Today was the first time in my life that I had ever stepped foot on Asian soil. Soil of a changing land. A land where one could see a bustling street market filled with shirtless vendors and fried pig testicles on one city corner; then see a high end fashion shops and trendy coffee nooks on the next.
Ho Chi Minh City is unlike any other place I have ever experienced. While on today’s city tour, I was amazing by the massiveness of the city. Unlike most of the world’s largest cities, Ho Chi Minh City lacks a definitive skyline of skyscrapers and instead is spread out like a endless ocean. Looking over the city from the University of Economics and Finance’s view, one sees an never ending horizon of residential buildings, corporate offices and retail shops.
While at the University, I got to meet some of the most joyful and bright students that I have ever come in contact with. The students welcomed our entire troupe with flower leis and big smiles. They made me feel like a celebrity. After what seemed like thousands of photos, we entered the University to find an audience of the entire student body waiting for us in their auditorium. Our entire group was given an entire show filled with songs and interactive games. There I got to meet numerous students that all were so excited and extremely kind. One student in particular struck a chord with me.
Kim, one of the students, told me her hopes to become an owner of her very own residential building that would specifically help students and young couples with its fair prices and good amenities. She told me her hopes of opening a milk tea shop in the basement to gain more customers and attract her target demographic. Her drive and vision inspired me. I have no idea what I want to do with my business education and this woman already has a solid game plan for life. She understands that she wants to use her knowledge to help others that have gone through the same types of struggles that she has. She see the city as beacon of hope to bring other Vietnamese people together and to help her launch her own promising career. She understands the heart of this city.
This city is a heterogeneous concoction of the old and the new. While exploring the city, one can still feel the distinct history the city and Vietnam, itself, but also one can see the influences of Vietnam’s neighboring countries and western society. One can also feel the intense heat of the country’s famed Hot Season. We explored the streets with sweat dripping faces and faces that showed our pure exhaustion. Along with experiencing the new weather, we also noticed how the city is trying to modernize itself through big name brands and next level technology. These distinct features of the city’s landscape exposes Vietnam’s booming economy and its desire to be known as a fully blown developed entity.
From the intense heat to the moped infested streets, Vietnam has been an eye opening experience. In particular, dinner was a unique experience. The waiters continuously handed our table plate after plate of Vietnamese cuisine. After we finished one humungous plate, another and then another were brought to our table. The food, itself, included spring rolls, rice noodles and assorted seafood. Some the University students helped us navigate the new foods. The behavior of the students is completely different from what I was prepared for. Before embarking on this journey, I expected the people to be very reserved. I also thought they I would not make much physical contact with them besides a handshake. I was wrong, the students are some of the only people that are just as hype as I am and they all gave me approximately 15 hugs each.
Today was a sneak peek into the exciting city that is Ho Chi Minh City. I am ready for what else lies ahead on this adventure.