So I stopped updating for a while there. My bad. As a result, you'll get a really brief overview of our central region tour, and then I'll tell you about Saigon, and maybe if you're lucky I'll go back sometime and give a more in depth description of the central region. But probably not.
Day 1: Hue. The day before Tet. We went to a beautiful old Pagoda, and went to an orphanage, and toured the Imperial city and some emperor's tombs.
Day 2 & 3: Hoi An- a really touristy town, near the beach. The only academically interesting thing from our time there was our visit to the My Son ruins, which were pretty awesome. We also had a great cooking class, along the river in a totally surreal location. Other than that we spent our time swimming, eating, and walking around the beautiful town.
Day 4: Long bus ride along the Ho Chi Minh trail (now a highway) through jungle still visibly damaged by the war. We spent the evening in Pleiku, a fairly uninteresting city in the highlands and well off the normal tourist path. The highlight of the day was walking around a minority village while taking pictures of the beautiful scenery. (The dirt there is redder than in Utah, and contrasting that with the green of rice fields makes for some intense color.)
Day 5 & 6: Ho Lak. After visiting a museum and a beautiful temple, we drove to Lak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Vietnam. We stayed in a traditional longhouse at a resort, and saw a performance of traditional dancing our first night there. The next day we rode elephants (I felt a bit guilty- I doubt they were humanely treated) and then walked around another minority town, in which we were chased by children who screamed and ran away whenever we looked at them. Then, best of all, we learned how to properly make a cup of Vietnamese coffee.
Day 7: Bus ride to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), which took 12 hours.
I've been in Saigon for about a week and a half now. I have a new roommate named Yến, who I get along with very well. I'm starting to know my way around the city. Classes are in full swing now, which sucks because we have so much less free time, but oh well, this is supposed to be school after all. We live in District 1, the downtown area of the city, so we're in a more expensive part of town and it's fairly touristy, which has its good and bad sides. We're actually about 2 blocks away from the US, British and French consulates which is kinda neat. The traffic here is crazier than in Hanoi, which I would not have thought possible. It hasn't been as hot here as I was afraid of. I definitely need the air conditioner on in my room, but it's never so bad outside that I don't want to leave my room. Overall, I really like the city so far.
Last weekend we went to a resort town called Mui Ne to get to know our roommates better. We spent the whole morning on the beach/in the hotel pool, and in the afternoon we went to a sand dune area nearby that made me feel like I was in Africa or on the moon or something. I ended the day extremely sunburned.
Well, that's all for now. I'm sure there are many more interesting things I could tell you about, but I can't think of a single one at the moment. So, goodbye for now.