Today is Tuesday May 9th and we just finished up all organized activities for the day so I have decided to write this blog in the short time before our UEF friends take us out to dinner. Looks like dinner tonight is at the Korean Barbecue, which from my understanding is like a Korean Hibachi (which my family and girlfriend would likely enjoy)!
Today’s main educational focus, besides the Vietnamese language class which I’m improving in, was the housing and Urban development here in Ho Chi Minh City. We first had a guest lecturer from Urban Planning Ho Chi Minh City Development & Vietnam Architectural Heritage. He spent about an hour an a half with us and he first briefly went over Vietnam’s history with us so he could then dive deeper into how each section began developing over centuries and more so in the past century. This lecture was an excellent way to get us thinking about development in Vietnam, because our final part of the day is fully focused on it.
After that lecture was our Vietnamese language class and I must say I am much better today at saying “hello”, “goodbye”, and “what is your name” than I was yesterday. That may sound very basic and comical that it’s taken two classes to get this far, but Vietnamese is much more specific than English and there are many more ways to address a person than just “you” as in English. The alphabet is also much harder because pronunciation is absolutely essential (unfortunately for me lol). Once again though, I am getting better!
Up next in our day was (once again) my new favorite meal of the trip thus far, at Tokyo Deli. When we pulled up to the restaurant I was skeptical, not because I dislike Sushi but because I have been trying so many new foods that it might be very obscure Sushi. Alas, I was wrong and this restaurant was an authentic experience as well s delicious cuisine. The tables were low to the ground with open space below the ground for our legs to sit to look more real and overall enhance the experience (check out the picture above). Besides the appearance of how we ate the food, the sushi itself was amazing. Don’t try asking me what it was because I have no clue, all I know is I finished it all.
Finally, what should be the meat and potatoes of this blog (because it’s what my entire prompt is about) is the company site visit at Phu My Hung Corporation and everything I learned about the continuing development of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City in particular. This may sound like a rather boring topic, but it was actually one of the most interesting academic discussions I have ever taken part in and my eyes are opened a little more as to how big business, small communities, foreign investment and master plans all contribute to development. Phu My Hung is a development corporation that was founded in 1993 after Vietnam opened it’s borders to foreign investment and they took on a mission that was ambitious yet successful, so to speak. The people of Phu My Hung had a vision and saw an opportunity for massive growth with the undeveloped “worthless” marshlands of Saigon South (a lower portion of Saigon). They conceptualized a grand development sector from uncivilized land and immediately began working on a master plan for the sector with multiple other investors, architects, developers and the Ho Chi Minh government….
Quick note: Ho Chi Minh and Saigon refer to the same city that I am studying in, they just refer to the city name before and after the war. I am also shocked to learn that many citizens still refer to this city as Saigon even though the new regime renamed it Ho Chi Minh City when Saigon fell at the end of the war. Regardless, I often refer to it by both names.
… Anyway, this master plan won multiple awards for its preparation and detail in planning a beautiful sector completely from the ground up. It is not like a normal district/ sector development where it expands slowly. This entire area was planned on a “blank canvas” of land. In 24 short years a city-like development has occurred within the borders of the Phu My Hung site and it is an absolutely gorgeous city-like view. Unfortunately, this massive, clean, efficient community is in no way designed for all demographics. Phu My Hung is a development corporation that has created a development site with industrial space for big businesses and housing for only the wealthy. The cheapest housing is over a hundred thousand US dollars, something almost all Vietnamese cannot afford. Granted, this is a quickly developing and environmentally friendly area so it must be expensive, but still it excludes most people in this city from residing within it’s borders. To my knowledge, buying a residence in Vietnam does not differ much except for payment plans are much more structured and strict with fewer options because going in debt is not preferred by anyone.
Thank you all (especially Brian who has to read this) for reading this blog because I know it is very long, but today was very interesting to me!