Ealing: St Benedict's students visit Vietnam

Climbing into a cramped tunnel

Climbing into a cramped tunnel

St Benedict's History department led a fascinating trip to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in October. Students from Years 11 and 13 enjoyed stunning scenery and returned with an enriched understanding of Vietnamese history and culture.

The very first day of the trip was packed with interesting experiences. Having landed in Hanoi very early in the morning, and after a traditional Vietnamese breakfast of Banh Mi (a Vietnamese baguette), the students visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, to file respectfully past Ho Chi Minh's body. They were then given a taste of Vietnam's beautiful natural landscape with a boat cruise around Halong Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site that has been designated one of the "New 7 Wonders of the World". Head of History Nicola Nicholls said: "The scenery was breath-taking, and the students were given the opportunity to kayak to their own private beach where they played volleyball in the sea. We also explored some of the multiple sea caves. This was certainly an experience I don't think any of us will ever forget."

A two-hour journey to Vung Tau took them to the site of the Battle of Long Tan (18th August 1966), and a visit to an Australian army base, with its memorial for the soldiers lost in the battle. Afterwards there was an opportunity to meet people who had experienced the war. From here they visited the War Remnants Museum, which was was studded with planes, tanks, and a grounded American plane - a national treasure of Vietnam. Finally, the group visited Diem's presidential palace, now the Reunification Palace.

Sixth Form student Chris Moran said: "Seeing the size of the Cu Chi Tunnels tunnels, that the Vietnamese people were forced to live in during the Vietnam war, gave us a real insight into the living conditions. Hoang, our tour guide, explained to us that many Vietnamese people would be born and then live inside the tunnels for the duration of the French Indochina War and the Civil War - 30 years - which I found staggering."

Elikem Nornoo, in Year 5, said: "The lack of anger and vengeance in a country which has been through so much was humbling, and their determination to build their country for a bright new future was inspiring."

Tags: St Benedict's School, Ealing, Vietnam

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