12.02.2013 - 21.02.2013 92 °F
Wow! It has been a long time since I have written a blog post. I apologize for such a long wait to all of those who are living vicariously through me and my travels; I have just been so busy with exploring the countries and keeping up with my studies while aboard the ship. I have found some time though and would like to share my experience of Vietnam and Singapore.
When we started sailing through the Saigon River my mind started to race, thinking about my previous experience in such an interesting country. As many of you may know, I did not have the best time in Vietnam a year ago. To be honest, I really was not looking forward to returning. I was anxious and on my toes as we pulled up to the dock. I could see the excitement from all of those around me, crowding the decks in excitement for a new port, a new country, but all I could see was an upset face, returning to the ship because something was stolen or someone was drugged. Even writing about it now brings back the bad memories I had from that country. I had to put all those memories aside because this is a different voyage and anything is bound to happen. It took some time to rid myself of those memories, but as soon as I touched the asphalt on the dock I started to smile. “Off to a new and exciting adventure!” I thought to myself, and keeping a thought like that in my head really helped me have a wonderful and amazing experience this time in Vietnam. I was prepared for the worst so therefore I had nothing on me, no credit card, no backpack and especially no iPhone.
My first day in the port I had a field lab, a program lead by my professor of marketing. We went to the Mekong Delta to learn about certain businesses and how they market certain items. What I did not realize is that it would be an identical trip from something I went on independently (not through SAS) with a group of friends on my last voyage. As soon as we pulled up to the Delta on our bus I knew exactly what was going to happen. It actually was a great thing to do a trip twice because I could look at each of the destinations in a different aspect and gain more of an insight on how the businesses are operating there. Sometimes having previous experience can help tremendously. If you would like to read about the specifics of the trip I would encourage you to read my post from Vietnam on this blog site from my last voyage. I would delve into the details of my journey, but it is too repetitive for me and I would rather focus on this new adventure, not lament about the old.
While we were in Vietnam the Tet festival was going on. Similar to the Chinese New Year, Tet is a celebration of a new year where businesses close down and locals visit their families to bring in luck and prosperity for a new beginning. The streets were not crowded with motorbikes; instead, they were covered in flowers, lights and thousands of families. It was quite a spectacle and a great way to see a different Vietnam. I spent my time walking the streets for the majority of my time in Vietnam. I would notice the division of poverty and wealth, high and low classes. While some may have been taken back by the poverty in Vietnam, it was nothing to what I have seen in parts of Africa and India, the students on this voyage have no idea what is coming. For one of the days there I traveled to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an area where American soldiers fought against Vietnamese. On my last voyage I remember going to the War Remnants Museum and getting very upset about our involvement with Vietnam, the destruction we brought to provide democracy. Well, the Vietnamese won and it is a communist government, prospering much more than the US imagined it could. When I went to Cu Chi I was expecting a similar response, one of dislike towards Americans. It actually took a different turn and this time I was actually upset with the Vietnamese. When I look back on both experiences I can only feel indifferent. They both had their stories for describing the war and to me it was simply unjust on both sides, neither gains sympathy, more empathy than anything else. I booked the trip with my friend Brad and we were the only two Americans on the trip, the rest were from Australia, Russia or Malaysia and they had very little knowledge of the Vietnam War. For Brad and I, it was very hard to be on that tour as a citizen of a country that has done so much destruction. The hardest parts for me were the descriptions and hatred towards Americans. Our tour guide would describe how the traps would kill American soldiers and the awful ways they tortured them. Just walking through the area made me feel uncomfortable and I would see how the other tourists would joke about how the soldiers were killed. I had to stand back at times and almost hide my identity, I did not want to be an American, especially at that moment in time. We crawled through the tunnels and it was so dark and muggy, anyone that is claustrophobic would not have been able to make it. We were at the end of the tour, crawling through the tunnels and I suddenly had a panic attack, assuming that someone was going to come out of the dark corner and kill me. I went fast and found my way out of an exit, gasping for air when I reached the surface. At the end of our tour we watched a video on the tunnels and how they were used. There was one part of the video talking about a 14 year-old girl that received many medals for being an “American Killer.” Someone so young was destroying the lives of others, regardless of the reasons, it sent tingles down my spine to know that our veterans were fighting against teenagers.
The tour also reiterated my observations and beliefs on how Americans travel. I have traveled to many countries and the one thing that is consistent with all of my travels is the interaction Americans have with the locals versus those of other nationalities and their interactions. It is clear to me that Americans are some of the best, kindest, and respectable travelers in this world, and this comes strictly through observation. I am not sure why Americans are better compared to other travelers, but my suspicion is that the opportunity to travel abroad is not as prevalent as it is in other countries. I would like to rate travelers from different nationalities starting from the best to the worst. This is not meant to offend those of other nationalities, rather to raise the question of why I feel this way, think about what you do when you travel and how others view you when in another country. Having an idea of what others think can affect how great travel can be. The list is as follows:
Germany, unfortunately, has the rudest and worst travelers that I have witnessed while traveling the world, not just on this voyage but in all of my previous travel. For me I just ask “Why?” and maybe this is something I can explore as I build a career on tourism.
I would now like to talk about my experience in Singapore. On my last voyage I was there for twelve hours, this time around I got a whopping two days! Woo!
Again, on my first day in the country I had a field lab to explore leadership in Singapore. I would really encourage you to read on the SAS Blog about out time there, a famous author joined us on the trip and wrote a great review of everything we did. You can also see a couple pictures of me! Here is the link:
Singapore is a very expensive country and the cost of living is outrageous. I found out that the Prime Minister makes $3.4 million a year and if you don’t know, President Barack Obama and all before and after him can only make $400 thousand a year. It is crazy to me that the most powerful country in the world and its leaders make less than a tiny island in Asia. Because everything is so expensive I didn’t do much in Singapore, mainly walked the streets, drank some beer, and ate lots of seafood. I wish there was more to talk about, but alas I really don’t know what to tell you about my time there. I had a great two days and got to catch up with my family and girlfriend, but other than that I could only look forward to our next country, Myanmar-a new one for me on this voyage.
I would like to leave you with this quote about travel by Samuel Johnson, “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”