Senior Claire Grazzini traveled to Vietnam over winter break


Photo Courtesy of Claire Grazzini

A scenic sunset from Grazzini’s trip.

Over Christmas break, many students travel to locations throughout the U.S. to visit extended family; others have the good luck of going somewhere warm, sometimes even traveling abroad to tropical locations like Mexico and Hawaii to escape the brutal cold of Minnesota. Unlike these typical Christmas break adventures, senior Claire Grazzini’s winter vacation took her all the way to Vietnam.

It all started when Grazzini’s parents told her that she wouldn’t be allowed to go to Mexico over spring break (a typical trip seniors take with friends), but that she could pick anywhere else. After hearing this, Grazzini immediately began researching where she would want to go. After tedious research, she thought that she had decided on going to Peru. However, it became clear that all the sites and cities she would have wanted to visit in Peru were so spread out over the country that she wouldn’t have enough time to see it all; this sent Grazzini back to square one.

It wasn’t until she had a conversation with a close family friend that she even considered Vietnam as one of her options. After doing a brief investigation on the country, she was sold. “My parents said I could go anywhere without them, but none of my friends’ parents wanted them to go alone, so I asked my brother if he would want to go with me,” Grazzini said. The plan was that they would take this trip over spring break, but Grazzini’s spring break didn’t match up with her brother’s, so they decided to go for Christmas break instead.

Grazzini and her brother wrote up a day by day itinerary, bought plane tickets, packed up their bags, and were all set to head off to Vietnam. Their flight there was about 21 hours with a two hour layover in Japan. 

Once in Vietnam, their adventure started by staying on a twenty person houseboat at an UNESCO world heritage site known as Ha Long Bay. Grazzini and her brother were on this boat for two nights and three days. “We went kayaking, saw floating villages, and visited a pearl farm. It was so pretty, plus the food was amazing,” Grazzini said. 

From here the siblings took a short flight to De Nang where they went hiking in Bach Ma National Park. Bach Ma National Park is known for its scenic views, but the day that they hiked wasn’t quite a clear enough day to enjoy the sights. “We went at the wrong time, if you go in summer you can see this amazing waterfall and view, but we we went when it was rainy so we could only see fog,” Grazzini said. 

Next on their itinerary, Grazzini and her brother took about a six hour train ride to Dong Hoi. This is where they got picked up to go on a Tu Lan Cave adventure. They had to hike for about six hours to get to their campsite. Once they arrived at their location, they went rafting into a cave and got to look around at the unique scenery. They slept in a tent that night, and then hiked back the next morning. “We hiked back a different way and it was through caves, so there was about three 400 yard swims that we had to do in helmets and heavy boots, and bats would swoop down at light on your helmet,” Grazzini said.

The following morning, the Grazzinis took about a three hour train ride to Hue. This is where the imperial city is, so they walked around and saw where all the rulers lived and some of their tombs. “That day we also went to the tomb of Khai Dinh which was actually very pretty,” Grazzini said. 

Finally, Grazzini and her brother visited Hoa Lo prison where John McCain and many american soldiers were held. The morning after, the Grazzinis headed to the airport to return home.

Although Grazzini and her brother kept in contact with their parents everyday via text message, they didn’t actually talk to them on the phone until Christmas Eve. Their Christmas was very different, considering Vietnam is a predominantly Buddhist country, so there weren’t a ton of celebrations happening.

Overall, Grazzini had a successful trip to Vietnam. She kept a travel journal that she updated while on different flights and train rides, had the opportunity to interact with some of Vietnam’s native people, and made some friends while camping and on the houseboat. “On a scale of one to ten, Vietnam was definitely an eleven,” Grazzini said.