In Their World


UD and DMC students gathered for a photograph before splitting into groups for the day. (Photo credit: Sun Kumphak)

Today we visited the Department of Media and Communication (DMC) to experience life as a college student in Cambodia.  The purpose of today’s tripwas not only to understand the differences between the University of Delaware and the Royal University of Phnom Penn, but also to experience the differences between students growing up in completely different cultures.

The morning consisted of back and forth Power Points and questions regarding culture, family life, education, work, extra-curricular, and fun.  We got to experience their fun first-hand as we went off to explore Phnom Penh.  No two groups had the same experience as you can see in the slideshow, and each will cherish their memories forever.


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(Images in video by: Amelia Wang, Kimberly Blasnik, Lauren Wilson, Kerry Snyder, Kevin Chang, Katie Bonanno, Kun Chenda, Courtney Dressler)

One experience started with a tuk-tuk ride to Meitei restaurant serving authentic Khmer cuisine.  Our guides selected a variety of dishes that reminded them of home, which was convenient for us because the menu was completely in Khmer.  After lunch, they took us to the market to buy souvenirs for home and helped us barter with merchants.  Then, they took us to an eight story mall, which they called the supermarket.  We had lots of fun in the game room and followed up with ice cream sundaes and funny pictures.  Next, they gave us a tuk-tuk tour of Phnom Penh, pointing out all the major cultural landmarks, including the S-21 prison.  Back at the University, we were sad to say goodbye but happy about the friendships we made.

We finished the night off with a full group dinner held on the terrace of the FCC Boutique Hotel.  All in all, the day’s activities were fun but what we will remember most was the conversations we had and the laughs we shared.


A picture perfect moment.  (Photobooth picture)


Tunnels, Borders, and Cambodia, Oh My!

Our day began with our bags being loaded onto our bus at 8:00am and all of us waving goodbye to Saigon. The bus ventured on toward the Cu Chi Tunnels, which would be our next and last stop in Vietnam before entering Cambodia.


The Cu Chi Tunnels were home to 16,000 Vietcong soldiers and their family members during the war.  Surrounding the tunnels were remnants of bomb craters.  The tunnels were a highly complex system used by the Vietcong to evade American soldiers and their attacks and were laced with secret passageways and horrifying booby-traps. This experience was especially unique because we were allowed to traverse through an old tunnel, which was extremely small, built for the tiny frames of the Vietnamese.  It was difficult to imagine that people could survive in the tunnels for many years seeing little sunlight and being restricted to such small quarters.  The tunnels they built extended throughout a large area, connecting villages and could be as deep as 10 meters below the surface.


We then drove toward Cambodia and, with heavy hearts, we said farewell to our Vietnamese tour guide, Son.  Upon our arrival at the border gates we had to abandon our bus and walk a quarter of a mile with all of our belongings across the border to Cambodia.


After the border crossing we took a ferry across the Mekong River.  We then drove through rural Cambodia with a seemingly endless view of rice fields and water buffalo with small towns scattered throughout the countryside, until we finally arrived in Phnom Penh around 7:00pm.  The city is much smaller than Ho Chi Minh City and there is a very noticeable culture difference from the Vietnamese culture, but seems every bit as exciting.  We can’t wait to see it in daylight!


Link to video of us making our way through thirty meters of the underground tunnels at the Cu Chi Tunnels. (Video by Kimberly Blasnik)


Link to video: A small taste of the Cambodian countryside shot from our tour bus en route to Phnom Penh. (Video by Rhiannon Hare)


Mark Bacchetta standing in a secret tunnel entrance at the Cu Chi Tunnels. (Photograph by Rhiannon Hare)


The group listening to our beloved tour guide Son speak about a bomb crater at the Cu Chi Tunnels. (Picture by Erica Firestone)


We had a wonderful dinner right on the Mekong River upon our arrival in Phnom Penh. (Photo by Erica Firestone)

Three Boats, a Horse Cart, and a Bus

Our day began early, busing from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta. En route, we visited a Taoist temple where we witnessed monks performing traditional prayer rituals. After arriving at the Mekong Delta, we boarded a motorboat, which brought us to a small island. Waiting for us at the island were even smaller motorboats, which took us deeper into the narrow canals branching from the Mekong. After cruising through the slender canals, we came to a local coconut candy factory, where we tried raw coconut, jasmine tea, crystallized ginger, banana chips, and coconut candy. Afterwards, we hopped back onto the motorboats and traveled to another part of the island where we rode in horse carts. Our guides led us through a rural village to an outdoor restaurant where they served us mango, jack fruit, rambutan, pineapple, and dragon fruit. After listening to some local Vietnamese singers and instrumentalists, we boarded gondola-style paddleboats. After another boat change, we came to a riverside restaurant for lunch. We made spring rolls with fresh elephant ear fish and ate coconut cooked rice, fresh prawn, and chicken soup.

Once lunch was over, we traveled back to Ho Chi Minh City by bus. At a market, we were given Vietnamese currency and searched for treats for the local orphans. At the orphanage, housed at a pagoda, we met the monk who was the orphanage’s director.  There were about one hundred children of different ages. Although they were shy at first, they became more comfortable with us as we got to know them. One of the older orphans, who spoke English, led us around the pagoda on a tour. We also had the opportunity to hand out candy. As it became dark, we said our goodbyes and traveled back to our hotel, where we were free to explore the city and get dinner in small groups.

Written by Katie Bonanno, Tori Bonner, Kevin Chang, and Brittany HazzardG2_B1_P1

The group boards a motor boat at the beginning of our adventure on the Mekong river (Katie Bonanno)

Our tour guide, Mr. Son, poses with the delicious elephant ear fish we enjoyed for lunch today (Kevin Chang)

Cristian and Erica meet an adorable Vietnamese baby at the orphanage in Saigon (Kevin Chang)

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War began in 1959 and ended in 1975.  The war was a battle between Vietnamese forces that wanted to bring a communist government to power.  The United States became involved with the help of South Vietnam to stop the Vietnamese from reaching this goal, thus, stopping the spread of communism. The US were still sticking to the Cold War policy of Containment, which mean putting an end to the spread of communism.

The first shots were fired at Americans in August 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin, after that President Lyndon Johnson ordered the first ground troops to enter Vietnam in March 1965.

The Viet Cong were usually well supplied and set up dozens of different, complicated, and stomach-wrenching traps.  Stepping on the wrong patch of grass could put you in a ditch full of long metal spikes. Not watching your step could lead you into different kinds of spiked traps that would spin or grab in any which way. The Viet Cong, commonly referred to as the VC in Vietnam, also had a complex tunnel system to hide from American GIs.  More than one hundred miles of small, dark, and hot tunnels can be found in Vietnam.  More than 16,000 VC and their family members were down in the tunnels at one point.  There were different layers in the system, going deeper and deeper into the earth.

US GIs and South Vietnamese troops couldn’t find the VC hiding in their tunnels and in the thick brush.  This led US troops to drop Agent Orange, a combination of Herbicide Orange and Agent LNX on the area.  In addition to Agent Orange troops also dropped Napalm, a gelling medium mixed with petroleum.  The name comes from napthentic acid and palmitic acid.

1969 President Nixon came into office and worked to put a peaceful end to the war.  In doing so he brought the war into Laos and Cambodia.

In 1973 a cease-fire agreement came about from the talks in Paris. This led to the removal of the last US troops on March 29, 1973

After the US troops left fighting continued until April 30, 1975 when the South Vietnamese government surrendered to North Vietnam.  On July 2, 1976, the country came together and reunified as a communist country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

In total nearly 1.5 million military personnel from each side died during the way and about 4 million civilians were killed. Nearly 7 million tons of bomb were dropped on Vietnam and the surrounding areas during the war.

The Vietnam War, ending not even 40 years ago, is still having an impact on Vietnamese people. Agent Orange can cause severe birth defects and in some cases death and Vietnamese people are still suffering from this today.

Exploring Ho Chi Minh City

I stated in my first post that there would be groups posting blogs and I would be posting in addition to them.  Here is the first blog post by one of the groups (it coincides with my post: “1/4/13”)

We started off our first full day in Vietnam with a walking tour around Ho Chi Minh City. We stopped at the Reunification Palace, the Post Office, and the Cathedral. While all these sights were amazing, what really struck us was the Vietnamese culture. There are virtually no traffic rules, but everyone seemed to know what they were doing. Mopeds flooded the streets and many others were parked along the sidewalk. The foot traffic was also much more relaxed than we were used to from American cities.

We also stopped at the War Remnants Museum, which was a very emotional experience. As Americans, we have always seen the Vietnam War through a filtered lens, but getting to see the Vietnamese point of view really opened our eyes to the atrocities that occurred.

In the afternoon, we visited a local market where we experienced a completely different shopping environment. Vendors were coming at us from every angle, trying to get our attention so we would buy from their stand. Once we showed interest, the bartering began. Our tour guide advised us to only pay half the asking price, but it was intimidating trying to get the price that low. Nonetheless, we had a good time and left with plenty of good finds.

For dinner, we were welcomed into the home of a local Vietnamese family in a large house on an island. They spoke to us about their Buddhist faith and the relics they kept in their home. They then showed us how to make spring rolls and supplied us with the ingredients to make them ourselves. Our attempted results were a starring feature of the meal that followed. The family spread out around the table so that we could ask questions and learn about the meal we were eating. We were impressed by their hospitality and amused by their young daughter who snapped photographs of the group throughout our visit.


Motor Bikes waiting for their turn to drive on the Ho Chi Minh streets. (Stephanie Wirth)


Crowds of vendors anxiously awaiting their next sale. (Kimberly Blasnik)


The entire group with our local hosts. (One of our hosts!)

The video, as promised:


Today we got out first chance to go out into the city and experience life in Ho Chi Minh–our tour guide really loves the name “Saigon” though so he always refers to the city using it’s older name.   We headed out in two small groups and followed our guides, who expertly stopped traffic to let us cross the busy streets.  There are about 9 million people in this city and of those 9 million about 5 million have small electric bikes to get them from place to place.  The drivers of these bikes somehow managed to avoid hitting each other, pedestrians, and cars. I don’t know how they can even manage to stay calm when they’re surrounded by dozens of other bikes and cars all zigzagging around each other to get to where they need to go…. I don’t think I’d be able to do it.

E_DSC0049Bikes (Melanie Cleary)

We visited the War Remnants Museum, which was sad and strange because many of the artifacts had to do with the damage caused by American actions. We spent an hour moving from room to room looking at photographs and learning the stories.

From the Museum we got onto a bus and went to the post office. It was a big old building with high ceilings and shops on either side.

Next we went to lunch.  We were brought out several different dishes and we ate a little bit of everything.  The first dish was some kind of potato pancake with fries and shrimp in it and it was delicious.  Next was a shrimp and pork spring rolly thing, it was good, but my least favorite.  We also had pumpkin (squash) and pork soup, sweet and sour squid, cured pork, rice, steamed vegetables and some watermelon and pineapple to finish it off.

From lunch we headed to the marketplace where you could find knock off designer goods, handmade items, jewelry, food, water and basically everything between. In case you are unaware, 1 USD is = ~20840.02 Vietnamese Dong. We haggled with shop owners until the price was right and handed over the dong. When we were boarding the bus to head back to the hotel a man was selling big water bottles for 10,000 dong each- Since filtered water is a necessity a lot of us stocked up, considering he was charging basically 50 cents for each one. What a bargain

Ho Chi Minh City

We’re here! It might’ve taken us nearly two days  but we are all here in our (air conditioned) hotel!  Ho Chi Minh City, which is also know by its former name Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam.  The average temperature for the month of January is 79 degrees and although it is the dry season (December-April) the average humidity is about 75%.


Tomorrow: Expect some photographs of the city– we are taking a walking tour of the city and photos will be uploaded!



made it to shanghai

after what felt like forever we all made it to Shanghai and we are currently waiting for our next flight. we were offered some interesting food options on our way here- I took a quick picture but this wifi connection won’t let me upload it. It’s 9:10 pm in Shanghai but we’ll be traveling back a time zone we’ll be an easy twelve hours ahead of those on the east coast. we’re boarding now! talk to you all soon!




update: the picture of the food!

the waiting game

so time is ticking down and almost all of us are here at he gate waiting to board. the airport is full of ud students today. we have another program on our flight with us and there are at least two other groups somewhere else in the airport.