Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Makes you think!

Although not only on Vietnam, I really recommend you have a look at the Veterans SA fantastic Think Piece series at http://anzaccentenary.sa.gov.au/stories/think-piece-series/

The ‘Think Pieces’ are short discussion articles written by eminent South Australians, veterans, defence personnel, military historians, authors, academics, educators, journalists and other specialists who have a particular interest and/or expertise in the Anzac Centenary and in Australia’s military history. The objective of the series is to offer different perspectives on the Anzac Centenary, its significance and meaning. Have a look at the archive of the excellent articles posted this year. Interestingly the stories in the archives have been classified in accordance with some of the Spirit of Anzac characteristics that we have talked about during this competition.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Update on packing list

Image above: The Simpson Prize - have a look at the blog of their trip to Vietnam at https://www.awm.gov.au/blog/2016/08/12/simpson-prize-2016/

The Simpson Prize trip to Vietnam this month

As you know, Cendall has been in Vietnam as one of the teacher chaperones on the Australian Government Department of Education Simpson Prize tour (http://www.simpsonprize.org/). Just like our group, the tour comprised 8 students and several teacher chaperones and they visited many of the sites we are going to visit in Southern Vietnam (they did not go to Hanoi or Ha Long Bay). As a result of her experiences on the tour Cendall has put together some information that we should include in our preparation for the tour – thanks Cendall and welcome back. Regardless of some of the issues re: Long Tan ceremonies reported in the media over recent weeks, Cendall said the trip went very smoothly and was a great success.

We are really fortunate that we have had a ‘forward scout’ for the tour! Some of you may actually like to go to the blog for the Simpson trip on the Australian War Memorial site at https://www.awm.gov.au/blog/2016/08/12/simpson-prize-2016/ . The blog provides a really useful insight into what we will experience on our trip and certainly is some interesting reading for us all to get an idea of what awaits us.

Some information for you from the students on the Simpson tour

At the end of the tour Cendall asked the Simpson students what they thought would be important to pass along to us, so the following is some information by teenagers, for teenagers:

Clothes: Modest, breathable and light clothing. Tank tops and short shorts are not always tolerated by the locals, but they also don't provide much coverage against mosquitos. Students on the Simpson Prize generally opted for longer, light pants (such as harem pants) as they meant that they didn’t have to add huge amounts of Aeroguard to their skin, which was already feeling the effects of humidity.

Footwear: Sneakers are best (100% agreement from the Simpson students)!! Other shoes that may seem comfortable here in Australia can quickly become uncomfortable due to the unfamiliar humidity, which can cause feet to sweat and swell. Mosquitos also like biting feet because they are warm, so sneakers offer better coverage, too.

Liquids: For students who opt to bring face scrubs, hair care, sunscreen, roll-on deodorant etc, they need to ensure individual items are 100ml or less. This is not the REMAINING volume in a bottle, but the entire maximum the bottle can hold. This rule applies only to liquids being carried in a carry-on bag but in the case of long waits at the airport students may travel with them to feel refreshed.

Money: Given that all of our expenses are covered, a large sum of money isn’t required. One thing the Simpson group found was that they needed to keep their regular ’school routine’ of having recess and an afternoon snack to get them between meals, so we would head to a small supermarket to buy a few snacks to help overcome this. We also made it a rule to start the day with 3L of water on us (tap water is not safe to drink) as students were not used to humidity and lost a lot of fluid without really realising. A 1.5L bottle of water cost the equivalent of 70c, so this was always very cheap. Bringing $50 to convert for these expenses is very realistic, with a spare $20 note available to change ‘just in case’. ATM cards are not widely accepted, so cash is best.

**Cendall has checked the exchange rates on sites such as Travelex, and thinks it would be best to exchange money once we reach Ho Chi Minh City. You get around 20% more exchanging it in the city rather than here in Australia. There are many available in the area of our hotels, so this could easily be done once we arrive or before we head out for Day 1.**

Hydralyte: In humid climates and foreign countries in particular, we lose electrolytes through sweat and adjusting to local foods. An electrolyte imbalance can cause big headaches and a general feeling of being unwell. Having Hydrolyte during the afternoon or a little before bed meant we were waking up feeling rested and refreshed and ready to go. A tube of dissolvable tablets is the best option (the liquid version could be subjected to the liquid limits in a carry on and/or explode in checked baggage). Ensure enough for daily use for the entire trip.

Camera: It is really important to have a strap of some kind to ensure a camera or phone is attached to your wrist whenever it is out of your bag. Locals are frequently whizzing by on motorbikes and can quickly snatch devices. 

Traffic: This was a point of concern at our meeting, and something that can certainly be a real shock on first encounter. The more time we spent in Ho Chi Minh City (the largest of all the places we went/our trip will go), the more confident we felt and the less overwhelming it became. It even became fascinating to watch as drivers merge effortlessly around each other. We always crossed at corners or designated crossings - but sometimes a little more patience is needed to find the break in traffic to start moving. Zebra crossings in Australia typically mean the pedestrian has right of way - this is not the case in Vietnam. But drivers certainly know to expect pedestrians. Movement was only ever initiated by an adult, NO EXCEPTIONS. The advice the veterans gave was very accurate - keep at the one pace at all times. The drivers will adjust and work around people crossing the street.

SIM Cards: A few members of our group got SIM cards while in Vietnam. I didn’t find it hugely necessary - it was only useful for having data on the road to check emails etc (sometimes our bus had free wifi, which is pretty common in Vietnam). We generally had wifi at our hotels, which provided the opportunity for a quick FaceTime or Facebook message when time was available. SIM cards were arranged by the local guide on the tour, but they were also available at the airport and many convenience stores. A SIM will cost around $5 AUD and have around 1GB of data. No one really bothered using their SIM cards to make calls or text, so the wifi at the hotels really did make it redundant. 
Clothing: It would be nice for people to have some neat casual clothes for night time dinners – but make them as cool as possible because it will be hot and uncomfortable as we need to travel to the dinner locations.  

Here are some additions to our packing list suggested by Cendall, based on the Simpson Prize packing list. It just has a little more detail re: casual clothing

• Light cotton trousers or light jeans (2 pairs)
• 2 pairs of shorts
• 2 skirts/sarongs/dresses if appropriate. 
• 2 light long sleeved shirt for visiting temples and to wear over clothes when eating at dusk for mosquito protection. These are to be light cotton shirts or polo tops (2) of the type that are about a half-arm’s length. Asian countries are relatively conservative nations so it is always advisable to dress appropriately. For girls it is advisable to avoid midriff tops and short shorts.
Luggage: Bring only 1 main piece of luggage (on wheels) and a small carry-on bag for the travel. This main piece of luggage should consist of a medium sized suitcase on wheels with a pull up handle is ideal measuring around than 80 x 60 centimetres.
Please do not make the mistake of bringing too much stuff!  - particularly clothing and shoes that adds a lot to the weight of your luggage. You will also be expected to carry your own luggage when travelling (for only short distances however). Ideally, your luggage should weigh no more than 14-16 Kilos at the beginning of your trip and no more than 20 kilos by the time you leave. 

Whilst there will be opportunity for shopping during your trip, please keep in mind that airlines generally only permit around 20kg of check-in luggage if you have internal flights, and a small carry-on bag to be taken with you. Excess luggage can be expensive at around AU$15-20 per kilogram if you find you have brought or bought too much extra on your trip.

Most importantly bring a lock. Small combination locks are the best kind (all your luggage must be locked for transfers and storage).

A cultural update: customs / practices in Asia:
• Please sit on chairs when provided and not on the floor.
• Always wear footwear when outside, in public places and in hotels. Local people always wear shoes unless they are too poor to afford them.
• Please do not show displays of affection in public. This is considered weird and is awkward for local people to watch.
• Please abstain from playing the drums at the dinner table with your chopsticks when in restaurants

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The contestability of history

Image above: Police block access to the Long Tan site.

A contestable happening

I am sure that you have seen today that tomorrows commemoration for the 50th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan in Vietnam has been cancelled by the Vietnamese authorities, despite 1000 veterans already being in the country.

History is contestable and what is this all about? Who is correct and can you see both sides of this issue? Have a read of these initial articles on this change of events


You will see that the Vietnamese Authorities today have said that groups of 100 at a time may enter the Memorial site but cannot wear medals and speeches cannot be made. This issue raises some interesting questions about the nature of commemoration, dangers of perceived celebration in the land of the former foe and being sensitive to those who also died on the other side. You will read many conflicting points of view over coming days.

Keep watching and reading over the next few days to see what comes out of this - it is certainly relevant to our visit to the Long Tan site on our trip. I cannot see that these events will disrupt our tour in anyway but it certainly is an issue we as historians should think about. As you can appreciate, as I write this blog and we observe these happenings, history is being made.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

The commemoration of the Battle of Long Tan

Image above: Commemoration ceremony and dedication of memorial cross on the site of the Battle of Long Tan.

Hi all
The following media release from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) should be of great interest to us regarding the 50th Anniversary of Long Tan this Thursday. As you know this is part of our tour and it would be great if you had some detailed background on the event and the commemoration activities.  I recommend that you listen and/or watch some of these happenings on the ABC. Cendall is actually there this week as the teacher chaperoning the Simpson Prize students in Vietnam and Samuel is in Canberra experiencing the commemoration events as part of the the Simpson Prize.  Thanks to Tim Hanna for passing on this media release information.

Thursday August 18 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam and Vietnam Veterans' Day.

To commemorate, the ABC will have special coverage from Canberra and Vietnam across the day on television, radio, mobile, social and online.


ABC News Breakfast

6.00-9.00am on ABC & iview / 6.00-9.00am AEST on ABC News 24

Michael Rowland will co-host News Breakfast from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

ABC News Special

9.30am on ABC & iview / 9.30am AEST on ABC News 24

Long Tan Preview hosted by Michael Rowland, ahead of the Commemorative Service at the Vietnam Memorial on Anzac Parade.

Australian Story: What a Wonderful World – airs Monday August 22 at 8pm on ABC & iview

Vietnam Veteran's Day Service

10.00am on ABC & iview / 10.00am AEST on ABC News 24

On Vietnam Veterans’ Day, a special Commemorative Service from the Australian War Memorial to mark 50 years since the Battle of Long Tan. For Australians, it was the Vietnam War’s most costly battle and most famous victory. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrave are expected to attend.

ABC News will cross LIVE to Southeast Asia correspondent Liam Cochrane, filing from Long Tan across the day and night.


Radio National

Throughout the week, Radio National programs including Life Matters, The Inside Sleeve, Earshot and Conversations with Richard Fidler http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/conversations/ will feature content focused around the Long Tan Anniversary.

ABC Local Radio

ABC Local and Regional Radio networks will highlight the stories of veterans from around the country, discussing their experiences of the battle, and looking at the long-term impact of their engagement at Long Tan. An extensive selection of Vietnam war-era music will support spoken content on all ABC Radio networks, and ABC Regional coverage will include a range of stories looking at the impact of the war on regional towns.

Online and mobile

ABC News Digital will deliver coverage across the day at abc.net.au/news as well as on the ABC app, Facebook and Twitter.


Coverage will include a digital piece, focusing on explaining the significance of Long Tan to international audiences and will also look at the impact of the war on South Vietnam and Vietnamese migrants in Australia.