BISJ International Students to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta
In April 2014 a group of secondary school students from British International School Jeddah in Saudi Arabia visited southern Vietnam’s hub, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta and it’s various charming villages. They explored Vietnamese culture and ritualistic events.
Institution British International School Jeddah (BISJ), Saudi Arabia
Education Secondary school
Group 7 students and 3 supervisors
Purpose of visit To learn about Vietnamese culture and collect data for their final anthropology project
Travel dates 15-27 April 2014
Travel route Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – Tra Vinh – Tra On – Can Tho – Ben Tre – Chau Doc in 13 days
Because of the small group, both students and supervisors were able to have a lot of personal contact with the Vietnamese people. For some of the school children, this trip gave them lots of new experiences such as riding bicycles and trying Vietnamese food. Riding bicycles through a coconut plantation appeared to be a huge challenge.
The group also visited the National Library in Saigon to learn more about the Chu Nom language. As a complete surprise and unique experience, the library guide took out a big box that contained original certificates from Vietnam’s ancient royal times.
The students visited several projects:
Chau Doc Pier
At the pier connecting Vietnam with Cambodia, students conducted interviews regarding the impact of industrialization and urbanization on local businesses. They asked businessmen about the influence of their geographic location near the border with Cambodia and about daily exchanges with Khmer people.
Ben Tre School & Binh Minh School
The students visited these schools and undertook various activities with the local children. These included dancing and singing, funny games and art and music activities. The international students also spoke with teachers at the school to understand issues the school and children are facing.
Green Bamboo and Little Rose Warm Shelters
While in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the seven students from BISJ visited two different shelters for children. They conducted staff interviews and prepared games to play with the children.
SOS Children’s Village in Ho Chi Minh City
Our group prepared lunch and joined a mother and her children at one of the houses in the SOS Village. The international students also taught some basic English using body language.
Summary of the travel itinerary
Day 1 | Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City – Tra Vinh
Upon arrival students were met and transferred directly to Tra Vinh. At the town’s pagoda they found a Khmer minority group in the midst of their New Year celebrations. The students had a chance to chat with the locals about life as a Cambodian in Vietnam.
Day 2 | Tra Vinh – Tra On
The Khiri Travel Vietnam team provided the guiding and transfer services today and the group was free at their leisure.
Day 3 | Tra On – Can Tho
The group traveled by road and boat to reach Can Tho. They visited a large orchard and tried some of the exotic fruits. At a local school in the Mekong Delta, they taught the children English and were involved in several cultural activities. The international students overnighted in a home stay where they learned how to wrap the banh it, a Vietnamese dumpling wrapped in a leaf and a typical Tet (Vietnamese New Year) snack.
Day 4 | Can Tho – Chau Doc
In the morning the group visited a rice field and floating market and interacted with the laborers. They took up different farmer activities like fishing with a net and planting vegetables. Students were invited to help prepare lunch at the home stay before moving on to Chau Doc.
Day 5 | Chau Doc
This day was all about getting to know daily life and the beauty of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Among other activities, we discovered the protected Tra Su Forest and bird sanctuary, climbed Sam Mountain for a rewarding view of the surroundings and a Cham (muslim) village on the Vinh Te Canal. In Chau Doc City at the pier connecting Vietnam and Cambodia, the students visited local businesses to conduct interviews to collect data for their anthropology project as described above.
Day 6 | Chau Doc – Ben Tre
On the way to Ben Tre we visited the Ba Chuc Massacre Memorial. This memorial commemorates an attack by the Khmer Rouge that took place in 1978 that still has an impact on the people. Once in Ben Tre the group boarded a boat to reach their home stay surrounded by luxuriant fruit orchards.
Day 7 | Ben Tre
We embarked on a bicycle trip around Ben Tre. While cycling we passed a coconut jungle, a rice paper and coconut candy workshop, several farmhouses, and took part in a local ceremony. To finish off, we took a dip in the river.
Day 8 | Ben Tre – Ho Chi Minh City
Still in Ben Tre the international students visited a school for children with disabilities and spent some rewarding time there. Back in Ho Chi Minh City the student travelers enjoyed dinner on a local river cruise.
Day 9 | Ho Chi Minh City
We spent the day discovering the religions and personalities that influenced the development of Ho Chi Minh City. Besides the National Library where an expert on Chu Nom language guided us around and showed us the ancient certificates, the program also involved visiting a Catholic monastery, the Le Van Duyet Mausoleum, a unique Khmer pagoda, and the Jade Emperor Pagoda.
Day 10 | Ho Chi Minh City
In order for the students to interact with local children we visited a shelter for street boys in the morning. We prepared lunch and practiced English with the children. In the afternoon we went to a shelter for girls at risk for sexual abuse to learn about their life and how they ended up finding refuge in the shelter.
Day 11 | Ho Chi Minh City
This day was spend at the SOS Children’s Village in Saigon.
Day 12 | Ho Chi Minh City: Cu Chi Tunnels
On this last day in Ho Chi Minh City the students were shown some of southern Vietnam’s major tourist sights. Northwest of Saigon, they visited the Cu Chi Tunnels complex in an area that played an important role during Vietnam’s wars for independence and reunification. Another visit was made at the Reunification Palace, the residence of Vietnam’s presidents until 1975, followed by a city tour past various museums and landmarks.
Day 13 | Ho Chi Minh City – departure
In the early morning a bus was ready to bring the group to Tan Son Nhat airport for their flight home.
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