Missouri State University
Southeast Asia Study Away Program
A blog about participants’ anticipations and apprehension before, during and after the program.

Last day in Vietnam

Today was our free day and it truly was a defining day for Vietnam. First, we went with the hotel to tour the Mekong Delta and go on a few islands to try local fruits and teas. Despite the (almost) unbearable heat, the tour was unforgettable. The food was unique and delicious and our modes of transportation (boat, kayak, carriage) were all beautiful. The kayak ride was so picturesque that I’m not even sure if my photos and videos are real.

At night we finally went out to the backpacker street and all got to hangout with each other and the locals which was so fun. We met people from all across the world and shared stories and eachothers company. Everyone was so friendly. I had such a great time and really felt like a local myself just sitting on the streets in the short red chairs, listening to music and enjoying the company. What a way to spend our final day in Vietnam! I wish we had just one more.

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Free day in Vietnam

Today we had a whole free day so six of us took a tour that was provided by the hotel. The bus took us to the Mekong Delta and My Tho. We took a motorboat to Unicorn island where we got to taste some natural pure honey at a beekeeping farm. Then we got to taste honey tea which was delicious. We then took the motorboat to Ben Tre province where we saw a handmade coconut candy workshop. We got to taste it and see how they make the candy directly from the coconut. We walked a little more on the island and got on a horse carriage ride that took us to kayaks and we got to get on one and ride for about 10 minutes back to where our speedboat picked us up. The speedboat took us to a place for lunch but it started pouring down rain on us! It felt good because of the heat but it kept getting harder. We finally got to lunch and got to try all kinds of different courses. That was the end of our tour and the speedboat took us back to the bus and back to the hotel. It was a great experience and I would recommend this tour to anyone who stays at that hotel!

Posted in 05-May 2017 | Leave a comment

Full free day in HCMC

Today was our free day and it was also our last full day. Kourtney and I went on awesome adventures around the city. First Bao and his girlfriend took us jade shopping outside of the city. Kourtney and I got to ride on scooters. It was an experience I will never forget. It felt safer on the bike than it does in a car. When we arrived to the jewelry store everything was on the ground in red plastic boxes. I didn’t think some of it would be real. We were probably there for at least 45 min trying on different bracelets and shuffling through all the gems. I was able to get a lot of jewelry because Bao’s girlfriends father is a jeweler and knows the jade shop so we got a discount. After jade shopping we went to the Bitexco Financial Tower. Yet again we rode scooters, so much fun! Bao used to work at the Bitexco and he was kind enough to show us around his office and we got a great view of the city. Afterwards Kourtney and I rode our last scooter ride to the Notre Dame Cathedral. We ate lunch at a French restaurant which was delicious. We also got green tea ice cream, my fave! We then toured the Independence Palace which was a lot bigger than we expected. Then we went to the War Remnants Museum. The museum was very eye opening. I learned a lot. To be honest it became uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. They are memories I will always have with me. Following our adventurous day, as a group we all went to Pham Ngu Lao the backpacking street. It was a fun experience. Miranda, Catherine, Bella and myself stayed out later and were able to sit at a bar/restaurant and experience the culture of the street and meet backpackers from a few different countries. It was a lot of fun. Today has been my favorite day by far. I got to explore more of the city and experience the culture.

Posted in 05-May 2017 | Leave a comment

Dobla and beach

Yesterday we went to vvisit Dobla chocolate factory and got to see a presentation, make some chocolate, and take a tour of the factory itself. It was really cool listening to their marking and management styles and why they stand above other companies, and also how they compete with other companies. After we learned a little history about them we got to actually eat some chocolate and make some Christmas trees out of it! I must say it was difficult tracing the trees and filling the chocolate in the piping bags, but it was a cool experience. Then lastly we went into the factory part and it was so cool to see how it all worked.

After lunch with Dobla, we went to the beach! It was beautiful weather thankfully and we had three hours to do whatever we wanted. So we swam a little bit and just relaxed for the time we had. We made it back to the hotel pretty late so we didn’t end up going anywhere else. Overall it was really cool to see a factory here and experience the beach!

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Last full day in Vietnam

Today was our free day in Vietnam and we decided to go on the Mekong Delta tour. This morning we went and tried Vietnamese coffee at a local coffee shop and I got a hazelnut cappuccino viennese! It’s was very sweet and delicious; very different from the American coffee! We drove to a local temple that required us to take off our shoes and no photos allowed! We moved on to travel the Southern region of Vietnam through rice patty fields and numerous plantations! We took a local motor boat ride to travel the surrounding islands were we got to experience a honey bee keeping farm, taste local fruits, learn how to make coconut candy and finally taking a rowing boat to a local restaurant! The restaurant was an interesting experience because we were served fish with the head and scales still on! Today was an experience of a lifetime!

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5/25/17 – Day 4

May 25 –
Today was the day of a lifetime! We had a free day, so Emily and I broke away from the group and toured the best places in Saigon. First, we met up with Bao who ordered us motorbike taxis that took us to a jewelry store to buy jade (a gem found in Asia). Seeing the city from the view of a motorbike will be an experience I will never forget! The city is a beautiful kind of crazy. After we bought the jade, Bao took us up the Bitexco Tour (the tallest building in Vietnam) to tour his old office and it was a beautiful view. Next, Emily and I ate lunch a Cafe de la poste and got some green tea ice cream! We toured Independence Palace (Vietnams version of the US White House), the War Remnants Museum (the US war against Vietnam), and the Notre Dame Cathedral (because I’m a catholic girl so why not). Finally, we went back to the hotel to rest up before we headed down to the backpackers (foreigners) street to live up our last night in Vietnam! Needless to say, day 4 was a success and treated so well!

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Free day

It’s our last full day in Vietnam and we decided to take full advantage! We booked an excursion to go the Mekong Delta. When we got there we got on a boat and traveled to two different islands. We got to ride in a canoe, taste fresh fruit, sample traditional food at lunch, and ride in a horse and carriage. Everything we experienced was extremely authentic and we had a great taste of the culture in Vietnam! I would highly recommend it to anyone.

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Yeserday we visited Dobla and went to the beach.

I was suprised by how modern the architecture and general feel of Dobla was. I had a lot of fun attempting, and failing, to make chocolate trees and just learning what running a business was like across the world. I’m happy with our decision to go here over Nike.

And then the beach. Ahhhh it was so nice to relax! My body is tired from all the travel and packed-tight schedule so it was nice to just lay out. The amount of jellyfish and crabs kind of freaked me out but definitely didn’t take away from the joy of just being at the beach. First time at an Asian beach, too! This trip is full of firsts I will never forget.

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5/24/17 – Day 3

May 24 –
Another early morning and another day across the world! Day 3 was packed full and left me more exhausted than I realized. We woke up early, ate breakfast, and left the hotel all before 7am. We loaded a van that took us on a 2 hour ride to the Dobla Chocolate Factory. Here, we were able to meet the president of the company and the head chef. They told us more about the company, introduced to us new products, and we even got to create our own chocolate decorations! For lunch, we tried the Phó, which is a famous soup here in Vietnam. After the tour of Dobla we made our way to the beach! During the ride we passed many things like A TON of cows (which were so skinny you could see their bones), multiple duck farms (which housed MILLIONS of ducks), and a bunch of workers working the the rice fields. Once we got to the beach, the ocean was beautiful and it felt so good to just relax (plus, we got some great photo ops)! It was another great day experiencing the unknown – can’t wait to see what day 4 has in store 😊

Posted in 05-May 2017 | 1 Comment

Mustr try fruits in Saigon

Being geographically located in the tropical zone, Vietnam is truly a heaven when it comes to fruits. One who first comes to the country will be amazed at the countless number of colorful fruits sold at a very reasonable price in every street and market all year round.

Mango – Xoài

Mango is a nutrition-packed fruits and the Vietnamese one may be very different from what you have experienced in your local grocery stores.

Mangostreen – Măng cụt

As small as a tennis ball with the dark violet cover, mangosteen is the unique fruit of South East Asia region. Using a sharp knife to peel off the rough upper part, you will see the white pulp arranged in equal segments. The meat of the fruit is heavenly delicious, soft sour and sweet, creating the light and pure refreshment. Mangosteen is sold widely in southern Vietnam.

Rambutans – Chôm Chôm

Originated from Malaysia, rambutan looks like a sea creature with the soft fleshy hair from 2 to 3 cm long over the entire surface. After breaking off the reddish outer shell, the white and tender meat will appear together with the wonderful sweet flavor. In Vietnam, rambutan is grown most in Vinh Long Province, during rainy season.

Durians – Sầu riêng

At first, one may find durian’s smell extremely unpleasant (to the extent that most airlines have to ban passengers from carrying this fruit on board). Yet if you can eat it, you will love it.

Pineapples – Dứa

Summer in tropical land comes along with bright sunshine and extremely hot climate, and it is also the season of pineapple, the fruit with yellow meat that is grown all over Vietnam. In southern Vietnam, people call it “thom” of “fragant fruit” for its strong sweet smell when ripening. There are a wide range of products made from pineapple sold in the market: canned juice, pineapple liquor, and sweet preserved pineapple

Dragon fruit – Thanh long

Dragon fruit, which may weigh up to 0.5kg with pink or dark red cover, has recently been cultivated in Vietnam. Its cover can be peeled off easily when the fruit is ripe, revealing the white gelatinous meat. The pulp contains countless tiny black seeds that cannot be extracted, giving the sweet and sour taste.

Star apple – Vú sữa

Special as its name (“Vu sua” means “milk from the breast” in Vietnamese), star apple is one of the fruits that have the most marvelous taste: its juice is fragrantly sweet and milky white like breast milk. The way people enjoy this fruit is also very strange. After cutting the fruit into two equal parts, we will use a spoon to scoop out the pulp, bit after bit, until nothing is left. Star apple is grown most in Can Tho, where tourists can visit star apple orchard and try the fruit there.

Papaya – Đu đủ

Although papaya is sold widely at a very low price all over Vietnam, this sweet smelling fruit in fact contains various minerals and vitamin A and C that are very good for your health. There are a few kinds of papaya: one with red meat and with yellow or orange meat, depending on the growing land. Vietnamese also use unripe papaya in some cuisines such as salad or soup.

Sapodilla – Hồng Xiêm

Being imported to Vietnam from Central America a long time ago, sapodilla has become quite popular nowadays in the recent 20 years. This fruit is grown mostly in northern Vietnam, with the shape of an egg and brownish skin. When ripe, the brown and yellow pulp is very juicy and has a molasses-like taste.

Jackfruit – Mít

The size of a jack fruit is relatively large compared to other fruits. Its skin is covered in thorns like durians but the flesh is divided into smaller yellow pouches. The seeds inside each pouch can be roasted or boiled and make a delicious snack while the flesh of jackfruit is the main edible part.

Coconut – Dừa

The coconut juice, besides being served as a refreshment, can be used in many Vietnamese dishes, especially to give the broth or sauted sauce a natural sweet flavour. Desserts made from either coconut juice or flesh are always popular as well.

Coconut can be easily found in the market or on the streets, especially in summer time. Imagine having a sip of the fresh coconut juice and relax yourself on one of the best beaches in the world: welcome to Vietnam!

Posted in 05-May 2017 | Leave a comment