On a two-week cruise through Asia a highlight of our stop in Vietnam was a day tour to the infamous battle fields of Long Tan. In 2016 we remember the battle 50 years on and many travellers have paid their respects, our visit that much more special as we happened to visit at the same time as a Veteran who had actually been there on those fateful days.
There is something to be said about experiential learning, this day happened to be one of those rare moments that our whole family will remember forever. Standing at the memorial site, in the middle of an otherwise baron field, with an old Vet retelling his memories of the battle sent shivers up our spine that I still recall today as I am writing this blog.
Fifty years ago (18 August 1966) during the Vietnam war, the Battle took place in the rubber plantation fields near Long Tan, South Vietnam. Reportedly 18 Australians lost their lives, and more than 200 Viet Cong, in what was one of the worst battles Australian troops experienced during that war.
Today, a memorial stands in the middle of the field to remember the fallen Australian soldiers and the courageous battle they fought when the odds were so stacked against them. Visitors pay their respects at the site and remember the courage and bravery of the Australians who battled.
Upon arrival at the site on our tour our guide recited her facts and figures about the battle. The stories and incidents that led to the memorial we stood upon in itself made us aware that we were visiting a sacred site. The cross that stands there today at one point was “borrowed” to mark the grave of a local villager, leaving the memorial just a barren field.
After a minute’s silence however, from the corner of the field, we could hear an old digger telling his recounts of the battle. It was then that we realised just how special our visit was.
The Vet told of the conditions the soldiers endured, the mud they laid in and the proximity to which they were to the enemy. All of which was spine chilling and incomprehensible to a modern day Australian family who had never had to even fathom such challenges.
To remember our fallen soldiers is something we all should do, to be privileged to visit the site on the same day as a digger was something else.
When we left the memorial site we visited a village school that has been funded by Australians. It was great to see that at the site of such tragedy Australians have left a positive mark on the province that caused tragedy to so many.
If you have a chance to visit the site whilst the soldiers are still here to retell their story, I encourage you to do so. Fifty years on we realise that the soldiers that were there at the Battle will not walk with us for too many years more.
Lest We Forget.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you are interested in travelling Vietnam, you may also want to read our blog Getting Dirty in Vietnam where we visit a mud bath in Nha Trang.
Having done a number of trips to North America and ticked off the Aussie must-do's - Disneyland, Florida, California, New York, Chicago, DC, Miami, this trip we decided to do something completely out of the box.
I still can't recall where the idea came from - but the answer was to visit an authentic Cowboy Ranch in the heart of the Cowboy Capital of the World, Banderas Texas.
Neither of the kids, nor Brenton, had ever got on the back of a horse so this was to be the best introduction to horse riding they ever could get with real cowboys on-hand to show them the ropes.
If you are after a luxury getaway, this is not for you. The Ranch is authentic and rustic and comfort and luxury are not their high points. If you are after a holiday where you can disconnect from the digital world and get back to basics, then this is it.
Two horse rides a day, fishing lines to use at the pond, a kitchen bell that is rung to call guests to meals, a bonfire at night with marshmallows to roast and a visit from a local cowboy to strum out some tunes on his guitar - that is a day on the ranch at Dixie Dude Ranch.
The horse-riding was more horse sitting - we simply all falled into line and followed the one in front - but the hillside landscape was so picturesque that the lack of challenge was appreciated. More challenging rides were offered to experienced riders and despite Brenton thinking he might take that on (on day 2!) I convinced him otherwise..... Private lessons were also on offer at just $30, something that Jye relished as he was taught to weave the horse around the barrels in the coral.
What we loved the most about this adventure was the uniqueness of the experience. The Ranch was family run and it was like we were staying at someone's home. Whilst we had our private accommodation by way of an ensuite cabin, guests all ate together in a communal dining area and sat on the main homestead's front porch pre-and post-meals to chat and share stories from the day. The kids played after dinner on the outdoor swings while the parents sipped coffee and rocked on the porch.
This stay was an unplugged experience. Whilst limited wi-fi was available from the main homestead, it was certainly not encouraged and we took the opportunity to switch off and enjoy the experience.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
For more details about Dixie Dude Ranch visit their website.
You can read my Trip Advisor Review for further details.
As the weather turns cold in Adelaide, my best advice for how to keep the kids entertained is simple. Leave the country - chase the sun!
For the last decade we have managed to schedule family holidays early July to evade the worst of winter, this year we head to Mexico.
Yes the kids take time off school, yes I get the letter every year from the Dept of Education about how detrimental it is for children to miss school. Do I think Miss Six or Master Nine are disadvantaged for missing those winter days in school - No.
What I do think is they are receiving an education in life, culture and the world that simply can’t be taught in a class room.
Take for example a trip to Penang. A heavily muslim populated country, Miss Five thought she was surrounded by Ninjas before I explained to her that the Burkha is a traditional dress for women.
Later that trip I heard her further educate her brother who was edging on the Ninja comment before she corrected him explaining “No, they are not Ninjas that is what the Muslim women wear in Penang.”
Or a trip to the batlefields of Long Tan where we were fortunate enough to hear first-hand from a veteran visiting the site who had personally fought on the day. Upon returning to school Master Eight proudly retold the experience to his young teacher who looked at me blankly - Battle of What??
There is something to be said for experiential learning, the world is a big place and I am encouraging my children to explore it, even if it does mean missing a few weeks of school in the winter.
Penny Reidy - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.