Some Reflections

So we are all back home and now fully immersed in the routine of daily life.

As part of the trip the students had to keep a diary and then write a reflection (for assessment) paper on their thoughts triggered by their experiences. It is always interesting to read these papers and be privy to the thoughts and feelings of somebody who you have just shared a wide range of experiences. As an assignment I wonder what we would do if somebody failed it – would we ever have the situation where we had to ask a student to do a supplementary piece of assessment. Would it be something like you must cross this busy road against the 9million motor scooters and then bargain with the shopkeeper for a special price – maybe a bit to hard😊

In reading these reflection papers several things strike you, firstly how different and personal is the tour for each person, secondly how many of the same things touch a cord for people, thirdly how wonderful travel is for taking you outside your comfort zone (physically, mentally, emotionally) and allowing you to learn about the world and yourself, then just how important are something’s that are impossible to communicate their importance before hand and finally just how important is fun in exploring and learning.

Overwhelmingly the ladies viewed the trip as a success. A success in many ways. It was fun, it was educational, it was confirmation that they had made a wise choice, they learnt about themselves, others and of course they experienced Vietnam – it really is an amazing country at many levels.

Things that touched them (in no particular order or importance) – the people, the shopping, the food, crossing the road, the Vietnamese students, it was different to what they expected, the concept of personal space, the war, the traffic (especially from the back of a motor scooter) the resilience of both the people and the place, shopping ( and service), different places (Halong Bay for example), how luck we are, how dissatisfied we are – the list goes on…..

One of the things that was mention and reflected on by each was the time spent with the UEH students doing the micro research projects, This was seen as a highlight of the trip. A fact they found interesting give pre-departure this was viewed as the ‘boring work element’. I look forward to trying to convince next year’s group it will be fun.

I fact I look forward to next year’s trip – these tours have offered so much and have been transformational for so many and yes that a good fun ( mostly πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚)

So some quotes from the ladies to help sell it next year

“This study tour will become one of the unforgettable memories during my student life.”

“Before travelling to Vietnam my thoughts and feelings about the country where very narrow-minded. After returning home I have realized that Vietnam is a lot more than people think in their minds and Australia and Vietnam are similar in many ways. This trip has been a big eye opener on what I have in Australia and the privileged life that we all lead.”

“Going on the study tour is something that is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a wonderful way to end your university life. I got to do, see and experience things that one hopes to when they travel but don’t know how too. The amazing itinerary and although jam packed and tiring at times served us with an array of activities that will stay with me forever. This trip has allowed me to appreciate a country that many don’t think of immediately when they travel, whereas I know for a fact that I will be returning to whether it is for another vacation or to work”

“This will be something I will remember for the rest of my life so thank you and I hope you continue on with this great adventure so students in the future are able to have the same opportunities as we have.”

“This is something I do not think I would ever have had the opportunity to do on other tours or travelling by myself.”

Hopefully we can convince others that these tours are a worth while effort (thanks Tim from the ladies and me) and next year we can take another group on their own amazing experience.

As for the happy Buddha – I think it is time to grab a blue stool, a couple of Hanoi bitters and a plate of fresh spring rolls and wander down to check on the water buffalo.

Oh….. Thanks to those many people (far more than I ever thought possible – just short of 1500 views) in 6 countries who followed our little adventure – I enjoyed having a go at the blog




Welcome home from Dr. Tim

To the weary international travellers,

Welcome back and I just wanted to say that I have really enjoyed being able to follow the study tour to Vietnam. Your posts and photos have given us back at home a great sense of the tour and your experiences.

One of the things that you might not have realised is just how much and how wide of a connection the blog has provided for others. For example, in the case of the Hall household it has not only been myself following your travels but also my family, and with that in mind please see attached message from C….. Hall aged 7.


Dr Tim Hall
Academic Course Advisor (Hospitality Management & Sport Management)






Well it is over.

Back home and the last days are now all a blur.
Last minute shopping in Hanoi – and some of it was very last minute with a dash to the shops just moments before we were to jump on the bus. I even managed to find that one gift I needed to buy.

So Hanoi airport to Ho Chi Minh – a short flight – highlight the most interesting meal I have had on a plane for ages 😟

Ho Chi Minh – it was time to say good bye to Kelly and Tran πŸ˜₯ Kelly staying on and Tran returning home. For Tran I wonder what she made of her travels with us – I know from a couple of her comments that it was fun ( apparently sitting in the front of the kayak we shared despite how wet she was πŸ˜‚ was one her highlights) – I was impressed how she joined us – for our travels – I think she was quite brave.

Walking to the international terminal took us past the very spot that our Vietnam adventure began – it now seemed less chaotic, hot, new, different…… It now seemed to be so much more farmiliar.

The flight home was uneventful – well almost uneventful – one poor flight crew was trapped by one of the ladies – caught by her uniform by a closing toilet door. Stuck fast, trapped with trolley and her colleague pinned by toilet door. A few tugs on the uniform confirmed her fears… It was her colleague who escalated the situation – first she smiled then the humour of the situation hit home, she laughed. We had two trapped flight attendants laughing at each other trapped, waiting, waiting waiting till the door was finally pushed open.

Sydney, duty free purchased, time to have a go at the new e-passport scanning ( apparently I look like my passport photo – this cannot be a good thing 😱), customs negotiated, it was time to step back to the reality of home.

Mums, boyfriends, friends all there. Goodbyes said 😒 So the adventure over.
(to those that bet the old Buddha was not capable of bringing the ladies back in one piece you did your money – I know I lost $10 😒)

All that remains to do for the trip now is some of the paper work – convincing the accountants that taxi drivers won’t give receipts for $2 fares ( taxis are sooooo cheap) and writing up a report that attempts to justify the tour as a worthwhile educational undertaking.
That will be easy, convincing the accountants not so 😊)


One tired but very happy Buddha.

The Princesses Diary – the tale continues

The Princess tale (and Royal photos) as told by Princess Phoebe.

Once upon a time………

And the princesses have returned.

Since our last chapter, the princesses have had the opportunity to visit a world heritage site on their own boat (living the royal life). But before this trip, they had the chance to explore Hanoi on bikes once again, although this time living much more on the wild side and using no hands to hold on (sorry to the mothers of the princesses reading this). As princesses are required to undertake royal duties such as visiting palaces, paying respects to one of the most influential people in history and attempting to complete literature before being distracted by fellow Princess Colin (sorry Tim, blame Princess Colin!).

The ability to bargain has been further developed as well as learning the art of Vietnamese (I know how to say chicken and beef Pho – I am set). The princesses also had a lot of courage as they decided to eat A CREATURE. Although they were quite unsure what this creature was but determined that it tasted like peanut butter on chicken.

All in all, the princesses had a wonderful time experiencing new cuisines, languages, people & culture.

On a serious note, this tour has been more than I expected it would be as it has allowed me to basically start friendships from scratch and to also experience a country that one would not think of automatically when deciding to travel. But in my opinion it is definitely in my favourite places that I have fallen in love with. As this is our last day I want to take a moment to say that it has been a pleasure travelling with you lovely ladies, and yes, you too Colin! These two weeks will never be forgotten, from quacking for hours together, to witnessing banana issues, to embarrassing Mr. Colin, it has been more than memorable. Big hugs for everyone


Some views of the royal tour.









And for those wondering what has fuelled all this Princess energy – special Princess food ☺️


Dinner – Now there is an understatement

This morning it was onto the bus and out to Sen Tay Ho restaurant for a behind the scenes tour as a prelude to returning to dine tonight.

Now Sen Tay Ho is no small local restaurant – this is a restaurant on steroids. The figures are astounding – four separate major function areas. The buffet ( this is where we will eat tonight) seats about 1200 people, serves over two hundred dishes, is staffed by 112 cooks. The function room had a morning wedding for 450 people (yes the bride looked beautiful 😊) with a range of special photographic backdrops for what seemed like 10 million photos (from the groom’s face it may have been even more).

I enjoyed meeting the head chef that runs the operation – anybody that can mange this sort of logistical exercise has my respect.



The Ladies with one of the wedding backdrops.

So after the tour it was back into town – some discussion on just how many of the 200 odd dishes we could get through – so with the hotel as base it was time to venture out and explore the old quarter of town and try to work up a little appetite. For me another food market ( this time dried goods such spices.) was on the agenda.


So to dinner.

Where do you start – good question.
The first sortie saw a small plate of sushi and sashimi, next oysters, some fresh spring rolls, next to the seafood stand with a range of seafood straight from the grill, then some roast meats – duck (KG, trust me I had some for you πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹) pork etc. I think you get the idea. The choice is amazing.

So what did they have that you local RSL club buffet lacks – insect pupae would be a starter – the brave ladies all had a go at this – I would have taken a photo but was laughing at their faces. And for those few who are unfamiliar with the taste of insect pupae the consensus is that it tastes like peanut butter. Very bad peanut butter 😝 the alligator stew I found disappointing – and the small roasted birds ( head on) caused some comment.

So while I was feeling full others were at that point in the meal where the though becomes enough of the warm up dishes now is time for dessert – there is a whole section devoted to dessert – and a very popular section it was too.

My favourite moment was watching a young girl about the size of a tooth pick totter back to her table with a plate piled high with profiter rolls and a smile from ear to ear.

And of interest to L – there was a whole section devoted to fruit. Apparently πŸ˜‰




So with dinner done we now have a slightly happier and much more rotund Buddha.


Study Tour – putting in the hard yards

Some times it would be easy to forget that this is a study tour. Vietnam is such a wonderful tourist destination.

But today the Ladies had to really step up….

The 7.30 AM start was not popular, not popular at all. On the bus, breakfasted, checked out of the hotel and standing in the street waiting ready to go at 7.30 am.

The bus arrives, double parks blocking the whole street, ladies pile in and we are off to Halong Bay. Four hours drive (and it is only 165 km) Hanoi traffic, road works, pot holes you could hide a water buffalo in, the odd family on a motor-scoter and trucks. Oh I forgot cows, buses, chooks, bike with pig and a couple of other odd assorted vehicles.

The strategy adopted by the young – sleep through most of it (here old Buddha is happy – they slept through most of “OMG I am going to die on the wrong side of the road killed by …..”)

Here is a quick video of a nice bit (it must have been ok – I didn’t have my eyes closed).

So we reached Halong Bay in one piece – once again I am amazed by the calmness of the drivers in what at times seems like absolute chaos – it lacks none of the aggression that increasingly characterises driving in Sydney. Even the car horns are friendlier.

So now it is down to work. The ladies are faced with a solid 24 hours of focus on their chosen study area.

I think these photos help show just how tough it was.

Heading out to our boat

Halong Bay





Photos from the cave

Now it was off to engage in a sporting activity (this is why we bring along sport management students)
The sport is kayaking.



It should be noted that the ladies were a little surprised by the notion that kayaking is an IN water sport not an ON water sport. ( advice to the young – Don’t start a water fight that you cannot finishπŸ˜‚)

So back onto the boat – hot showers then some serious study of the hospitality concept called “cocktails”.
(This apparently is a difficult topic that required hours of concentrated effort – old Buddha retiring long before discussions of topics such as the meaning of life)

So if our reader are wondering why Halong Bay has world heritage status maybe this will help explain it.

This clip was taken from the top of the boat.

Insert here – shameless plug for SGSM

Here is a photo of our tour guide – sporting the latest in chic apparel 😊


Trust me by the time I return this photo will be described by me in my performance review as a “Major international marketing initiative” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

It is easy to make jokes about how tough this day was but it is also a shame there is not a voice recording of some of the many conversations – it may surprise many lecturers to know just how much these students have taken away from some classes and how engaged with some of the topics they are. Today I have heard discussions on everything from destination management through a gamete of hospitality topics to HRM issues and risk management.

But this tour has not just been about enhancing their Uni studies- it has also helped develop some important life skills.

Today, Kelly will certainly attest, learnt a valuable lesson in life that she will carry with her for ever….

On a sad note. R.I.P – Banana 🍌

Hanoi – a Big Day out

I start with a declaration – I like the old city of Hanoi, it is a twisting maze of vibrant streets, teeming with life. It makes most other places seem dull, boring and lifeless.

Today was always going to be an interesting day. The formality of Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, it’s Soviet style architecture, the history of scholarship that resides at the Temple of Literature a 1000 years of learning and a fitting backdrop today to ten thousand graduation photos. Motor scoters around the city. A chance to spend the day with Vietnamese students. A Foodie experience of egg coffee in a famous cafe and lastly (yes Tim πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚) a ‘ blue stool experience’.

So some images of what proved to be another interesting day in Hanoi.






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