Ghana, Africa

In response to the global water crisis, Global Brigade sparked a movement amongst University students to work alongside local communities and workers to implement clean water systems. In 2013, I was able to take part in the Global Brigade Ghana trip with King’s College London where we were also joined by a few students from other UK universities. Together, we fundraised significantly to ensure materials and local labour could be paid for, and for further programs to be run in future.

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The experience was incredible.  I learnt so much from the families we got to interact with, I placed myself in a new environment, I built long lasting friendships and experienced proper manual labour using the limited resources available. We built two water tanks from scratch! We also educated students and their parents about the importance of purifying water before consumption.

You don’t have to go on the same trip as I did, but I would recommend you take up the courage to do something new and make a real difference in someones life. On a separate note, I have to add that another one of my favourite moments on this trip was being able to dance with the entire village when they welcomed us and at night when we had a party together.

I wonder if our names are still on the cement work if I were to go back!

They kids were so happy to see us! Their joy brought smiles to all of us each day and reminded us to be grateful with our lives.

Hue, Danang and Hoi An, Vietnam

These three very different but each amazing cities is being written about in one post because I managed to cover all of them through the best tour I’ve ever experienced! Our driver Ben Lee was essentially a tour guide because he was very kind to go above and beyond his role. Get in touch with the company called VM travel, 47 Le Loi Street Hue City, Ben’s phone number +84919591234, they’ll plan it all out for you according to how many days you can afford to do) hueprivatecars.com

Here are some of the highlights I covered on the trip:

  1. Hue City : Hue Citadel is a huge complex that would take a full day to see if you are interested in covering all areas. However, I found it sufficient to just spend a few hours admiring its ancient architecture and layout. I visited so many Emperors tombs that did not look anything like what you’d expect! They almost looked like palaces. Thien Mu Pagoda is a great place for sunset views with the symbol of the octagonal 21-meter-high tower, the pagoda is the perfect combination of artificial architectural work and picturesque nature. 17098673_10156193612908849_4641827015865603483_n16938624_10156193612998849_5679356292316375870_n16939482_10156193613418849_5394646896633868568_n17155283_10156193613273849_5162353872608716134_n

2. Biking in Hue. This wasn’t part of the original tour package but because Ben was that amazing, he got in touch with his friends to help rent us bikes at a local rate and took us around paddy fields, vegetation sites as well as allowed me to experience sitting on a water buffalo! The buffalo was definitely more cute than scary. Tip: purchase a straw hat, it’s all part of the Vietnamese experience.

 

3. Driving from Hue to Danang, you take the Hai Van Pass connecting Da Nang with the town of Lang Co in Hue province. Of course, this means you stop by Lang Co beach for its amazing sand and blue waters. Hai Van pass is a more scenic route rather than taking a quicker tunnel route and its name refers to the mists that rise from the sea, hence reduced visibility as shown in my photos. You can also stop by the Marble Mountains where you will be able to explore the caves and pagodas on top of the mountain. Make sure you wear trainers if you want to get to the top because you have to wiggle yourself through a natural dark cave that isn’t huge and doesn’t have clear foot paths! Several Buddhist sanctuaries can also be found within the mountains. Fun fact: they collect oysters using old wheel tyres!

 

4. Danang. I cannot believe how developed this city is, almost felt like I was in Hong Kong. There is clearly a lot of investment going on here as it is a harbour city and you can find huge hotels along their main beach, as well as international food choices. We drove back here at night on the way back to Hue, just to see the famous dragon bridge beautifully lit up.

 

 5. Hoi An. This was a very romantic city and highly recommend for when it gets dark because of all the lanterns that makes the place unique. A must see, but one that can be done for a few hours in the night.16939306_10156197887073849_2383112232455110647_n

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh, formerly named and still informally known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam by population found in the South. You can expect to find beautiful French buildings and chaotic road conditions, but it’s all part of the experience. The key part of my trip here was to learn about its history and tensions between North and South Vietnam. Here are my top 5 recommendations:

1)     Cu Chi tunnel tours. The Cu Chi Tunnels is a network of underground passageways that run to more than 200km in total length in this area alone. Work by the Viet Cong commenced in 1948 as a means of shelter from the French air attacks during the Indochina conflict. My tour package included a boat ride from Saigon River pier to the tunnels, followed by a biking tour. I wouldn’t recommend the biking tour here as the one I did in Hue City was WAY prettier and less polluted.

2)    The War Remnants Museum relates to the American phase of the Vietnam War. You can see displays of old military equipment and other related objects as well as larger exhibits including an F5A fighter and a UH1-Huey helicopter. There are many eye opening images showing the horrible effects of war and the use of the chemical agent orange that still haunts people today.  19238631_10155325724727159_921050545_o

3)    The Independence Palace which  witnessed the growth of Ho Chi Minh City during peacetime and throughout the Vietnam War until its end in 1975. Here you’ll also find the famous tank that drove through the palace gates. 

4)     Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and Central Post office. These two landmarks are opposite each other. The post office is one of the oldest buildings in Ho Chi Minh City,  and you can admire its neoclassical-style as well as send a postcard to a loved one!

5)    Ho Chi Minh city at night. The atmosphere was really vibrant and City Hall looked beautiful! The temperature also gets better, less hot and humid. When visiting Vietnam, I suggest going around Feb and March to get cooler temperatures, although you would have to sacrifice super blue skies. Weather varies from the North and South so it can get tricky but as long as it isn’t raining right? 17098444_10156188818378849_4007128225811058179_n16997835_10156188818383849_1700268286543586539_n

Others: Binh Tay Market is where you can barter for everything you want to buy and is also a good place to exchange money at a better rate. Also, make sure you keep trying all the local restaurants (try not to eat too much greens if you have a sensitive stomach)

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