Ho Chi Minh is a massive city. When we were up in the UEF building, you could see it stretching to the smog-filled horizon. Today we saw a few portions of this city, including the French Quarter, “China Town”, and a Buddhist pagoda.
At UEF signs of globalization were everywhere, from the american music the students played us to the inspirational quotes written on the walls (in English) from famous people around the world. In the streets several common brands showed themselves. BMW’s were seen driven around. Nike, Apple , and of course the iconic golden arches of McDonald’s and the red logo of Coca-Cola could also be spotted.
Development was also evident from our bus ride around the city. Countless cranes spotted the city, as well as a new subway stop that was being constructed near the Opera House. With this rapid development comes the contrast of wealth, which could not be missed. The most obvious example being a Lamborghini parked in a glass building that I spotted not a two minute walk from the crowded and grimy market.
The welcome dinner was incredible. It was family style, which is in line with Vietnamese culture (and mentioned in our CultureSmart book) but still came as a bit of a shock as I am simply not used to it. I lost track of how many courses there were, most of which contained lettuce, noodles, mint, and shrimp or pork. I was a bit surprised that there was pork, instead of a more fish-heavy meal. Although I did not enjoy everything, I did try everything, and was pleasantly surprised by more than one course.