I was particularly captivated by the Independence Palace. Having read about the palace as it was overrun during the Tet Offensive, it felt quite surreal standing in the very same place next to the replica of the tank that broke through the gates.
The luxurious furnishings with bright red and gold left exactly how they were at the end of the Vietnam War were a stark illustration of the divide between the rich and poor. Megan - Day 1 Journal entry.
The temple structure itself was built to reflect and symbolise all the religions. We witnessed the midday ceremony that is filled with a combination of religious prayer to convey the feeling of not only inclusivity, but also unity and peace - Vy.
Today’s visit to the Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh provided a glimpse into Vietnam’s culture and presented a hopeful and idealistic view of human cooperation, tolerance and inclusivity -Indigo.
By walking through the underground tunnels and the battlefields, and seeing how the soldiers lived, ate, and worked in horrendous conditions, one thing appealed to me: the Vietnamese values of patience and resourcefulness. The tunnels were cleverly designed so that each of the compartments had a specific purpose, and that they went to such great levels to gain an edge over the enemy. As our tour guide showed us, the Viet Cong created clever snares and traps from stray wood, made bombs from remnants, and designed sturdy, hidden tunnels to outsmart the enemy. In the video and through Bien’s explanations, we learnt how the Vietnamese valorised the resourcefulness and motivation of their soldiers, quite similar to how we commemorate the ANZAC spirit - Aryan.
The first thing I noticed in the narrow, dark, muddy tunnels was the blistering humidity. After just 15 minutes below ground I had beads of sweat dripping from my face, which really made me consider the harsh lives that the Vietnamese people would have experienced being down there for up to 10 days at a time. Seeing the many ingenious solutions that the Vietcong used to stay hidden, such as diverting the cooking smoke away from the tunnels, and using American rubbish to throw search dogs off the Vietnamese scent, as well as the gruesome spike traps buried throughout the jungle, really made me shift my view on the Vietcong and the war as a whole. I can now see the resourcefulness and immense motivation the Vietcong had in their attempts to defend their country in the face of foreign threat - Shaun.
I found the tunnels particularly interesting, as we were able to walk (or sometimes crawl) through the complex system, knowing that not too long ago they were being used in warfare. The tunnels were expertly crafted, with different bunkers and levels, and airshafts that were disguised as termite mounds or rocks - Verity.
The Long Tan Cross was enclosed by a chain, which was abundant with poppies, from other Australians who had previously paid their respects. Unlike previous destinations, the mood and atmosphere was incredibly sombre and reflective. While at Long Tan, I felt like I was home, knowing this was ground where Australians fought and died against a much larger force, embodying the ANZAC spirit - Madeline.
Transfer from Hue to Hanoi - Day 9.
Temple of Literature - Hanoi.
The temple was a beautifully preserved school, and each of its compartments had a specific focus. What I was most impressed by was the amazing improvised singing and dancing rituals in the temple, where the importance of family and balance was stressed through costuming. The various paintings and flags brought together the various values of their religion, namely peace and unity, through colour and animals - Aryan.
Our exploration of the Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi provided us with a glimpse of human brutality and hope for future change. The prison was built by the French in 1896, and was used to brutally imprison, torture and kill thousands of Vietnamese prisoners, many of whom were fighting for independence. As we walked through the prison’s hot, stuffy rooms we observed the horrible conditions that the Vietnamese were forced to live in. The prisoners had shackles on their feet, didn’t have enough food or water, and had no proper toilets, only a bucket in the middle of the room - Indigo.
To walk through the place where the French powers dominated over the Vietnamese people in such a strong way was disturbing, but made me appreciate the hardships of the Vietnamese nation before the Vietnam War even began. Seeing the prison provided me with some context for the war and the ideologies that could have been formed because of living in this way - Darcy.
The ANZAC day service in Hanoi was intimate and solemn- a nice way to reflect on what we had learnt about the Australian soldiers in Vietnam, as well as remember all those that fought for their countries freedom and peace. Seeing all the different countries represented in the wreath laying: Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, France and Great Britain, to me was a symbol of the importance of remembering times of war and treasuring the world we live in today where countries who were previously enemies could commemorate together - Megan.
As the Last Post played and we partook in a minute’s silence, I thought of all the stories from the Vietnam War of courage, mateship and sacrifice that we had heard from all sides during our tour of the country. People like Colonel Viet displayed the same spirit shown by the original Aussie and Kiwi diggers who landed at Gallipoli. It is truly astounding that we have a day to commemorate and honour the sacrifices of those who have fought for their country and to remember the importance of peace. Anzac Day is a very special day indeed - Indigo.