Vietnam is definitely in my top three favorite places that we’ve been. It started out with us only being able to get off of the ship late (around 12pm), but the wedding was supposed to start at 7 and we weren’t ready for it at all! My friend Chelsea and Adam got married as an excuse to have a hotel party and it was SO much fun. We went and first got sized for dresses that we were having tailored for us and then we went to a little shopping center. We took a cab from the port to the tailoring place, but we were ripped off. He said it was worth fifty American dollars but shooed us out of the car so fast that we weren’t able to convert the dong (Vietnamese currency) fast enough. We didn’t let it put a dent in our day though. Then we went and shopped for bridesmaid dresses and a dress for Chelsea. We got everything done, and then we got to the hotel and all showered and got made up for the wedding. Ashton and I were flower girls and it was so cool because I got to chuck rose petals everywhere. The ceremony began and then a MONK came and blessed them! We ate dinner and then some of us went swimming in the hotel pool until we were kicked out of the pool. I went upstairs to get Ashton, and we headed back to the ship to get ready for our flights. We took a half hour nap, and then were up at 4:15 to go meet with our groups to head to the airport.
I didn’t know anyone in my group except for my friend Liz, and we ended up being put together because our last names start with L and M. we got on the bus and the group was pretty small, around 21 people. About 6 people overslept our leaving so they missed the trip! We went to a place named Nha Trang. This was the most relaxed semester at sea trip that we’ve been on so far, and it was also the smallest group of people, so it was really easy going. We first got to the hotel and put our things down, and we went on a city tour. Vietnam is crazy because there are so many motorcycles- cars are rarely used. When you want to walk across the road, you just start walking at a constant speed and the bikes SWERVE AROUND YOU. No motorcycle ride should be more than about a dollar. Everything in this city is so cheap. So so cheap. We went to the beach where there were TONS of rocks and we just hung around and relaxed. We also went to the big Buddha. It was the biggest Buddha I’ve ever seen- we had to walk up 104 steps to get to the top, but it was all so cool. Then we went to a Buddhist temple and it was really pretty there. We weren’t allowed in because we had shorts on, but we got to peek inside and there were people praying everywhere. Liz and I got two-hour massages for TWENTY DOLLARS! We went to a dinner and saw a little Vietnamese show of dancers and singers, and then we went back to the hotel. Liz and I watched boomerang, which is a tv show that had all of the old cartoons from when we were younger, and we went to bed.
The next morning we had to be up by 8 am for breakfast, and we started our next day. We got on boats and went to uninhabited islands where we got to snorkel. On the boat I got a manicure and pedicure for FOUR DOLLARS!!!! The fish were SO colorful. I wish I had an extra day in Nha Trang so I could have gone scuba diving. That would have been awesome. I was considering leaving the group with my friend Don and staying an extra day because a flight back to the boat was only 70 dollars, but I wanted to see the Cu Chi tunnels so I decided it wasn’t a great idea. After we snorkeled, we went to a restaurant for lunch where we ran into two other Americans. We spoke with them a little bit, and, m As it turns out, one of them was a Vietnam war veteran. We finished eating and everyone went to tan, but I went and sat down with the two old men because I figured they would be really interesting to talk to.
The Vietnam vet (Paul) hadn’t been back to Vietnam since the war, and he is 100% disabled. He has Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, ptsd and one other disease that I forget, but apparently the doctors think that it is all from Agent orange in the war. He goes to counseling three times a day, and has for the last 43 years. He was telling me stories and he started crying- he told me he has had nightmares since he had gotten back, and he has even attacked his wife in his sleep during his night terrors thinking that she was the viet cong. He continued to cry but then got a great big smile on his face while he was crying. He said that he finally feels free. He has seen Vietnam at peace and he is now at peace with himself. He even went to where he was stationed and went to the barracks where he slept, as well as visited the orphanage that he volunteered at during the war. His best friend (Gene) had seen the newspaper during the war, and it said that Paul had died. 40 years later, Gene was speaking with another one of the men that had been on the same tour that they had been on, and Gene found out that Paul was actually alive and had been living 20 minutes from Gene’s son. Paul couldn’t come to Vietnam on his own because he needed support, but then Gene said he would come back, and they are in love with Vietnam as well as the Vietnamese people. I wanted to cry when I heard him talk because he was so happy and at peace with himself. I invited them to eat dinner with all of the semester at sea kids on my trip, and they said they might come. I went and tanned with my friends, and we got back on the boat and went to an aquarium. The aquarium was so cool- it was made out of rocks and had the biggest sea turtles I have ever seen! They were ¾ of my body. They were massive. Five of us split off from the group, and we decided to go shopping. I bought the cutest clothes that are SO comfortable. We got Indian food for dinner and it was amazing. I still say india is the best place ever, the food is DEFINITELY the best. I was a bit sick of the Vietnamese food. We had an awesome dinner and on our way back to the hotel, we ran into the SAS group eating. Gene and Paul had met up with the group to eat dinner, and they joked with me saying that I had “stood them up” and that they “hadn’t been stood up since ’74.” I sat down and hung out with them for another hour and then when dinner was over, went back to the hotel.
Next to the hotel was an ice bar- it is a bar but everything is made of ice and you have to wear a parka. We all got changed and went to that bar for a cocktail, and then headed to a hookah bar named oasis. We met a Russian guy who was living there, and we hung around for about an hour. he drove me on his motorcycle to the next club that we went to called “why not”. And everyone else walked (it was about a two minute walk) and we waited for everyone to get there before going inside. We all played pool and as soon as we walked on the dance floor, everyone got up from their tables and got on the dance floor. A british guy asked me where I was from in England, and I said “excuse me?” he said “you’re from London, right? Only cockney girls can dance like you!” and I said “actually, I’m from the united states!” and he was flabbergasted that people from America know how to dance. yeah right! Some people have a lot to learn about the US hahaha. We stayed there for about two hours and danced the entire night. There were three fights that broke out at that club, but they were quickly stopped by the security guards, so we decided it was better to go to a higher scale club that was on the beach. We walked there, and then we danced even more for another hour or two. we danced with so many Asians! It was so funny and so much fun because they all listen to trance and techno, but whenever an American song came on, we knew every single word and people would crowd around us to dance with us. My friend Olivia and I did a Congo line with about thirty Vietnamese! Haha! A lot of peple went back to the hotel, but five of us went down to the beach to walk in the water a bit, and then went back into the club. Olivia and I decided we were going to go back to the hotel to go to bed, but we ran into motorcycle taxis and we paid them $3 each to take us all over Nha Trang. It was so amazing to see the city at night- there was no one around, and they took us to all of the tourist spots that we had been during the daytime and it was so nice feeling the breeze in our faces. There were no homeless people anywhere s
o it was really nice to drive around because there were no beggars in Nha Trang. We went back to the hotel, and then went to bed. We woke up at 8:30 the next morning and went and got another manicure and pedicure (my nails had been messed up from all of the dancing and it was only 8$) and then shopped and ate lunch. We left for the airport and then our plane was delayed for two hours (SO I COULD HAVE GONE SCUBA DIVING INSTEAD OF SHOPPING THAT DAY. I was a bit bummed, but we all sat around and listened to music and talked. We got back around 5:15, so liz and I went to pick up the dresses that we had fitted, and then ate dinner at a random restaurant that was in the middle of the city. It was almost like a cafeteria setting, and we met a woman who showed us where to go shopping the next day. We went back to the boat, watched tv, and then went to bed to get ready for our last day.
For our last day, we woke up at 7:30 and ate breakfast, and then walked around the city. We ended up at the American war memorial. It hit me really really hard. There were so many pictures and it was so hard to see another country putting down America. I started to cry when I first walked into the memorial and saw the pictures on the wall. Not only that, but a Vietnamese man was selling postcards outside and he started to talk to me. he was so nice and asking where I was from, but there was one thing. He had no arms, and he was partly blinded with a messed up face. They were blown off when a bomb went off during the war in Vietnam. I shook his stub of an arm hello as well as to say goodbye. I also met a woman who was disabled from the chemicals of Agent Orange. I have never felt like this in my life. I wasn’t even the cause of the war or even alive when it happened but I really feel helpless being here because I wasn’t alive to do anything about it. not that I could have done anything if I was alive, but I know I definitely would have been one of the protesters of the war. I would have been supporting the troops but I just can’t believe all of the horrors and massacres that had happened and all of the people that were killed. There were pictures of people strung all over battlefields as well as pictures of people beheaded. It also had a story about how one of the US senators was one of the men who was involved in a massacre and didn’t admit to it until sometime in early 2000. i wish that the museum had also put something about all of the negative things that Viet Cong had done to the Vietnamese people instead of just what the Americans did to the people in Saigon. The people in Vietnam are all so happy. I can’t even imagine Vietnam in war because it has been so peaceful. There is the movie across the universe- when I watched it with dad and was in high school I remember him getting really sad at one part, and now I completely understand why. I used to love that movie, but as of right now, watching it doesn’t appeal to me- the music and storyline are beautiful, but for some reason I can’t even imagine watching it, and when I can watch it again I know it will be more meaningful. I now have met Vietnamese people and have been around them for a week. I really feel the horrors that happened here deeply because the people are such amazing people, and the biggest thing is, they don’t hold us (Americans) as responsible. We asked our tour guide to be honest with us- “do you have any hard feelings or grudges towards the American people?” I know that as an American, if it happened to us, we would blame it all on the Vietnamese, not on the government. He said, “no, no, we love americans. We know it is not your fault. It was the government fault, not yours.” Then had the biggest accepting smile and continued as if we weren’t from the place that massacred his country. I don’t even know how to explain it, but it hit so deep. Not only that, but we’re in the middle of the ocean, and apparently the UN made a decision to drop bombs on Libya? We have no access to news so it is all just rumors. Being in Vietnam and learning all about the other side of the war made me realize how messed up the world can be- human beings can bomb and destroy each other. On both sides of war, people can be monsters and ruin lives. I’m just so down about everything that went on and interacting with those affected by it firsthand.
On a lighter note, We will be in china in two days.. im really excited to go back to hong kong and Beijing. It’s going to be a great experience.