By Emma Phillips, Singapore Management University, Singapore
Time in Singapore is flying by. Before I knew it, we had reached the mid-term mark and it was time to travel to Vietnam for recess week. Here are the highlights.
Around lunchtime we arrived in Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam. For the first few hours we walked around to get our bearings. Later that day we visited a railway line that runs through the city, incredibly close to peoples’ homes and businesses. In the evening we continued to explore the city and met the Vietnamese war photographer who took the photo of ‘Nepalm Girl’. Especially since we would be visiting the War Remnants Museum later in the week, it was insightful to hear his story.
On this day, we headed out of the city to Ha Long Bay. This trip included boat rides, a spread of Vietnamese food and a tour of the caves. The landscape was truly beautiful, and it was nice to relax on the boat when we were not participating in the activities.
On the third day we decided to go to a Western place for breakfast. I had my first full English since arriving in Southeast Asia, which I had missed more than I thought. Next, we visited Tran Quoc Pagoda – the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi. In the afternoon four of us went to get a full body massage. At £10 for a one-hour massage, it was definitely worth it! For dinner we decided to treat ourselves, and go to ‘Essence’, one of the top-rated restaurants in Hanoi. It was more expensive than the local street food, however very good value compared to if you were to purchase the same meal in Manchester.
In the morning, we travelled to Ninh Binh. This area is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site which is located around two hours outside of Hanoi. The trip started with a tour around the Temple of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang. We learned a lot about the history of Vietnam. Following this we were able to cycle around the area, viewing the beautiful scenery around us. After we had built up an appetite, we were served a buffet lunch and rowed along the Be River. Before heading home, we completed a small hike, allowing for more stunning views.
On day 5 we flew to Ho Chi Minh, a city in the South of Vietnam. Although we were tired, we continued to explore, mostly using our new favourite form of transport – Grab Bikes! These are extremely cheap and due to the heavy traffic in the city they are also the quickest way to get around.
On our penultimate day, we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta. This involved activities such as climbing though (very small) tunnels, holding a snake, learning lots of history, and many boat rides! This trip was also a very good opportunity to meet lots of locals.
On our final day in Vietnam, we decided to relax and do some shopping. We also visited the War Remnants Museum which contains a very graphic history of the Vietnamese war. Although seeing this was upsetting, it was a very valuable way to end our trip.
I really enjoyed my time in Vietnam and would definitely love to return. I would recommend a visit to anyone thinking of travelling through Southeast Asia.