In January 2011, twelve Linfield students, led by political science professor Patrick Cottrell, traveled to Vietnam and Thailand to study political change in Southeast Asia.
In Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon), students toured the Reunification Palace, where power was handed over to the North Vietnamese in 1975. Students also visited the War Remnants Museum, which houses a graphic exhibit of the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese perspective. Students explored the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of secret tunnels used by Vietnamese fighters during the War. Lastly, students observed a religious ceremony at a Cao Dai Temple, which is a unique religion that attempts to fuse together Vietnam’s many existing faiths.
In Hanoi, students visited the mausoleum of the historic figure and father of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. Students also toured Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” a term coined by American POWs that were captured and held at the prison during the Vietnam War. Students met and discussed US-Vietnamese relations with Deputy Chief of Mission, Virgina Palmer, at the United States Embassy.
While in Vietnam, students also enjoyed two overnight boat tours. The first was along Southeast Asia’s longest and richest river, the Mekong Delta. Students visited local coconut candy and rice manufacturers and watched as locals exchanged goods on one of the river’s most bustling floating markets. On the second boat tour, students cruised along the emerald green waters of Halong Bay, where they kayaked around the bay’s eminent limestone islands.
In Thailand, students crossed the famous bridge on the River Kwai, which was built by Allied prisoners during WWII; students also walked through the war cemetery for Allied soldiers in Kanchanaburi. At the United States Embassy in Bangkok, students met with senior level officials and were briefed on a range of regional issues, including trafficking in persons, Thai domestic politics, drug trafficking, Thai-US relations, and refugee conflicts.
In Phuket, students set sail on a jet boat tour of breathtaking Phang Nga Bay, where they visited the iconic James Bond Island, explored a remote diamond cave and hidden lagoon, and swam in the crystal clear waters of the Bay. Students also visited the Khao Lak tsunami disaster museum and volunteered at the Rajpracha 35 School for orphaned tsunami children.
Professor Cottrell plans to offer a similar Jan term course to Southeast Asia in 2013.