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.
Playing and swimming in mud is not normally something that sounds appealing to adults, however on a recent visit to Nha Trang, Vietnam, that is exactly what we did!
Only in Nha Trang for the day on a port stop as part of an Asian cruise, we narrowed our options down to a visit to Vinpearl, the amusement park, or a visit to the local mud baths.
Having done a number of theme parks in our life we opted for a fun family day at the mud baths.
Nha Trang is well known for it’s mud baths, there were a number to choose from. We settled on the Thap Ba Hot Springs and we were as happy as pigs in mud!
After locking away our belongings and stripping down to our smallest swimming costumes we were directed to an area filled with varying sized baths.
When arriving we were given an option of paying for a private bath V communal bath, however despite taking the cheaper option of communal bath we were put into a private bath just for our family. And so the mud flowed!
In we jumped, a family of four in an outdoor bath filled with mud. It really was a very bizarre experience. The mud is not thick, it is very watery in consistency yet thick enough to leave a film on your skin and hair.
The kids poured mud over their heads, rubbed it into their hair and floated in it. When would you ever have an opportunity as a kid - or an adult - to do that!
And to add to the bizarre experience was the fact that all the time we were being watched by fellow bathers! An elderly German couple in one bath, a group of Japanese girls in another - it is a very communal experience despite having our own private tub.
After some time swimming in the bath we were then directed to a large outdoor shower area where we attempted to remove as much of the mud from our bather bottoms as possible before walking through what could only be described as a human carwash! Water sprayed from every direction as we walked through a series of open top tunnels and washed off!
At the end, a selection of waterfalls and mineral pools of varying temperatures to continue the ritual of bathing and relaxing.
Top tips for mud bathing
1. Wear a two-piece swimming costume. Having mud in your one-piece suit could be very uncomfortable.
2. Wear an old pair of bathers. The mud can be difficult to get out, you may not want to wear your new expensive pair of swimmers.
3. You can pay extra for a private bath, but if you are in a group you will most likely get a private bath anyway.
4. Leave your valuables at home. Whilst there is a bizarre locker system available, I wasn't that confident it was very secure.
5. Rent a towel at the facility. Although I don't normally like communal towels - if you take your own you will probably throw it away after the visit.
If you ever get an opportunity to experience a mud bath, go for it. It is a bizarre experience, but one that you will neither regret or forget. If you are looking for other great things to do in Vietnam check out this great list of things to do.
Check Agoda for hotel deals in Nha Trang - visit Agoda.
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY