On March 31st , fifteen St Peter’s College students and staff departed for a Historical tour of Vietnam. We arrived in the capital Hanoi after a very long day travelling around 13 hours on a plane. The immediate impression was the intense humidity and incredible amount of people enclosed in one city. Hanoi was at the centre of the North Vietnamese Government during the War with the Americans between 1954 and 1975 and because of this it has many historical places to visit. The most significant was seeing Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum where you can see the man himself just as he was in 1969 when he died. It was incredible to see how much they revered and respected this one man.
After that we bussed three hours to Ha Long Bay a UNESCO World Heritage Site and spent two nights on a Vietnamese style ‘Junk’ with all the creature comforts. This was a great way to cruise around an amazingly beautiful place.
From there we moved south to the centre of the country where the country was divided between Communist North and Capitalist South. It was here where some of the most severe fighting took place and we visited a cemetery that reflected this. 40,000 people buried in one place was another experience that won’t be forgotten easily.
Continuing south we stayed 2 nights in Hue the ancient heart of Vietnam and then onto Hoian a tourist mecca for shopping that can be had there including the tailoring of suits and dresses.
The last major place we visited was Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, it has a strong French influence from the years of colonial rule that Vietnam had experienced. A highlight there was the War Remnants Museum that detailed the struggle between the Americans and Communist Vietnamese. Included in this was the effect ‘Agent Orange’, a chemical that has powerful side effects used to kill off large tracts of jungle, had on people. Some very powerful but sad images were seen at this museum.
On the last day we drove 2 hours to the Cu Chi district just outside Ho Chi Minh City. It was an area that saw heavy fighting in the closing stages of the war and the Americans dropped 7.5 million tonnes of bombs on this one area. To combat this the Vietamese dug kilometres of tunnels and lived in them nearly all the time. It was quite a sad reality of the war and it had more impact with the sounds of machine guns going off close by another tourist attraction.
All in all the experience was a complete culture shock but it was an amazing experience for all that participated.
We had a lot of support from our St Peter’s Community and the students really appreciated any and all help they received to get them to Vietnam.
Sam Sanson – Head of History