Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese

Project XIII Final Report

Children's and Education Project XIII in Vietnam January and February 2006

We again are proud to report that the Friendship Foundation of American-Vietnamese completed another successful humanitarian project in Vietnam in January and February 2006.

This mission was a little different from our past projects. Our goals were to make contacts with various institutions, businesses, and agencies which could support our future activities and to establish mutually beneficial relationships with local business and government people. At the same time, we sought to spend more time with people we have met on our past projects.

We began our journey in Nha Trang, the beautiful seacoast city with its shining white beaches and inspiring morning views of the rising sun against a background of mountainous islands. Here we discussed with various members of the local medical community what our Foundation can do to help people as well as establish professional relationships between medical people of Vietnam and medical people in other countries, especially the United States. We are planning upcoming professional visits by doctors from Vietnam and America. Our medical friends in Nha Trang provided their advice and recommendations to help our work.

We then journeyed by car up the coast where we stopped at Quin Nhon to tour the Cham Temples there, sitting high on a hill overlooking the Vietnamese countryside. We encourage our Foundation travelers to visit these temple sites and learn more about the fascinating history of these people. By the way, the Cham people are one of the 54 nationalities who live in present-day Vietnam. They number almost 200,000 and sponsor a huge celebration every year of their history and culture near the city of Phan Thiet.

Continuing onward, we reached the renowned tourist city of Hoi An late one night. We stayed at a beautiful resort area on the edge of Hoi An's tourist areas and along side the river. This site caters to Europeans who are looking for their style of cooking and rest and relaxation.

The next day we visited various Hoi An clothing and art establishments, talking to the local people, learning about their problems and concerns, and reviewing their products. Hoi An has some 450 tailor shops. While some people shop there looking for "quick, cheap bargains," this approach unfortunately can lead to misunderstandings and problems. Our advice: take your time, visit several places, talk to the people, look for good quality first and price after, give the shop time to finish your order properly, and always try on the items before completing payments for them.

For our second night we stayed at a wonderful hotel with guest houses located just across the main Hoi An bridge, also along the river. The guest houses were well-kept with lots of privacy and beautiful landscaping. More importantly, the hotel staff and the family who own this place were extremely helpful with lots of good advice.

We also made contact with a local cafe which is an outreach place for the city's main orphanage and children's care place. We hope to follow up on these contacts for future Foundation activities.

We took time out to visit the famous Cham temple complex at My Son. We have visited this before, complete with motor bike rides over dusty trails and along rocky paths. But now much work has been done on travel to the site, preserving the various buildings, and protecting the nearby environment. We were very impressed including with the very educational and well-maintained museum near the bridge that leads to the temple complex. We strongly recommend that visitors to Vietnam find time to visit My Son on their schedule.

Our next stop on our car journey was Da Nang and the world class tourist area along the ocean beaches. Although expensive by Vietnamese standards, this establishment features the finest in foods, night life, and classy entertainment. During our night there, we spent the evening listening to an outstanding all-women band which played so many great songs.

After two weeks of traveling up the coast, we headed back to Sai Gon/HCMC, but took the Da Lat route. This is a beautiful city high in the mountainous area, with clear skies, cool evenings, and days of relaxing warmth and gentle breezes. We toured the sites including the Prenn Water Falls which are well worth a day of a traveler's time especially to visit all of the "spiritual sites and temples." Da Lat has many beautiful gardens of amazing flowers and trees as well as one of the largest and most attractive market places in Vietnam. At night the area around the market and the city center are filled with young people enjoying the perfumes of the evening air and the lights reflected off the near-by lake. A huge wide stairway leads from the city center up to the nearby hills crowned by innumerable family-run hotels that delight in welcoming tourists.

After a few days sampling all the gardens and historic buildings, we headed back to Sai Gon/Ho Chi Minh City. We had made many new friends and contacts for our Foundation which would help with future Projects.

In Sai Gon, we stayed at one of the many new world-class hotels complete with large swimming pool, a dining lounge offering excellent morning coffee and bakery, and several different style restaurants. Who should join us but Elaine Mew, one of our former excellent Project Coordinators, who has now finished teaching several years at the University in Hanoi and has taken up an excellent position with an NGO. Elaine has been very generous sharing her Vietnamese adventures and insights through her frequent "Letters from Elaine" which the Foundation distributes through e-mail with all of our friends. Elaine provided our Staff with many new ideas as well as the current news on what is happening.

In Sai Gon, we also enjoyed several evenings with Bac Si Thien, his wife, and their two wonderful sons. Dr. Thien has been a great friend of the Foundation and his efforts every year in recruiting doctors insures the success of our "Food, Educational, and Health Fairs" in remote villages.

In conclusion, Project XIII produced many successes and built more bridges of friendship. Across these bridges will travel the future participants of our Foundation Projects in Vietnam.

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