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Below is a detailed day-by-day description of the recent 2016 ANZAC Asia-Pacific Study Tour. 8 students and 3 teachers from Papatoetoe Intermediate were invited to take part in this tour, co-organised by the Pearl of the Islands Foundation and the school involved.

Australia – Breakfast at and tour of Amity College kicked off the first day of our tour followed by a visit to Auburn Gallipoli mosque, eating Maras ice-cream, and a delightful harbour cruise dinner.

The second day we had breakfast with a lovely Turkish family, went up the Sydney tower, visited the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium and then we ended our night on a high note by attending the IFLC at the Sydney Opera House. We drove off to Canberra in the morning.

Upon arrival in Canberra, we visited the Australian War Memorial. The students and teachers had the opportunity to learn and experience the events which took place during WW1. The NZ High Commissioner Chris Seed welcomed our group at the office. We toured the Parliament House before treating the group to an authentic Turkish dinner. We left for Viet Nam the following morning.

Vietnam – We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in the evening after leaving Sydney. At 36 degrees, most felt overwhelmed after leaving the airport. Thankfully the buses are all equipped with air conditioning. We dined in at a restaurant and then walked around the night market nearby. This was followed by a delicious smoothie.

The next day we visited the Horizon Bilingual International School to have breakfast. Our journey then took us to the Mekong Delta district for a full day tour. A couple hours later we went onboard a boat to visit a number of different islands. The first island contained an eco bee farm. Our participants tried a honey, bee pollen, lime and tea drink. The second island demonstrated the different uses of coconut in Viet Nam. After a short horse ride, we had the experience of tasting exotic fruit including dragonfruit, jackfruit and pineapple. Our final activity in the region was a short canoe trip. The coconut drinks were an added bonus. After a seafood themed lunch, we returned to Ho Chi Minh city.

On our 3rd day, the ANZAC group explored the Cu Chi tunnels. An experienced tour guide helped us understand how this area played a vital role in the outcome of the war. After returning the Ho Chi Minh, we had late lunch and then visited the famous Ben Thanh market. Our students bargained their way to make purchases. As the sun set, we walked around the bustling traffic to cool ourselves with another set of smoothies.

Our final day in Viet Nam saw our participants visit the school for the last time. We visited the War Remnants museum. The devastating effects of the war have been published heavily in this building with displays in and outside. After a cold drink, we walked to the post office. The historic building contains telephone booths and is now a market for exotic Vietnamese goods. We returned back to the school, that provided our accommodation, to say goodbye before our flight to Bangkok. We were heavily gifted by the school. Our students returned the favour with a unique bag of gifts from New Zealand.

Thailand – The first day we had breakfast at the school and left to explore the religious landmarks in Bangkok. With scorching heat, we made our way to Wat Pho, a major tourist attraction and important destination for Buddhists. The Reclining Buddha along with other structures in the vicinity provided plenty photo opportunities. From there we took off to MBK Center. With many stalls and shops, students and teachers had the chance to shop and grab lunch. From here, we headed to the train station for our 13-hour overnight trip to Chiang Mai.

The following day we arrived in Chiang Mai and took part in a very exciting tour. The world’s number one rated animal sanctuary, Elephant Nature Park, hosts a number of elephants and hundreds of others to provide a safe place for them to recover from injuries. As a group, we decided to not take part in any animal activity entertainment such as circuses, parks, zoos or elephant riding as these generally involve abuse to animals. ENP brings in abused and injured animals to treat them until they are able to join their families. We fed the elephants, watched them bathe and had lunch at the premises. Once we returned from the Elephant park, the group visited Marmara school for drinks, snacks and, mangoes where a kilo costs less than $1. After touring the school we left to visit the Temple of Golden Mountain, one of Chiang Mai’s most beautiful temples. We stopped to take a photo on a lookout. The temple is thought to be established in the 14th century. We drove to eat dinner in a nearby local town. After our delicious dinner, we flew back to Bangkok. The next morning we took part in an ANZAC service held by an international school.

Our ANZAC group attended a dawn service on the 25th of April in NIST International School, in Bangkok. The short ceremony included a number of poems recited and our students from Papatoetoe singing a short tune. A wreath was laid from one of our own and the service came to an end. The school was very accommodating and provided breakfast to our group. After a quick tour around the school, NIST generously supplied busses for us to return to our accommodation for some well deserved rest. Deputy Head of Mission, Ms. Shannon Austin, greeted our ANZAC group at the NZ Embassy the same day. We had a conversation on how New Zealand is promoted in Thailand. The students had the opportunity to ask questions as well. Shopping soon followed. Dinner that night was held at our accommodation.

On our final day, after breakfast, we visited Art in Paradise. An interactive 3D gallery where images come to life. Lunch soon followed at the same shopping mall and we went back to accommodation to pick up our bags. We thanked the principal of the school for hosting us and made way to the airport. A very unique and excellent tour for the whole group and the PİF guides. We thank everyone for attending. Keep an eye out for photobooks that will soon be published! :)

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