Saturday, May 18, 2024

Day 13

 May 18 Sat

Today marks the last full day in Vietnam for us (#sad). This was a day many of us students were excited for because our itinerary was filled with a lot of great things. The first being a rubber tree plantation. We parked our bus on the side of the road and got to see the rubber trees up close. Vietnam is one of the largest producers of rubber in the world. Most countries have switched to synthetic rubber from petroleum because there are not enough trees to supply the demand. Vietnam still grows lots of trees not only in Vietnam, but also in Laos and Cambodia. The trees will produce rubber for 25-30 years if harvested correctly. Rubber comes from the sap produced by the trees, so to harvest the rubber they must take of two-thirds of the bark. If they take more than two-thirds, the tree will not be able to disperse nutrients to continue to grow. The sap of the tree comes out looking like white latex, but once dried, it turns to the rubber we know.

Rubber Tree

They use anything from tin cans to coconut shells to collect the sap. Think about how we collect maple syrup from a tree, it is the same process for the rubber sap. After we finished looking at the trees, we boarded our bus again and headed to our next destination.

Chu Chi

The next stop was the Cu Chi Tunnels. These small and narrow tunnels were used during the Vietnam War by the Viet Cong soldiers and the local community as hiding spots, living spaces, supply routes, etc. Along the trails, we saw various types of traps used to capture and injure American soldiers- most being covered up with grass and leaves that the soldier would fall into. These traps were originally used for capturing wild animals for food; however, they were transitioned into human traps during the war. We also saw several entrances into the tunnels that could be covered up and hidden. 


They look like quite small holes in the ground, but almost everyone from our group tried entering it and fit right in (as long as they kept their arms straight up while entering)! Continuing along the path, we came to a stopping point where visitors could pay to shoot a couple of rounds of guns that were used in the war. These guns were left by America when they pulled out the troops from Vietnam. Some of the guns that the students shot were M16, M30, AK, K54, and M60.


At this stop, we also got to watch a woman make rice paper that was laid on a bamboo sheet to dry in the sun. Up next was trying some common war foods including tea and cassava. Last on the list was getting to enter the Cu Chi Tunnels underground. These again were quite small while in them. One needed to do a lot of bending down or leaning over the entire time. Both shoulders almost touched either side of the walls in the tunnels and there was no room to turn around if needed. Most of the group braved through the tight tunnel space and exited at another point above ground. 


Imagining an underground tunnel system for daily living can be hard to comprehend, but trying to picture life while physically in the tunnels was even more difficult. The tunnels students went through were enlarged so that the tourists could fit into them. Lastly, some other highlights of this stop were that some students got to see the insects that were there like scorpions and centipedes as well as learning about how they cooked underneath the ground as to now reveal their location to the enemy.

Once we saw all the different artifacts of the Cu Chi Tunnels and learned the history behind them, we once again loaded onto the bus and went to our last meal together. After a delicious meal outside along a river, we loaded up and went back to Saigon for the rest of the afternoon. The students had the choice of either going to the Ben Thanh Market for 3 hours or the War Remnant Museum & the Ben Tanh Market for 1 ½ hrs due to time restraints.

War Remnants Museum

The War Remnants Museum is a another good example of “history is written by the winners”. In the museum courtyard are US helicopters, planes, tanks, cannons, and boats that were used in the war. 


The museum itself is divided into 3 floors. The first floor is dedicated to international support of the Vietnamese people against their wars with France and then the US. The second floor covers war crimes and Agent Orange, and the third floor was dedicated to the war journalists who were killed, and all their photographs, many which were Pulitzer Prize winners. 


Finally there was a room covering the “documented truth” of both wars. While it was difficult going through all the rooms, it also reinforced the adage that “war is hell”. One of our fellow students made a great observation of disconnect. When we were in Hanoi and went through the Women’s Museum, it told about all the ways women helped fight the war, including actual combat, with more examples of direct fighting by women at the Chu Chi tunnels. However, in the War Remnants Museum, the US was vilified for fighting against women. One promising thing about this museum was the emphasis on peace in the future.


The day was ended for everyone by shopping in the Ben Tahn Market, which is a block square and sells everything you can imagine and then some. We got to barter on price, which is a whole new experience and a lot of fun. We had supper on our own, returned to the hotel, and started packing since we leave the hotel tomorrow at 4 am for our flight back home.

Catherine Klein, Megan Linke, & Jaylynn Frandrup

Day 12

 May 17, 2024

Today we started our morning at 8:00. We had a sweet morning kicking it off at the flower market. This was a wholesale market with flowers motorbiked in from the central highlands. To avoid traffic, they drive the flowers over 5 hours in the early morning. The flowers must be there early so that people can shop to decorate homes, parties, weddings, restaurants, and memorials. Most of the girls agreed that they would be out every morning getting fresh flowers especially at the price of only 40k-120k dong or only $1.57-$4.71! 

Flower Market

The market was right smack dab in the middle of the city. Our big group was mingling a little too close to some motorbikes. 

However, we did get to see a lot of city life. Including families outside, children dancing at the school, and some men playing checkers with bottle caps. Being in Vietnam has really illustrated some important lessons in life for all of us. Make the best out of what you have in life. Appreciate what you have instead of always wishing for more.


We went back to the hotel for some free time before our meeting. This time featured some much needed relaxation… including some power naps.

The US Grains Council and the US Meat Export Federation were generous enough to meet us at our hotel. We all shuffled into a conference room to listen to Mr. Wurth from the grain’s council and Mr. Tu from the meats.

US Grain Council

US Meat Export Federation

They did great, illustrating how many little parts that play into the world market. There is demand building, trade policy, tariffs, domestic policy, agrarian reform, and many different commodities that are at play. The main thing we all took from this talk was how important it is to look into all the little things. For example, Mr. Wurth showed us how the Panama Canal is currently closed. Now shipping boats must take the long way around adding a couple of extra days. Even though that doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to these products. Even though we think we are so far away from the world market in tiny South Dakota, 1 in 3 farm acres are planted for export in the USA. With Vietnam being our #3 corn export receiver, we are a lot more connected than we ever thought.

Another thing they shared with us was how they are trying to help Vietnam and Southeast Asia improve their farming. It is a constant balance of imports and exports. We give Vietnam the corn, they can farm their own pigs.

After the presentation, we went to eat lunch. Tony led us down a dark alley, but we were pleasantly surprised when he brought us to “A Taste of Saigon”.

After lunch, we went to Tan Dinh Church or the pink church. It is the second largest church in Ho Chi Minh. It was built in Vietnam when it was occupied by the French. 

Pink Church
Unfortunately, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon is currently under construction. That church was built in 1880 and is built solely with materials from France. The construction is taking so long because they have to mine the stone and ship it over here. Catholicism has deep roots here. Tony explained how missionaries actually created the current Vietnamese language. These missionaries tried to spread their religion here, but no Vietnamese could understand. So, they took the traditional Chinese script that Vietnam wrote in, and Romanized it. Ho Chi Minh later made it the official language of Vietnam making education much more accessible in this country. Then we went to Saigon Central Post Office.
Post Office

 Lots of us sat and wrote some postcards back home. Families keep your eyes out for some mail (in a month or so haha)! Lots of us also went to Vietnam’s equivalent to Starbucks, Highlands Coffee, for a much-needed afternoon boost.

The last event of the night was a dinner cruise on the Saigon River.

Dinner Cruise

Our group watched the sunset on the top deck and headed to the basement for dinner. It was a buffet style supper which was great because we got to revisit our favorite foods we have had in these past 2 weeks. There were spring rolls, fried sticky rice, Pho, grilled chicken, lots of fresh fruit, and some fun new stuff too. Lots of us tried the snails!

We watched the bright lights of the city over the Saigon River and enjoyed one of our last nights together. The time has flown. It feels like we just got here, but at the same time we have got to experience so much and grow together.

A big part of our group rushed to the dance floor on the first floor. Through loads of sweat, laughter, and off pitch singing, we danced the night away. A large crowd gathered with cameras pointed at the dysfunctional group of American girls having the time of their life singing Super Bass by Nikki Minaj.

Sad to think we have only one day left, but what a great day.

See you tomorrow!

- Elle Ploeger and Mallory Drake

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Day 11

 May 16th

Today we departed from the hotel at 8:00 am and began the two-hour bus ride to the Mekong River Delta. Our first stop of the day was to the silk and bamboo factory. When we arrived, we were shown the silkworm cocoons and how they are manipulated into thread that is further processed into the silk. Our guide then took us into a classroom where she demonstrated some of the products that they offer. They had bamboo cleaning towels that cleaned up soy sauce and oil. They also had clothing items such as towel dresses, bamboo jackets with visors on the hood, undergarments, and the magic scarf that could be manipulated into a shirt, dress, hood, shawl, and sweater. After our infomercial like demonstration, we were directed into the area where we could purchase the products. They had many additional items for sale such as pillows that unzipped into blankets, ties, robes, pajamas, kitchen supplies, and many more. 

Our next activity was the boat tour on the Mekong River. 

We were pleasantly surprised to discover that our tour guide for the boat tour was Tony’s cousin. We boarded our boat and traveled to an island where we ate pineapple, mango, dragon fruit, tiny bananas called “lady fingers” and sapodilla, an orange fruit that some described as tasting like papaya or honey. 

We were entertained by locals who played the one-string zither, two string fiddle, and two types of guitars. Two women and one man took turns singing solo, before singing a song together. At the end, a couple of students were allowed to play the two-string fiddle, and the one string zither. With assistance from the musician, the students were able to play “Jingle Bells” and “If your happy and you know it”. 

We then walked over to another area of the island where the locals raise bees and sell honey. We got to see a portion of the hive with hundreds of bees busy at work. The locals also made us a small drink consisting of kumquat, bee pollen, honey, and tea. It was very sweet, and many students got a second serving.


We then made a small detour on our boat ride to the next location and stopped at a small local fish farm in the Mekong River. Only a few of us at a time fit on the boards that were laid out around the top of the fish enclosures. We got to see red snappers, and a few of us got to feed them as well. There were over 20,000 fish in a 20 ft x 20 ft area that was 9 ft deep. It takes them 6 months to get to a market weight of 5 lbs. One group member even braved getting a “foot massage” by the fish.


We stopped at a coconut candy shop that makes all of their won candies from scratch. We learned the techniques to open a coconut and peel away the fibers. Then the machines that they use to grind up the coconut into a powder that they can then process into a mixture that is formed into the candies. There were many flavor options of the candies that we could sample as well as purchase to take home.

 Additionally, they also had a liquor that is known in Vietnam because it has a real snake in the bottle. Many group members braved this unusual beverage and gave it a try, leaving very mixed reviews on the taste.

At lunch we ate elephant fish that was served on a stand that allowed it to sit upright. 

It was cooked whole and had scales and everything still on it. To serve the fish, the staff removed the fin and peeled off the meat to place it into a spring roll that the server assembled for us. The menu also included noodle and shrimp crepes, soup made with chicken, corn, and noodles. As well as shrimp, pork, chicken, rice, watermelon, and “dinosaur egg” which was a large sphere about the size of a volleyball made with sticky rice.

After finishing our meal, we then ventured inward on the island and got to ride a small horse and buggy. This took us to a location where we got to get into row boats that took us through canals back out to the main delta area. There was a high tide at this time, so the canals were beautiful. From here we got back on the boat where our tour guides served us coconuts to drink, and we made out way back to the dock to get back on the bus.


On our drive back to Ho Chi Minh City we stopped at a local chocolate factory. Upon arrival they showed us the cacao fruit, from which they get the cocoa beans from and gave us a taste of their hot chocolate. While they were currently in a power shortage, this didn’t stop us from exploring the factory and chocolate making process. We saw the process of the beans from start as a whole, to ground into cocoa nibs, then it is pressed and they extract the juices which can be used to make white chocolate and cosmetics. Then made into a powder and out into a machine that stirs it and makes it into the chocolate bars we know and love. They had many types of chocolate as well as a spread for us to try and purchase. We then got on the bus to continue our travel back to Ho Chi Minh City for supper and the return to the hotel.

We went to another unique restaurant for supper before wrapping up another day. It’s hard to believe that there are only 2 more full days left in Vietnam!

Day 10

 May 15, Wed

Today marks our last day in Da Nang. Our time in Da Nang, the central coast of Vietnam, was short but sweet. Thankfully after a long past day we got a little extra time in the morning for ourselves. A group of students ventured down the street to a local bakery and coffee shop called Paris Levain where students ate a variety of baked cooked goods, fresh smoothies, and coffee.

At 8:30 we packed up all our things onto the bus and set out to find farms on the outskirts of Da Nang. After a 45-minute drive and a couple stops to ask for directions, the group set out to walk through the small village. On our walk we were able to see Mango, Jack Fruit, and Tapioca trees. We were able to walk through a greenhouse to find rows upon rows of Madagascar periwinkle flowers. Our last farm for the morning was an orchid farm which contained about 300,000 plants. One interesting thing to note is that this Orchid greenhouse utilizes peanut shells as their source of a mulch system. Orchids take roughly a year to grow to full size and are started as a nursery plant transitioned to be grown to full scale. The plants are supported by pvc pipes in the ground. The farmers can harvest the flowers off the plant and retain the plant for the coming seasons. There was so much variety in the orchids they planted with colors like: yellow, purple, red, pink, and orange. They utilized an automatic irrigation system to water their plants due to workers being nervous about unsanitary hands touching the plant and causing an orchid virus. Many of the flowers in Vietnam are harvested for the Lunar New Year celebrations; however, some can be sold daily at local markets in cities.

After the farm visits, we stopped by two different marble factories. Marble is a popular and luxurious rock in Vietnam which comes from the mountains in the Da Nang area. We were able to visit the marble sculptors’ workstations. They use electric power tools to craft the stone into figures. The artists have water on hand to decrease the amount of dust. Depending on how intricate and large the statues are, determines how long it will take to make. There were many statues throughout the building and lawn with sizes ranging from 10 feet tall to 3 inches tall. The statues signify the Vietnamese religion and culture. Many of the marble sculptures made in Vietnam are shipped out of the country. Otherwise, you will see them in front of businesses and restaurants.

After spending time out in the 90-degree weather, it was a refresher to sit down at ‘Tre Viet’ for lunch. Here we enjoyed a soup containing mushrooms, chicken, and egg. It was interesting trying the different types of mushrooms in the soup which reminded many students of noodles. Next came some deep-fried bean pancakes, banana leaf, and onion rings. The onion rings dipped in the chile sauce gave us all a little slice of home. No one can ever go wrong with deep-fried foods. Our source of protein for this meal came from a chicken cabob with peppers and onion paired nicely with a vinaigrette salad topped with fresh peppers. Finally, we can’t forget the sticky rice that came out on bamboo trays. Our sweet treat at the end of the meal was a watermelon cookie dessert.

Following lunch, it was time to head to the airport for a flight to our last city in our tour of Vietnam. We will be traveling to Ho Chi Minh, the largest city located in the southern half of Vietnam. Checking in and going through security went very quickly and smoothly. During the wait, we all got to talking about our experiences in Vietnam thus far. Some things we did not expect before coming to Vietnam were the lack of toilet paper in public bathrooms as well as having to pay a small fee to use the restrooms. Another thing that surprised us is that the local women dress in long pants and sweatshirts as we wear tank tops and shorts most days. However, that’s because women don’t want a tan in Vietnam because that means you’re a common laborer. Many of us truly did not realize how long the country of Vietnam is and how many different terrains we would come across during our visit. Some of our favorite foods to eat are pork rolls wrapped in seaweed, BBQ chicken, Banh Mi which is a traditional street food sandwich made of cucumbers, pickled carrots, pork or chicken on a crisp banquette.

It is time to board our flight for our destination of the trip. It was a great day to relax and reminisce on our time in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City is 13 million people, and is the largest city in Vietnam. Also, it’s population is greater than the entire population of Cambodia. Along with the 13 million people are 8 million motorbikes (approximately 200 cc) and it seems like they are on the road at the same time! There is an additional 12 million people in HCMC that come in for general labor and are not part of the city’s official population. Also, it is the business center for Vietnam, and it feels a lot more vibrant.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Day 9


May 14 Tues


The day started around 6 a.m. for some students who visited the beach to watch the sunrise. Others headed to a pastry shop for breakfast. All of us loaded the bus around 8 a.m. to head to the Ancient Town of Hoi An. We got off the bus to a beautiful scene of lanterns, shops, and the Thu Bon River. Tour Guide Tony took us to a high-end tailor shop where you could get any article of clothing custom made that day! There were already many articles of clothing to try on and buy like suit coats, slacks, formal dresses, and much more! The store was a bit out of our college student budget, but still very interesting to see! Our next stop in the touristy town of Hoi An was a silk factory. The silkworms go through their entire life cycle in the silk factory! The larvae are fed mulberry leaves to grow and eventually form a cocoon. The cocoon is set in hot water so the fibers can be spun into a thread. We then saw how they used a loom to make the fabric.


There was a showroom where many framed embroidered pictures were hung. Finishing the pictures took the artists anywhere from 15 hours to numerous weeks. We were amazed at the detail of the grass and plants in the paintings. It was hard to believe that it was all made of thread!


            At the end of the tour, there was a shop with many articles of silk clothing and accessories. Some students purchased items in the silk factories’ shop while others waited to purchase items  from the smaller shops in town.

Then, we made our way to a coffee processing shop. The owner welcomed us with open arms, and she was another great example of excellent Vietnamese hospitality. We were able to learn the steps needed to prepare coffee beans for customer purchase. Megan VDH assisted by pouring the beans into the roasted where they were tossed around in high heat for about 15 minutes changing from a light brown to a dark brown. Megan enjoyed helping since she serves as a Head Barista at Scooter’s Coffee in Sioux Falls! Next, the beans were placed into a mixing bowl where they were stirred around to cool off. The cooling process took about 20 minutes. Seeing the task completed was fascinating, and students enjoyed learning the process behind the coffee they were drinking. While the coffee beans cooled, students wandered through the coffee shop, buying trinkets, drinking coffee, and enjoying some refreshing air conditioning.


After the coffee shop, Tony led the group to a Hoi An wet market. It was a sight to see. The market was filled with seemingly everything. The products included souvenirs, fish, clothing, vegetables, and even meat!

The protocols for meat safety vary between Vietnam and the United States, so it was an eye-opening adventure. After going through the market, we all now understand why it is called a ‘wet market’. Let’s just say it was a good day to wear tennis shoes.

Nestled along the Thu Bon River in central Vietnam, Old Hoi An whispers tales of antiquity through its weathered timbers and winding streets. Once a bustling international port in the 15th to 19th centuries, this UNESCO World Heritage site retains an enchanting aura of its illustrious past. We walked along its iconic mustard-yellow buildings, adorned with intricate wooden shutters and lanterns, the buildings stand as silent witnesses to centuries of trade and cultural exchange. There have been various ethnic groups that occupied the village of Hoi An but the Japanese and Chinese are the more prominent ones, each echoing the diverse influences that have shaped Hoi An’s rich heritage. We were fortunate enough to visit on the Buddha’s Birthday, which allowed us to experience their cultural festivities on another level. Old Hoi An, with its timeless beauty and cultural significance remains a captivating destination that demanded us to immerse ourselves in its storied past.

A highlight of our time in Old Hoi An was visiting the Tan Ky Old House, a remarkable architectural gem that embodies centuries of cultural exchange and trade. Constructed over two centuries ago by Le Ky, a member of a prosperous Vietnamese merchant family, the house showcases a harmonious blend of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese architectural influences, reflecting Hoi An's role as a vibrant trading port. Its weathered wooden beams, intricate carvings, and delicate tile work tell the story of centuries of trade and cultural exchange. Tan Ky Old House not only serves as a well-preserved example of traditional Vietnamese architecture but also offers a glimpse into the daily lives and aspirations of the generations who called it home. The tour guide told us stories of when it would flood in the Hoi An and how the family would have to utilize their pulley system to haul their furniture to the second level. Visiting Tan Ky Old House was an immersive journey through time, where the echoes of history reverberated through its weathered walls, leaving an indelible mark on our hearts and minds.

After visiting Old Hoi An, students were given an hour and a half of free time to shop. Excitement filled the air because many individuals had certain items catch their eye during the walk through Hoi An earlier that morning. We will not reveal what was purchased as to not ruin any surprises! However, this shopping excursion was successful and an incredible opportunity to practice bargaining skills! Three notable bargainers were Mallory Drake, Audrey Field, and Abby Morse! Once shopping ended, we took one last walk through beautiful Hoi An and loaded the bus to leave for supper. When we arrived, Tony showed us some of the farm outside the restaurant. He specifically focused on the mint plant, explaining the benefits for a healthy life and importance of balance in Vietnamese culture. The owner and chef at the restaurant explained that everything we were eating came directly from the farm Tony showed us.

            Supper can be described in one word: PHENOMONAL! It was a Vietnamese barbecue style meal. Group favorites included the chicken, pork, eggplant, and roasted banana. It is safe to say Kansas City barbecue has some competition.

Overall, we had an immersive day in Vietnamese culture. We persevered through the intense heat, making memories along the way. After a quick dance party on the bus, we concluded with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.


Dodging one motorbike at a time,

            Brooklyn, Bryn and Megan

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Day 8 Monday, May 13, 2024


May 13 Monday

Today marks the first full week of our trip! We have been able to see and learn so much about the people, culture, food, and climate (namely the humidity). We have visited places including Hanoi, Sapa, and Ha Long Bay which all have their own wonderful characteristics.

This morning, we left for the airport at 6am to head to Da Nang. We got everyone checked in and through security, then we ventured to find the closest coffee shop. For most, we were able to have a little taste of home and got Starbucks. A few also did a little shopping in the airport before getting on the one-hour flight to Da Nang.

We arrived in Da Nang at about 10:30am, hopped on the bus, then were on our way to Marble Mountain. The Marble Mountains are a cluster of 5 marble and limestone hills named after the five elements: metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. Not only are these mountains visually stunning, but they also have historical, cultural, and religious significance. Each of the mountains has caves, pagodas, and temples.  

Marble Mountain


We were lucky enough to tour the water mountain. We went into many caves inside the mountain that had statues of Buddhist figures. One of these caves had three holes in its ceiling with lighting poking through since we were there about noon. Tony, our tour guide, said that the figures can only be seen with natural light, which only comes through during the noon hour, so we came at the right time. Tony said that the three holes represent Buddha. 


Tony explained there are two types of Buddhism in Vietnam and more than 60% of Vietnamese people practice some form of Buddhism. One form of Buddhism is practiced in the North and the other type is practiced largely by the central and southern part of Vietnam, however, everyone studies to try to reach enlightenment. The Vietnamese believe in karma, a word we are familiar with but means more to their culture. They believe that as long as they do good things to people and nature, they will achieve enlightenment.

We continued our hike up the mountain to River Watching Tower where we were able to look down and see the other mountains as well as some of the city. In fact, there were mountains within the city itself, which is very different from South Dakota! At this spot, we were also able to see a chair that was made for the king to sit in when he visits.

After the hour and a half hike up and through the mountain, we cooled off with some water and ice cream. Some of us bought marble figurines from local shops at the base of the mountain. After this, we headed to lunch, which consisted of a lot of seafood! After lunch we headed to the hotel to change into swimsuits and enjoy the rest of the day on MyAn Beach. Many of us had never been in an ocean, so this was certainly a highlight.


After a few hours on the gorgeous beach, which none of us wanted to leave, we met for supper and celebrated Dr. Daly’s birthday!


Happy Birthday to Dr. Russ Daly!

Some of us enjoyed the rooftop pool after supper. Overall, today was a very relaxing day that we all enjoyed! 

-          Autum Wittstruck and Katelyn Winberg

Monday, May 13, 2024

Day 7


Sunday May 12

Zoey Schentzel & Emilee Schuetz

After an adventure packed first few days, an additional small bit of sleep was much needed. But no fret, we had a city to explore and were on the bus by 8:30 am. We were bound for the Vietnam Women’s Museum, where we learned about the importance of women in Vietnamese culture. We spent a couple of hours there learning about the roles of women throughout history, family hierarchy, afterlife beliefs and traditions, fashion and lots more. Notably, 87% of women are Vietnamese. However, the museum highlights several other backgrounds. One thing that stood out was the traditions done for family members who have passed away. The Vietnamese believe that this life is temporary, but the afterlife is permanent and therefore they want their loved ones to be free, have their possessions, and unrestricted to roam. By burning imitations of the ancestor’s belongings, they will have them in the afterlife. For example, fake American money will be burned so their loved one could travel to the States. Paper houses or toy cars are also burned. Another tribute that stood out to many of us was the wall of women recognized by the government for their heroism, bravery or service; these women lost their husbands but did not remarry per the cultural tradition. We are grateful for visiting the women’s museum and I believe it is safe to say that we are all greatly amazed at the physical and mental strength women have shown in this country. We left the museum with a greater respect and encouragement to support women on the streets selling fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers, or artwork.

Women's Museum

Lunch was an adventure in itself, as we tried several street foods and walked the streets of Hanoi. Starting off, we had banh mi: a baguette filled with either pork or chicken, papaya salad, greens, and spicy mayo.  These are a staple in Vietnam so the trip wouldn’t have been complete without us enjoying a country novelty. The next food was similar to pho (pronounced fu), however it did not have broth. The dish contained rice noodles, chicken, papaya, crushed peanuts, chives, and cilantro. Additionally, we added garlic slices, vinegar, red chilis and juice of fresh limes. The flavors were vibrant but worked together beautifully to make a delicious bowl.

Bahn Mi

The third dish was steamed rice that was ground and cooked to make what could be compared to a crepe or rice paper. Inside was minced mushrooms and pork and then wrapped like a spring roll. The roll was served in a broth with chives. The roll was a different approach to rice but all the flavors were simply delicious. Again, I believe I speak on behalf of all to say I would be more than happy to eat any of the dishes again, especially the last two.

I cannot forget to mention my personal favorite, sugar cane juice. Sugar cane is pressed and juiced, resulting in a delightful, sweet, and refreshing treat – perfect for the hot and humid weather.

With full and happy bellies, we walked a few blocks to the original creators (1946) of the Vietnam famous egg coffee: fresh espresso coffee with sweet meringue. Using condensed milk, egg whites, and a little sugar, the barista whips together a meringue and beautifully pours it over the Vietnamese grown espresso.

Enjoying Egg Coffee

Our next stop was the “Hanoi Hilton” Prison, where only a third of the original prison is left. It was built in the mid-1800’s by the French as a prison for Vietnamese political prisoners.  About 65% of the remaining prison was dedicated to the French atrocities, and the last part was about the “war with the Americans”.  This tour really reinforced the old adage that “history is written by the winners”.  Conditions were terrible for all prisoners, regardless of what country they were from.  Pictures and stories about the late Senator John McCain and US Representative from SD Leo Thorness were among what we saw.  Representative Thorness was also a Jackrabbit alumni .  Much of the exhibits emphasized the sacrifices and suffering the Vietnamese were willing to endure to win the war.  There was also a section at the end talking about reconciliation, peace, and moving forward together.

Hanoi Hilton

We then watched a water puppet show that was very entertaining even though it was all in Vietnamese. Puppets were 2’ high and ranges from farmers to dragons to fish to soldiers, and were very colorful.  They were operated from the bottom underneath water by puppeteers behind a screen.  It was accompanied by live Vietnamese musicians. After the puppet show we got to have free time by Haon Kiem lake.  However, we had to wait for about 20 minutes because an incredible thunderstorm rolled in and the downpour caused streets to flood. Most of the group went to get massages, which was a big highlight, while the rest went to get some US food and do some shopping. The group that went to get food found this restaurant that had great wood fired pizza and refreshments. We all met up after that and went back to the hotel.

Water Puppet Show