Sadly, today was the final day of my Plus-3 trip to Vietnam. We began playing the Vietnamese UEF students in some friendly sports. In soccer, the US boys team tied the UEF team. In tug a war, the US teams basically sweeped the Vietnamese teams. We then had the opportunity to give our gifts to our UEF student friends and take many many pictures with them. It was a great time. Following the sports, we all went the hotel to check out and each a lunch in our hotel. We put on our Ao Dai’s and head over to the UEF central building to present our company visit projects.My group did our presentation on IIVI and I think it went quite well. For dinner, we went to a wonderful rooftop buffet. From the high level, I could old and new buildings across Ho Chi Min city. The food was simply wonderful. I ate fresh duck and oysters as I said my last goodbyes to my new friends. I even made a new friend, a cute little Asian boy named who I called Mr. Ben. When the time came, we headed downstairs, into the bus and off to the airport. The entire way there we sang along to American pop songs. When we got there, there were some tears, mostly from the Vietnamese students. This truly was a wonderful trip that I will remember forever.
We began today by going to the Imperial Palace or as some call it, reunification palace. The palace was the last stronghold of the Southern Vietnam before the North Vietnamese iconically broke through the front gate in April 1975. The palace has been through s couple renovations. During the Vietnam war, the president of Southern Vietnam had a bunker in the basement where he could retreat. It was and still is a beautiful palace. During the was, bombs destroyed the helicopter pad and the staircase of the palace, however these features were renovated by the communists after the war. After the museum visit we headed to lunch. We went to a buffet that was on the 9th floor of a large building. The food was incredible. i enjoyed eating snails, clams, shrimp and oysters for some time as I looked over the city. Following lunch, we headed to our site visit at a port east of Ho Chi Min. Cat Lai is one of the 30 largest ports in the world, and the single largest in Vietnam. It was incredible to see the giant ships and crates that carry goods across the world. It is hard to imagine the logistics that the company must go through to organize and keep track of all the coming and going goods. We had the opportunity to converse and ask questions to a big wig in of the cooperation. Today was a good day, even though it rained.
Today we headed to UEF and had our second lesson about Vietnamese culture. We then had our final speaking Vietnamese class. For lunch, we stayed at UEF and had sandwiches with hot chili sauce. My favorite flavor was the egg sandwich. We then began our studies of Buddhism. A Buddhist man came to teach us the history of Buddhism. We learned that the original Buddah was an Indian prince who abandoned his life of wealth to seek a greater truth and teach others of his findings. We visited a Buddhist temple. Also, we stopped at the location where the icon scene of the monk burning himself in protest of the war. We then head over to the War Remnants Museum. There, we saw the Vietnam war through the perspective of the Vietnamese. The images of the effects of agent orange were disturbing, but I was used to similar images from my holocaust studies.
Today was a successful day. In the morning we went to the market. I was very surprised to see how crowded the stalls were. After a lap around the market, I decided that I my goal was to to purchase a north face backpack and a frog trinket for my friend Isaac. To achieve this task, I went form stall to stall seeing how low the vendors would go on the price of the items I wanted. After purchasing the backpack for 600,000 dong, about 30 dollars, I thought I struck a good deal. Unfortunately, when I regrouped with the UEF students, I was informed that I overplayed by about 10 US dollars. For lunch we went to an awesome Japanese restaurant. I loved the salmon, which was way fresher and tastier than fish I have had in Pittsburgh. In the afternoon, we visited TVS, a financial firm in Ho Chi Min. We learned about the many differences found when trading on the Vietnamese market compared to American markets. One of the biggest issues found in the Vietnamese market is the prospect of liquidation, with allows for insider manipulation. An issue seen by the vietnamese as a whole is that alot of Vietnamese prefer short trading stocks instead of investing money for a long time to see their money mature as the economy does. Ironically, if people investing for the long term the economy might be doing better. The firm, however, is optimistic that the market will continue to become more robust in upcoming years. In time, I am sure the vietnamese culture and political structure will adapt so the Vietnamese stock market will be a true global player.
I have been lucky to have the opportunity to travel to many places around the world. I have now been to every continents except Africa (and Antarctica). My favorite place to visit is Europe, specifically Paris and Amsterdam. I feel that if someone wants to travel through Europe, they might as well just go to paris. Despite all of my travel experience, I have never been to a place like the Cu Chi tunnels. The closest thing to Cu Chi was a tunnel that went through the aquaduct in Jerusalem. Although longer, the tunnel was not nearly as small as Cu Chi.In the Cu Chi tunnels, I had to ben over in a very uncomfortable angle to crawl through. They were a network of shorter tunnels by which the Cu Chi Vietnamese were able to evade the napalm bombs dropped by the US. The entrances were very small and had leaves covering it so it could not be easily found or seen. In the tunnels, booby traps caught unsuspecting Americans who successfully found the entrances. I found it strange how through the vietnamese perspective, America was 100% at fault for the was and the communist soldiers (who killed Americans) are heros. Near the tunnels was a showcase of bomb shells used by Americans to burn down forests. There also was a fighter jet that was used to take down 7 US planes. After the Cu Chi tunnels, we went to to a Vietnamese cemetery that honored the Vietnamese soldiers that died in the was. I also found it strange that we took a group picture as Americas infront of the statue.
Today was a good day we went to the Mekong river. We got on the bus 8:00am. What a ride! I was engaged with a small Vietnamese man who was what very knowledgeable in the practices of country folk. When we got to the Mekong we went to a snake farm. I found a new mammal I did not know existed! Thats pretty awesome! Next we went to the Mekong. At the first island we ate coconut candy. It was sticky and I bought some for my sister.
And then we had lunch. A whole fish with scales! Chicken! salad! noodles! rice! octopus! water! Epic.
Next we went to another island. wW saw an elderly woman who is the last member of the coconut religion. And then we went to another island where we had honey and fruit. I put my finger In a bee hive and ate honey right from it. Then we had tea which was good. Then we went to the fruit ladies they played music on a Vietnamese instrument that had one string. I had papaya, watermelon, and dragonfruit! Went went back to the boat and I bought a cool hat. What a day. Different than American for sure. The people of the Mekong Delta are very different. The standard of living is much lower than in America.
The people treat me very well, but they had trouble speaking English.