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Asian youth ship departs Vietnam

Kimi Ueda cried when she said goodbye to a Vietnamese family in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday although she had only stayed with them for three days.

"Even though we couldn't communicate well with each other, we had already become family. I will never forget all the things they did for me, and I will come back to see them again in the near future," said the Japanese participant in the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth (SSEAYP) program.

Ueda is one of more than 300 youths from ten ASEAN countries (and Japan) who joined the 37th annual youth ship program hosted by the island nation.

During her home-stay in Vietnam, Ueda said she was taken to many places, enjoyed the chance to taste traditional Vietnamese food and truly experience local life.

Another SSEAYP participant, Chester Alexis Buama from the Philippines said Vietnam was one of his favorite stops during the program.

"I tried different foods and visited interesting places such as the Independence Palace where you really see how hard the Vietnamese people fought to win their independence from the Americans," Buama said. "During my short stay with my foster family in Vietnam I got a glimpse of their culture which I think is not different from Filipino culture in their warm hospitality and the way they treat guests like family."

The program ship Fuji Maru left HCMC's Saigon Port on Wednesday for Tokyo the last destination on the cruise. The vessel has already docked in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

On December 5, the local contingent held a "Vietnamese Day" on board showcasing traditional music and dancing. They also made traditional ceramic rings, organized a Miss Ao Dai contest, taught Vietnamese martial arts.

Many activities were organized throughout the course of the trip to facilitate a deeper comprehension of various traditions of the countries they visited.

The Asian youth ship program was launched by the Japanese government in 1974, as part of a multilateral exchange activity aimed at strengthening understanding and friendship between international youths.