Vietnam Discovery. Laguna Blanca School. 12 days (including 2 days of int l travel) Hanoi Saigon Tay Ninh - Mekong Delta

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Vietnam Discovery

Laguna Blanca School

12 days (including 2 days of int’l travel) Hanoi –– Saigon –– Tay Ninh –- Mekong Delta

Trip Summary

Experience a life-changing experiential learning adventure of North and South Vietnam. Our adventure begins in Hanoi, the animated capital of Vietnam. Walk through streets lined by French colonial buildings and into bustling markets alive with culture. Appreciate Vietnam’s nationalist history at Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” - a prison camp used first to cage Vietnamese rebel fighters and American prisoners of war. Our visit to the Peace Village, Hanoi, will introduce our group to the long-term effects of Agent Orange. A collaborative effort involving Hanoi University students - who students meet pre-departure through an electronic pen-pal exchange – integrates Vietnamese and American students into combined groups serving resident children. Next, we fly to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam’s bustling metropolis and most populated cosmopolitan city. Key sites inform students about the “American War” through a lens of compassion which considers the impact on US soldiers and policy-makers, the American citizenry, and Vietnamese civilians from the North and South. We venture to the Tay Ninh

province to see the famous Cu Chi Tunnels - an expansive underground network that once housed 10,000 Vietnamese resistance fighters during the height of the War. A homestay in the Mekong Delta teaches students about the unique culture and agricultural abundance of ancient river life. Ultimately, our journey informs students about responsible global citizenship, the power of mutual prosperity, and triumph of humanity rising from an unthinkable past.

Educational Summary

Combining cultural awareness, adventure travel, insider’s access to living historians, service-learning, and analytical reflection, this one-of-a-kind educational trip empowers students to understand the causes and consequences of America’s most controversial war. Students learn of Cold-War era dynamics, geopolitical concerns, policies, and personalities which shaped the Indochina conflict. Through a comprehensive itinerary balancing active learning with quiet reflection, students are encouraged to perceive the Vietnam War through a lens of compassion. Ultimately, the synthesis of historical curriculum, conscious tourism, and cultural exchange provide a framework for applying the lessons of the past upon the geopolitical conflicts of today.



Day 1 | Mar 24, 2016 Depart LAX @ 12:25 AM Day 2 | Mar 25 2016 Welcome to Hanoi

We arrive at 9:45 AM in Hanoi, the northern capital of Vietnam - an enchanting and eclectic city marked by ancient tradition, French colonial influences, and the Vietnam War. Upon checking into our hotel and refreshing from our long journey, we explore the surrounding neighborhood of Hanoi. Old French Quarter, romantic lakes, and street vendors, against the backdrop of faded colonial buildings, provide a living snapshot of local cultural life.

Day 3| Mar 26, 2016 University of Hanoi Pen Pal Introduction

Today is dedicated to touring Vietnam’s eclectic capital, understanding Hanoi’s subsequent occupancy, fierce identity, and modern buzz. Our Vietnamese student pen pals meet us after breakfast. The students pair up for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake where they discuss modern life and history with their Vietnamese peers. Student activity encourages discovery of the diverse perspectives of the Vietnam War. Vietnamese and American students enjoy lunch together at "Bun Cha Hanoi" – celebrated in CNNGo’s top ten street foods in Asia. In the early evening, we visit Hanoi art galleries for an exploration of “Socialist Realism” within the context of Hanoi’s contemporary art scene.

Day 4| Mar 27, 2016 Hanoi: Then and Now

Early morning visit to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, containing the mummified remains of North Vietnam’s communist leader in a construction modeled closely after Vladimir Lenin’s. We explore the Presidential Palace and discuss the role of nationalism in Vietnamese history. We visit French-built Hoa Lo Prison, ironically referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton”, a POW prison turned interactive museum which once housed Arizona Senator John McCain. Next stop is the Temple of Literature, built in the 11th Century as the country’s first university, now standing as one of Hanoi’s best-preserved monuments.

Day 5 | Mar 28, 2016 Hanoi: Peace Village Service Learning Project

Today we meet up with our University of Hanoi pen pals and engage together at the Peace Village for a specialized visit. Peace Village is a home, school, and rehabilitation facility for children with Agent-Orange related health complications. Upon arrival, students meet with the head of the Village for an orientation. We spend the morning working together in mixed teams of American and Vietnamese student groups, playing with the resident children and creating cross-cultural bonds of lasting friendship. Lessons from history are evident in the children’s challenges, and the stories from nurses who live on site. Discussion explores the human impact of chemical warfare.

If time allows during our stay in Hanoi, the group may visit the Women’s Museum, a spacious and detailed tribute to the many ways in which women shape a unique Vietnamese culture.


Day 6 | Mar 29, 2016 Hanoi -> Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

Students may choose to engage in sunrise Tai Chi around the lake for our final morning in Hanoi before transferring to the airport for the two hour flight south. Our host manager greets us at baggage claim, where we transfer to our stylish historic hotel in Saigon’s District One - the most modern and dynamic region of the city center.

Welcome to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam’s financial hub. We orient ourselves with a brief visit to the city's most acclaimed architectural landmarks. Historic neighborhoods, religious temples, Chinatown, and riverside dwellings will give students a unique perspective on Saigon, past and present.

Day 7| Mar 30, 2016 Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

After breakfast we visit The Reunification Palace: This is one of the most important buildings in the city. Here on April 30, 1975, the ‘American War' officially ended when tank number 843 of the North Vietnamese Army crashed through the gates. Thereafter, we proceed to The War Remnants Museum, a poignant display of the futility of war. The ‘Requiem' exhibit is particularly touching, dedicated to both foreign and Vietnamese journalists who perished during the conflict. A guided tour from a living historian, who was conscripted to fight with the communists against the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia and who will share his stories from the war. For lunch, we eat at a delicious restaurant made famous for Bill Clinton’s visit upon normalizing relations with Vietnam in 1996. Students reflect on their experiences with a journal writing exercise in the park.

An evening walk and journal-writing at the Rex and Continental Hotels brings history alive and gives a sense of key wartime sites which served as locations for the “Five O’clock follies” and Graham Greene’s 1955 classic “The Quiet American.” We return to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow’s early morning departure to the Mekong Delta.

Day 8| Mar 31, 2016 Trang Bang & Cu Chi Tunnels

Today we drive outside Saigon to visit Trang Bang, the hometown of Kim Phuc, famously, “The Girl in The Picture” - the 9-year-old child hit by napalm whose image was featured in a 1972 issue of Life Magazine. Here, students meet with Kim Phuc’s family for a rare

insight. Walking the highway where the photo was taken and visiting the adjacent Cao Dai Temple, where her family hid during bombing raids, gives travelers an unforgettable behind-the-scenes experience.

After lunch we visit the Cu Chi tunnels, a winding underground labyrinth that once housed over 10,000 Vietnamese during the height of the War. Now an interactive museum, the Cu Chi Tunnels is a vital piece of Vietnam’s living history. Here we take a guided tour, where students have the opportunity to crawl through the preserved underground network and try their aim on the shooting range with a Russian-made AK-47.


Day 9| April 01, 2016 Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) -> Mekong Delta

Experience the unique rhythms of Mekong life at our overnight Home-stay with a local family - an educational opportunity for invaluable Living History, cultural immersion, and exchange. During the Home-stay, students shop for ingredients and learn from the house matriarch to cook traditional cuisine as they help prepare the evening meal.

After settling in and having lunch, students enjoy a supervised bicycle tour around the Delta islands. Evening games and student bonding activities will endear the group to our lively hosts.

Day 10| April 02, 2016 Mekong Delta & Homestay

An early breakfast and boat trip to Cai Be floating market engages students to buy ingredients and prepare for the cooking lessons. After lunch, a variety of activities along the River Delta give students an authentic experience of local commerce. We visit the cottage industry workshops (coconut candy, rice paper, pop-rice), and enjoy a performance of local traditional music or take a boat cruise along the canal. In the late afternoon, we enjoy stories from an aging revolutionary “Vietcong” Captain who shares his recollections of the War, and North Vietnam’s historical determination to defeat invaders from China, France, Japan, and, eventually, the United States.

Day 11 |April 03, 2016 Mekong Delta -> Saigon

Today we say goodbye to the Mekong Delta, where students have grown to understand the rich culture and complexity of Vietnamese river life. We enjoy a supervised bicycle tour around the Delta islands and lunch in the local style. We boat through the mangroves and depart in time for our sunset farewell dinner in Saigon. After dinner we prepare for our departure tomorrow morning.

Day 12|April 04, 2016 Saigon Departure, Depart HCM @ 10:50 AM


Please Note: This Itinerary is Subject to Change Price Includes:

 Accommodations and all meals

 Community service project activity

 games, activities with pen pals

 Private transportation by A/C coach

 English-speaking guide

 Entrance fees, performances & excursions


 Beverages at meals




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