History & Culture
Vietnamese culture is complex, diverse and represents something of a history lesson. The nation’s labyrinthine, teeming trading quarters are rich in indigenous crafts and reflect centuries-old mercantile influences. Ancient temples display distinctly Chinese influences in the north and Hindu origins in the south. Meanwhile the broad, tree-lined boulevards and grand state buildings that grace the capital date from the French colonial period.
American Vietnam War: never to forget
More than 3 million people (including over 58,000 Americans) were killed in the Vietnam War, and more than half of the dead were Vietnamese civilians. Opposition to the war in the United States bitterly divided Americans, even after President Richard Nixon ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973. A visit to the war museums is a reminder to the horrors of war and a glimpse into the very recent past of this land.
In Southeast Asia nothing really comes close: Vietnamese food is that good. Incredibly subtle in its flavours and outstanding in its diversity, Vietnamese cooking will be a fascinating draw for our students. Geography plays a crucial role, with Chinese flavours influencing the soups of the north, spices sparking up southern cuisine, and herbs and complex techniques typifying the central coastline, rightly renowned as Vietnam’s epicurean hot spot.
Ho Chi Minh (Saigon): Vibrant & Cultural
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is Vietnam at its most dizzying: a high-octane city of commerce and culture that has driven the country forward with its pulsating energy. A chaotic whirl, the city breathes life and vitality into all who settle here, and visitors cannot help but be hauled along for the ride. Our students will explore this city on foot and get a feel of urban Vietnamese Life.
Cu Chi Tunnels: The spirit of Vietnam
If the tenacious spirit of the Vietnamese can be symbolized by a place, few sites are more symbolic than Cu Chi. At first glance there is scant evidence today of the fighting and bombing that convulsed Cu Chi during the war. To see what went on, you have to dig deeper – underground. Students will spend half a day learning about the tunnel system and the bravery of the Vietnamese people.
Mekong Delta: A Floating World
The ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the delta is carpeted in a dizzying variety of greens. It’s a water world that moves to the rhythms of the mighty Mekong, where boats, houses and markets float upon the innumerable rivers, canals and streams that criss-cross the landscape like arteries. Boat rides and visits to Mekong villages will be super fun for our students
Da Nang: The changing face of Vietnam
Nowhere in Vietnam is changing as fast as Danang. For decades it had a reputation as a provincial backwater, but big changes are ongoing. Stroll along the Han riverfront and you’ll find gleaming new modernist hotels, and apartments and restaurants are emerging. Spectacular bridges now span the river, and in the north of the city, the landmark new D-City is rising from the flatlands. Our students will get a feel of the rising Vietnamese economy and how tradition and development do hand in hand.
Hoi An: Old town grace
Graceful, historic Hoi An is Vietnam’s most atmospheric and delightful town. Once a major port, it boasts the grand architecture and beguiling riverside setting that befits its heritage, and the 21st-century curses of traffic and pollution are almost entirely absent. A visit to this town of lanterns and water channels is fun and exciting.
Vietnam: Land of Handicrafts
Over centuries, the local population has cultivated an exquisite array of handicraft traditions, which have become an important part of Vietnamese cultural heritage.
In many artisan families, techniques such as painting, weaving, silk-making, lanterns of Hoi An, feather handicrafts, masks and lacquerware-production have been passed down from one generation to the next. Many craftspeople operate workshops, studios and galleries from inside their homes. Students will visit artisan workshops and see craftspeople at work.
Hue: Historical Citadel
Pronounced ‘hway’, this deeply evocative capital of the Nguyen emperors still resonates with the glories of imperial Vietnam, even though many of its finest buildings were destroyed during the American War. A visit to Hue will give our students a keen understanding of the history of this land.
Hanoi: Landscape of Pagodas
Vietnam’s capital races to make up for time lost to the ravages of war and a government that as recently as the 1990s kept the outside world at bay. Its streets surge with scooters vying for the right of way amid the din of constantly blaring horns, and all around layers of history reveal periods of French and Chinese occupation – offering a glimpse into the resilience of ambitious, proud Hanoians.
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