it’s been so long since we’ve had a physical overseas school trip, and what better way to end our first SUTD summer than with a trip to Vietnam (that’s also fully paid for :o)
It was a great 1 week of good cheap food, traveling around, learning about AI at Vietnam National University – institute of artificial intelligence. It was really exciting being in a new country, making new friends, and crossing the chaotic yet orderly traffic. We ate some local delights (maybe even too local that some of them don’t really want to order their own exotic foods), celebrated Vietnam’s independence day, and many many more things in the packed 7 days.
We began our first day walking around Hanoi, walking to school, walking to lunch, and walking back to the hotel. But really soon, we started grabbing everywhere. the summer heat was too much for us, and although we are all young thrill seekers, the traffic was a little too thrilling for us Singaporeans
The VNU students were welcoming and ready to teach us new concepts. They were very patient with us even though we didn’t know much about machine learning. We were introduced to the 5 key steps of using machine learning models. They walked us through a practical implementation of image recognition with a model based on CNN (convoluted neural network). We learnt that data preprocessing is key to higher accuracy. The hands-on experience gave us an idea as to how we can use various tools/libraries to implement machine learning models to solve problems. They also showed us a couple of their projects which gave us a better understanding of how machine learning can be used in real life scenarios. Overall we learnt quite a lot from them and had a fulfilling experience 🙂
For our first meal with the students of the VNU-UET Institute of Artificial Intelligence, they brought us to a restaurant they frequently patronize due to the quality of food served. The recommended dish was none other than Pho (Beef Noodles), however we inquired about any other dishes the restaurant offered. This led us to trying a lesser known dish called Bún đậu mắm tôm, which in english translates to fermented shrimp paste with fried tofu and rice vermicelli. The local students had warned us that it’s a dish that not everyone may like, mainly because of the pungent smell and strong taste of the fermented shrimp sauce. We, however, were feeling very adventurous and wanted to fully immerse ourselves in Vietnamese culture and disregarded their advice. Ultimately, this became the group’s most memorable meal as it was both a very novel taste to us and an overall pleasant flavor.
Left: Bun Rieu Right: Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm
The next meal we had with the students had a slightly familiar taste as it was essentially chicken rice, but the rice was fried and had a crispy texture to it. During the meal, we were introduced to students who were not part of the exchange programme. Despite this we still managed to bond and forge friendships otherwise impossible without Tung introducing us to his friends.
For our last meal together, the VNU-UET students brought us to what would basically be Singapore’s version of a supper club. There, we had drinks, fried food, and boiled fish and duck.
Overall, our experience with Vietnamese cuisine was superb. There may have been concerns regarding food hygiene and whether or not the dish would be delicious, however, the local students were very meticulous in bringing us to reputable eateries and giving us ample explanation on what we were consuming.
We went to places like the Vietnam Palace and National Museum! These places show the long heritage and history Vietnam has. It fully displayed the culture and beauty of Hanoi at the Palace. The VNU students also brought us around the vicinity of the hotel and night markets. There, we did quite a bit of shopping and also experienced the life of a local in Hanoi.
One memorable one was when Tung, our student helper, brought us to this street market beside the university and helped us to bargain and “cut” prices. Tung also brought us as and when he could, where we also rode in motorcycles just like many locals. Cafes and local delights were very nice there.
Before we knew it, we had come to the end of our trip. It was time to say goodbye to the beautiful Hanoi and VNU that had treated us so well during our stay. This trip exposed us to a wide range of fields of study outside of our own, as well as to different perspectives of someone else. By taking into account different perspectives and ideas, we can grow, think differently, and consider different perspectives. The friendships and memories made have been priceless, and we will cherish them for a lifetime. Thank you VNU and thank you Group 2 for being amazing.