Junior spends summer in VietNam
By Stephy Varughese
Volume 3 Issue 1
November 7, 2022
Image provided by Hotels.com
For summer vacation,11th-grade student and North Star/Polaris member, Catherine Duong, traveled to Southern Vietnam for two months to visit her family. Catherine was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Southern Vietnam. Her ethnic background is of both Chinese and Vietnamese descent. Health and safety concerns forced her family to move from Southern Vietnam to the US when she was two. I interviewed Catherine to discover more about her visit to Vietnam and to learn more about her recent experience there.
Why did you go to Vietnam? Whom did you go with?
"I went to Vietnam to reconnect with my mom's side of the family after a few years since I've traveled due to COVID. I went with my younger sibling and my mom for the two-month vacation."
What was the terrain like?
"Vietnam's general terrain is mountainous and mostly jungle."
What sites did you see? What were your favorite spots?
"I didn't go sightseeing this year, but I've encountered a lot of large religious temples and some mountains!"
Where did you stay?
"I stayed at my grandma and grandpa's house, having three floors in total."
What did you do?
"During my vacation, I have mainly spent good quality time with my mom's family, having one grandma/grandpa, four cousins, and four aunts and uncles. We visited the beachside in Vung Tau, Vietnam, going on a yacht ride, to the HUGE malls, and simply playing board/card games."
How was the food there? Are there any special dishes?
"The food in Vietnam commonly has some spicy flavor, whether it's Sriracha sauce or peppers at the side or incorporated. Vietnam also is somewhat known to use the freshest ingredients to make their dishes by buying from outdoor/night markets that have the animal still alive. Dishes like Pho and Banh Mi (baguettes) are some dish examples that are famously known and enjoyed across the world!"
What surprised you about Vietnam? Did you learn anything new while you were there?
"I'm surprised that I didn't know this at the start, but one thing I've noticed is that in EVERY house/store you come across, there will be at least one small Buddhist shrine. Vietnam's main religion is Buddhism, and based on that observation, I can assume they are semi-religious or fully."
Are there any celebrations/traditions you were part of while in Vietnam?
"There was one! It was where I was at the yacht party for a family member's birthday, and that was a fun time for sure. A personal tradition my family would do is they would have a full family feast once in a while at a fancy restaurant."
Was there a language barrier?
"Between my family, there is barely a language barrier since most of my family knows how to speak English or understood the basics, but between strangers? Yes, there was. The problem I have was to speak back in Vietnamese (which I didn't study much of) in order for me to communicate to them, but I've been relying on my mom for translating and communication."
What do you dislike about Vietnam?
"I will say that how Americans view Vietnam is what I dislike since the Vietnam War has been seen to be some kind of joke (the "Vietnam flashback") and how communism restricts citizens/foreigners from [discuss]ing certain topics. I've tried talking to my family about communism, which made them very uncomfortable."
What do you want people to know about Vietnam?
"I want people to know that between Vietnam and the USA's inflation rate is VERY high. Having one dollar is equal to about 23,865 Vietnamese Dollars (VND)! Even a penny is worth a lot in Vietnam, which citizens in the US have the upper hand with the economy."
Do you recommend people to visit Vietnam?
"Since I've only been to Southern Vietnam of Ho Chi Minh City, I can recommend people visiting there! Just be sure to bring LOADS of sunscreen and swim gear since Vietnam is known for its humid weather and wet/dry seasons. If you are a person who loves to go out to shop, whether it be day or night and explore, then Vietnam will be a perfect place for you! "
It was interesting to learn about Vietnam from Catherine. There were things I didn't know about Vietnam, such as its many Buddhist temples and the different foods there! I was fortunate to view the many fascinating pictures she shared with me, which leads me to believe that Vietnam is now a beautiful place to discover and enjoy. It’s truly a wonderful place to explore. If Vietnam seems like a place you'd want to visit, put it on your bucket list for your next vacation!