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The day started early on the bus on route to Ha Long Bay. In between class discussion on graduation and learning about the skills and attributes of leaders that inspire us, we stopped at a rice paddy and vegetable farm (onions, lettuce, cabbage, Chinese stem mustard, Poi spinach, basil). We were all surprised to learn that the majority of small scale rice farmers are not supporting their families through farming, but have a day to day job, and the rice they produce serves merely to put food on the table.

We arrived in Ha Long Bay and boarded the Victory Boat Cruise. We enjoyed lunch aboard while we took in the scenery of the nearly 700 islets. It was a cloudy day with a thick layer of mist, highlighting the mystique of the outcropping islands.

After we settled in our quarters, we boarded the water taxi for a tour of a traditional Vietnamese fishing village. In small groups, we boarded authentic ‘junk boats’ to explore this village on water; a village consisting of a small community of people living, and being supported entirely on the water.

They are well organized with resources including a community centre, school, and fishing cages for fish and pearl farming to name a few. We were fortunate enough to witness a key component to sustaining life on the water; a mobile grocer consisting of another junk boat filled with produce and supplies and the essential goods. The scenery was like no other we have seen before; being rowed peacefully throughout this network of islets revealed new and mesmerizing vistas at every turn.

Then it was off to the beach for a quick dip in the South Chinese sea and to put our toes in the sand; it was the cool and refreshing break that we needed to get us prepared for the evening festivities.

We had to work for our supper by putting our culinary skills to the test with the preparation of traditional Vietnamese spring rolls. We have come to understand the importance of food presentation and the care and attention in which it is prepared. The people here are always proud and happy to share their traditions with us.

As we sit here reflecting on our day, we are taking in the fresh sea air, listening to the water as it rolls into the boat, and looking at the reflection from the surrounding river boats glistening on the water. All the while looking forward to watching the sunrise from the roof top deck in the morning while we test our sea legs with tai chi.

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