UCR is a multicultural melting pot with people from every inch of the globe spread out over our postage stamp sized campus. Here at Tabula Rasa we want to help you take advantage of this vast network. We asked a couple of students to share some of the highlights from their home cities to give you an edge when you travel there yourself. And it doesn’t end here, keep a look out on our online site for more travel tips and inspiration.
City: Ho Chi Minh City
When to go: It is always warm and the sun always shines so it doesn’t really matter when you travel. There are only 2 seasons, dry and wet. It is usually hot during the dry season and rains often during the wet one. For me, the best time of the year is around January and February because it’s when local people celebrate both Gregorian and the Lunar New Year.
Best of Art and Culture: Some highlights are Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, War Remnants museum, Ben Thanh market and Ho Chi Minh square. Some of the temples are also well worth checking out. And if your feet hurt from all that exploring just grab a seat on one of the benches in the city center and watch the people walking by, it’s always entertaining!
Best of Nature: Don’t expect much quiet time, HCMC is crowded and bustling. There are motorbikes everywhere, all day and all night and people eating street food, drinking coffee and bubble tea on the sidewalks.
Best Kept Secret: The food is amazing. Here you can find local food from every corner of Vietnam and they are absolutely delicious and tasty. Besides, it’s not expensive so you can eat as much as you want! Also make sure to get on the back of a motorbike, it’s a must in HCMC!
What to do with 24 hours: I would advise taking the time to discover the center where all the highlights I mentioned above are located. I can’t stress enough not to miss out on the street food! Visiting HCMC will also give you an insight into the local culture and allow you to interact with Vietnamese people.
City: London, England
When to go: Mid-Autumn
Best of Art and Culture: The Tate Modern, a gallery housed in a gargantuan, and very ugly, industrial building, filled with perhaps one too many examples of why people roll their eyes at the concept of modern art. Among their collection is a Sainsbury’s receipt, mounted and stuck on the wall in all seriousness. This is not a damning condemnation of this institution, as it is brilliant to explore. Go in the evening, walk up to the rooftop and enjoy a 360֯ view of London as it lights up for the night.
Best of Nature:Some ways up the river is the London Wetlands Centre, which offers plenty of opportunities to get muddy, sit in huts and look at birds. For those who are less fond of wellies and anoraks, you may be glad to hear that the London Aquarium is one of the greatest in the world, including a glass tunnel that allows you to walk among the sharks.
Best Kept Secret: On the north of the river, no more than a ten-minute walk from Tower Bridge, there is a small garden, surrounded by office buildings. This garden grows around the ruins of a church that was bombed in World War II, and preserved through the careful maintenance of the groundskeeper, who resides in the old steeple of the church. This place, known as St. Dunstan in the East Church Garden serves as a safe haven from the hustle and bustle of the city outside. To maximise the experience, go in the morning, take a cup of something warm, and a sandwich, and watch the morning light change the colour of the bleached white walls.
What to do with 24 hours: For breakfast, go to London Bridge, and to a little cafe called Spianata for an Italian flatbread toastie. Take a window seat and watch people in suits hurry by along the man-made stream in the centre of the street. Once satisfied, take a leisurely stroll along the bank of the river towards Borough Market. For fresh produce and products, come early, leave quick, and always buy a bite for later. After this, walk across the river and browse through Fortnum and Mason, smelling the teas, and guessing the absurd prices of hampers. Go to the Royal Academy of Art, then walk through Soho and discover the perfect hole in the wall eatery. For more galleries try the National Portrait Gallery, and sneak up to the restaurant for a peak at the stunning view. Go to Somerset House, and, if it is the season, skate! For the Evening, try the BFI, a cinema on the Southbank, perfect, no matter the taste in film. Finally, find a good place to eat, it may be wise to book ahead. Also, pubs tend to close at twelve, so if you plan to drink, start early.
Thuc-Anh Nguyen, Class of 2019, is a Pre-Med major from Vietnam.
Florence Fowkes, Class of 2019, is an Interdepartmental major from London, England.