Northwood University

The Northwood University Study Abroad Blog


Term in Asia – Week 4

Term in Asia 2009
Ian Butters, Tajhia Cartwright, Bart De Jong, Annika Duveneck,
Natasha Elder, Brett Granger, Tyler Krueger, Edgar Macias

Well, we’ve made it to Week 4 and the adventures haven’t stopped! We saw and experienced many exciting things in Vietnam, some of which has been talked about in the earlier blogs.

After an evening arrival in Hanoi, Vietnam, we checked into our hotel, tasted some of the local cuisine, and headed to bed. That next morning, our tour guide, Thai, took us to the Ho Chi Minh Memorial where we had the opportunity to see his preserved body! In addition, we also took a tour of his former house, the Presidential Palace where he met with advisors and diplomats, and beautiful surrounding gardens. Our next stop was Maison Central, a prison used during the Vietnam War. This was the same prison where John McCain was held, and we were able to see a few of his personal artifacts, as well as many other historical pieces.

Next up was a cycolo tour of the city. A cycolo is a bike with a seat attached at the front for a passenger. Our drivers took us around the Old French Quarter of Hanoi, showing us the Opera House, several markets, and the crazy Vietnamese traffic. Most of the transportation here is achieved by motorbikes, so driving through them was quite an experience. At one point, we saw five people on one bike! Following lunch, we finished up our day with a walk around the lake where John McCain was shot down, and also took a tour of the Museum of Literacy, the oldest University in the city. This was a very prestigious school in Vietnam, and required a difficult entrance exam, as well as several processional exams. We concluded our day with a evening water puppet show, which involved both people and puppets displaying different scenes of Vietnamese culture and lifestyle.

(Getting ready to head out for our cycolo tour in Hanoi)
Today we went to Ha Long Bay! Although it started off with a rainy drive through the flooded streets of Hanoi, the skies cleared up and it turned into a very beautiful, sunny day. We took a private boat ride through the bay, and were served a delicious seafood lunch. After about a 45 minute ride, we stopped at a lagoon where we were able to go swimming. We saw a couple jellyfish in the water, but once they cleared off, we all began jumping off the boat into the water and had a great time. Ha Long Bay was so beautiful! It was truly a breathtaking view, and we all got some amazing, post card worthy pictures.
(Ha Long Bay, Vietnam)
The next day was our free day. Some of the boys went to the military museum in the city, while the girls enjoyed a nearby spa We were all glad for a day off before another early travel day. The following day we left our hotel at about 6:00 am, and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in the late morning. We were greeted by our tour guide, Phu, dropped off our luggage at the hotel, and headed into town to grab some lunch and take a quick look around the local market. Following this, we went strait to Independence Palace, where the former president lived. Also on our city tour was a stop at a unique post office, the Notre Dame Cathedral (not to be confused with the Parisian church), and the Vietnam War Museum. Many of the artifacts, articles, and photos in the museum were very moving. I felt especially impacted by the pictures depicting children infected by Agent Orange, a toxin the soldiers where exposed to and genetically passed on to their children. Some of the photos were heartbreaking. It was also interesting to see the war through the perspective of the Vietnamese. All of our time in Vietnam reminded us of how lucky we are to live in a free society.

(Independence Palace, Ho Chi Minh City)

Our next included a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels. After watching a short documentary about the tunnels, we took a “trek” through the jungle and looked at various traps and models of the weapons and snares used to capture enemies, huts where cooking, sewing, and other tasks were accomplished, as well as a shooting range where two students embraced the opportunity to try shooting one of the guns. Other students also climbed inside one of the bomb shelters. It was quite a tight squeeze! Towards the end of the tour, we also climbed through the tunnels! Afterwards, we drove to Cao Dai, a temple where Buddhists, Taoists, and Confucians all come to freely worship before the all-seeing eye. The architecture of the temple was beautiful, and it was very interesting to observe their ceremony. We watched about fifteen minutes of one of their four daily masses before heading to lunch and driving back to Ho Chi Minh City.

(Tyler Krueger crawling into a bomb shelter at the Cu Chi Tunnels)

Dinner tonight was very interesting. A couple of students were interested in trying exotic food, so our tour guide brought us to a restaurant where they serve king cobra. The wait staff actually brought the snake to our table, stabbed it in its side, drained its blood, and took out its still beating heart. To make things even more interesting, one of our students swallowed the heart as it was still beating! Talk about adventurous. Then they brought about four different dishes for the two students to enjoy. The rest of us stuck with our familiar pork, chicken, and fish, but we all enjoyed experiencing this very unique way of dining.

For our free day, most of the students took advantage of the central market, which was a convenient ten minute walk from our hotel. The market contained fruit, vegetables, and dried goods, as well as clothing, shoes, luggage, bags, jewelry, and DVDs. All of the girls got great deals on some designer bags!

Our next day was an extremely long travel day. After a five hour flight to Tokyo, we had a six hour layover and then a seven hour flight to Honolulu, Hawaii. Fortunately, we all made it safe and sound, and are looking forward to spending the last part of our tour on this beautiful island.