As complex and layered a country as any other, Vietnam has plenty of unique features to offer students on an educational tour, from its striking geography to its multifaceted history to its great literary tradition, and much more besides – all within a distinctive culture that will be new to many students. From Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, and throughout the towns and countryside in between, there is much to intrigue and inspire – read on for a taste.
War Remnants Museum
Students of history who have spent any time learning about Vietnam will know something of its time under French rule, and its subsequent conflict with the USA, but in the Western world this country’s history is often studied in a Western context; as an educational tour of Vietnam will show, this is hardly even the tip of the iceberg. The monuments and museums of the country’s chief city all open windows on different eras and shine light on certain details of the past, and as such are all worth a visit. For those who have studied the Vietnam War, one museum that stands out is the War Remnants Museum, which lets visitors deepen their understanding of that conflict and its legacy in Vietnamese terms. It contains displays of artefacts and information on various elements of the war, including military equipment, photographs, and information on the use and effects of napalm and Agent Orange – a sobering but illuminating place, and one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most popular attractions.
Temple of Literature
Although it happened before many visitors were born, the Vietnam War is recent history, and is preceded by centuries of civilisation and change. For a taste of a vastly different era, educational tour groups may want to visit the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, a Confucian temple constructed in 1070 and home to the Imperial Academy – the first national university to be founded in Vietnam. This close connection between religion and scholarship is an important feature of Confucianism, and these ideas can be explored alongside the physical buildings, gardens and courtyards of the temple.
For those planning a geography-based educational tour to Vietnam, Halong Bay is not to be missed from the itinerary. The name of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, literally speaking, means ‘Descending Dragon Bay’, a hint at the fact that it has fascinated and enchanted all who have seen it since time immemorial. The often-misted bay is populated with thousands of looming islands and rocks of varying size, which have been formed over 500 million years to result in shapes that are not to be found anywhere else in the world. Many of the individual islands have particular legends attached to them, while several of them are home to caves displaying remnants of ancient civilisations, as well as being rich in rare and diverse flora and fauna.