences such as the Golden Pagoda, the influence of Buddhism on the Thai culture and their traditional values that are used every day.
The bridge over the River Kwai and Hell Fire Pass share the same history. Going to these palaces and hearing the stories of how they came to be was enlightening, but very sad to hear of all the lives lost in order to accomplish them. Although, it was very impressive to see how these structures were built by only men and no machinery.
Culturally, Thailand is much more humble and appreciative than America. Since I have been here it has been a blessing to hear of the Buddhist culture and see how it influences all the people around it. People are always smiling and willing to help a foreigner in need without asking for anything in return and that is just because they know it is right. This is the majorities mentality in Thailand.
With regards to sustainable development, we recently ventured to an elephant trek resort. We were split into groups and rode elephants by twos. What was so interesting about this was that the land this resort was located on was not changed at all from what the elephants would be used to living on, and the people who cared for the elephants adapted themselves to live how the elephants would be comfortable. While doing this they have created a tourist attraction, brought money into the community, supplied jobs, and could have very well saved as many as a hundred elephants lives. It was a delight to see such happy and smart creatures.
More to be discovered in the near future, until then, good day.
Today was a very relaxed morning. Each of us got up at our leisure and enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at Banana Beach before driving our golf carts downtown. It is our 3rd day in San Pedro and I’m becoming familiar with some of the locals. While downtown we did some shopping, mostly with the street merchants. I’m starting to become comfortable bargaining prices. It took me a while to get use to it. My favorite purchase was a wood carving with an eagle on one side and a Maya face on the other. After shopping we ate lunch at Fido’s. I would highly recommend it to anyone anticipating a trip to Belize. The restaurant overlooks the ocean. Lobster is relatively cheap compared to prices in America, so most of our group ordered that. Later on that night we decided to go out dancing and also sang karaoke. I fell in love with the Punta genre of music. Instead of wasting time sleeping that night we went swimming and waited for the sunrise. The sun rose around 5:30. After that I took a short nap in the hammock before departure.
It has been a relaxing morning. Each of us got up at our leisure and enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at Banana Beach before driving our golf carts downtown. This is my third day in San Pedro and I’m beginning to recognize some of the locals. While downtown, we did some shopping, mostly with the street merchants. My favorite item was a wood carving with an eagle on one side and a Maya face on the other. Belizeans are truly talented craftsmen. For lunch we ate at Fido’s. I would highly recommend it to anyone anticipating a trip to Belize. The restaurant overlooks the ocean. Lobster is relatively cheap compared to prices in America, so most of our group ordered that. Later that night we decided to go out dancing and also sang some karaoke. I fell in love with the Punta genre of music. We decided not to waste time sleeping that night so we went swimming and waited for the sunrise. The sun rose around 5:30. After that I took a short nap in the hammock before departure.
December 18, 2011 Xunantunich Maya Temples and transfer to San Pedro
Waking up to our beautiful scenic view of the Cahal Pech Resort was so amazing and was the perfect start to today’s journey in San Ignacio, Belize. We had breakfast and took a few pictures before departing our hotel. We took a short ride to Xunantunich (Maya for “Maiden of the rock”) which is near the western border of Belize and Guatemala. We climbed a few temples, walked through the rain forest, stopped to see ants carrying leaves to their home to use it as fertilizer for food, and saw the sensitive mimosa. It was very interesting to see this plant, as it shrivels up when touched and goes to sleep. Some people use mimosas to help with insomnia or sleep disorders, which I will need after today’s long journey. We then climbed the second highest temple in Belize! It was amazing and took little effort to climb and once we reached the top we took pictures, then saw the wall carvings on the temple and climbed back down. We got back on the hand cranked ferry to cross the Mopan River while our tour guide Randy turned on “crank that” by Soulja boy. We then headed back to Belize City and took a 1 hour and 15 minute boat ride to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, where we will be staying for three nights.
Greetings from Belize, Thavina Ounnarath
December 17, 2011
The first stop in today’s journey was to the Belize Zoo, according to Randy, this particular zoo is unique due to the fact that the animals are in their natural habitats. Throughout the zoo, we saw different and interesting species of animals that we have not encountered before. The highlight of the zoo was being victims of Junior, the JAGUAR! Professor threatened us saying that this could be our punishment for doing wrong during our stay in Belize.
The next destination was zip lining and cave tubing at Cave Branch Outpost . There were 7 different zip lines for us to zip down, all at different speeds, heights, and lengths. The tallest of which was about 700 feet with a speed about 30 miles per hour. We both felt like Tarzan racing down the line through the jungle. After zip lining, we had lunch and off to cave tubing we went! The hike was exhausting, going through the jungle and battling with the currents of the river. The hike was all worth it since the view of the cave tunnel was breathtaking. Traveling with the currents and ripples in the cave was enjoyable. We saw bats and other things by using our imagination, such as the three witches and the jaguar staring us down from above. Once the tubing trail ended, it was not the end of our adventure. Mostly everyone jumped from a cliff into the river, which was an adrenaline rush.
To end the tiresome day, we had an hour ride to our new hotel on top of the hills, Cahal Pech Resort. The view from our patio was magnificent because it was overlooking the village.
From Steven Cao and Lisa Nguyen
Our professor lives a German motto. The early bird catches the worm what means, if you get up early you can enjoy a longer day and you can see more things. We had to get up very early again and drove to Halong Bay. But it was worth to get up and to drive three hours. Halong Bay is Located in the northeastern part of Vietnam and constitutes part of the western bank of Bac Bo Gulf, including the sea area of Ha Long City and Cam Pha Town and part of Van Don island district. It abuts Cat Ba Island in the southwest. Halong Bay has twice been recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Area for its exceptional scenic beauty and outstanding geological and geomorphic values. We had a wonderful time on board on a very nice traditional boad were we got lunch, drinks and a lot of sun. The only thing what I didn’t like was the kind of dirty water but that didn’t hinder us to jump from the roof into the water for cooling down. We had a great day and got a nice tan and we are sure it was not the last day on this beautiful place.
We want to come back ☺
Posted by Michael Schenk & Philipp Spielbühler
Ho Chi Minh City
Straight after arriving at Ho Chi Minh City, we started to head out and explore Vietnams biggest city. Ho Chi Minh City, also called Saigon, is Vietnam’s biggest city with 8 million inhabitants. Our first impression: WOW is that city busy. There were motorbikes as far as we could see. There were also hotels, shopping centers and restaurants between all those vendors on the streets that caught our attention. Finally, after seeing all those luxurious cars on the streets we thought that our captain flew to a destination other than Vietnam.
But we were wrong; we really had been in Vietnam. Our conclusion of this city: “COMMUNISM DELUXE”. To us, it really didn’t look like a communist country. All the buildings designed in French architecture, the international banks and upscale fashion labels made us skeptical. But after taking a closer look we also could see the other side of the coin. Both the rich and the poor really do live very close to each other in this amazing city.
On our first day, we headed out straight after getting there, giving us plenty of time to see the city. We took a tourist bus to our first destination – the reunification palace. It was quite interesting to see where their former president, Ho Chi Minh, ruled the country.
The second destination was not as nice as the first since this was a war museum and memorial. But it was still interesting to see the reasoning behind the war from the Vietnamese perspective.
Posted by Michael Schenk & Philipp Spielbühler