May 9th – First Site Visit


Above is a picture of me and my new UEF (University of Economics and Finance) friend Trinh holding up “shooting hearts”  a Korean symbol to show love.  <3

We started our day at UEF for a lesson in the development of Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam by a guest lecturer. We learned all about the history of Vietnam and how it was formed and how the country has grown through wars and it’s 3000-year history. We learned that Vietnam is shaped as a “sexy s” as some have affectionately deemed it, or a dragon as it is more commonly thought of. After 1976, a lot of slums were built in the city.  Development didn’t even start until the 1990s because Ho Chi Minh City had failed at urban planning up until that point. However, after 2000 in around 2004, the city started to build structure and skyscrapers. They were attempting to make Ho Chi Minh into a modern city. Today, they are still rapidly developing and only have 5,000 slums. What is fascinating about Vietnam is that all the development in the city happened in the 21st century.

After our lesson on development, we had our second language class with the same teacher as yesterday. He is so lovely and gives us hope that we are improving. We learned today how to have a basic conversation with phrases like: “Hello friend!”, “I am a student at the University of Pittsburgh”, “It is nice to meet you”, and “See you soon!”  It’s so rewarding to have our own personal Vietnamese partners to help coach us and get so excited when we can correctly speak their language.  It feels as though we are learning so much for only having two classes under our belt.   We then learned a children’s song about a little bird linked here.  Carly and I got called out by the teacher to stand up and sing the karaoke version, as you can see below,which was quite a hoot.


After a fun filled morning, we then drove through 3 different districts to get to District 7, Phu My Hung.  We stopped at a wonderful Tokyo Sushi place where I tried my first caviar.  It was delicious and we had to take our shoes off in order to enter the restaurant area.  Phu My Hung is a District name, however it is named after a corporation – Phu My Hung.  Phu My Hung is a large development company that actually created most of the city through urban planning and then execution of the plans.  We got to see a model of their city and watch a video about how it was created.  One of the best takeaways I got from the speaker there was that you can have the best plans in the world to develop an urban city and plan to do everything in an innovative way.  But, if you do not have to proper people to follow through and execute the plans, then the plans are useles.

As soon as we drove into this district you noticed a massive change in wealth.  Before we would see a car dealership such as Honda, but it would be filled with motorbikes.  Here, the dealership was filled with cars.  Cars are a BIG indicator of wealth as you have to pay the government a 200% tax when you purchase a car. A student explained that you would buy a 100K car and and up paying 300K for it and that excludes all other expenses!  Other than that, the streets were transformed into a grid pattern, as Phu My HUng explained: they made the streets in a grid/ checker board style to help easse the flow of traffic and congestion.  So everything seemed more cleaner cut.  There were almost no shops on the sides of the street run by the residents.  All the shops were higher end retail stores with a glass, clean store fronts.   It all seemed new and expensive with mainly white builings.  However, the buildings seemed empty and devoid of people.  As we noticed, and the UEF students explained…this was a “rich peoples city.”  After touring the company, the speaker explained the target high income earners or upper middle class people.  The UEF students explained that meant CEOs, actors, actresses, and really famous people lived there as they were the only ones who could afford to live there.  Phu My Hung sells their houses and apartments directly to its citizens and these homes are extremely decident and over the top in many cases.  They were beautiful, but we passed houses that ended up costing more than 4 million USD.  However, the typical houses went from 120,000-300,000 USD.  The UEF students said that for Vietnamese, they would rather take all that money and send their kids to amazing schools, so you knew that families that would also buy these larges houses and cars had plenty of money.  Environmentally, the company prides its self on how much green space it keeps within the city.  It has a lot of walking parks and trees for its citizens.  It also uses a special wast water treatmnt system to keep everything clean and save water by recycling everything except the solid waste.  Overall, it is a very progressive company with large goals.  They seem to be creating a massive, nice city our would “the sounth of saigon” which used to be a marsh.  It was so impressive to see what they could do in such a short period of time.


Pictured above is a panorama of the City of Phu My Hung from their HQ.  It is sitting on what they call the Crescent.


Above is the sampler lunch we had at the sushi restaurant.

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