As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, our schedule for today began at the Ben Tanh Market, a popular destination for tourists in Saigon. We had previously visited some other smaller markets over the course of the trip so I didn’t have too much shopping to do, but there was one item on my list; watches. I had been warned by a UEF student that the Ben Tanh Market is frequently overpriced, so I would have to pull out my best bartering skills in order to get the watches I wanted for my brother and I. Another Pitt student and I worked together to gradually haggle the price down for the watches we wanted until we were both satisfied. Personally, I love this manner of shopping and find the process of negotiating price and pushing for the best deal quite exhilarating. Given how important personal relationships are to business practices in Vietnam, it makes sense that lower level business deals would also be more personal rather than simply looking through items until you find a price you like. I can see some situations were fixed prices would be preferable, but I wish that the US had a combination of regular stores and barter-based markets like this one.
After our usual lunch and classes at UEF, we headed out for a stop at the Hua Phuoc Hai pagoda, one of many Buddhist locations of worship throughout Vietnam. Unlike many communist countries, Vietnam is completely open and supportive of all religions and the government itself is in fact atheist. This results in an interesting mix of cultures and beliefs that can be seen everywhere throughout Saigon. Our second stop of the day was at the War Remnants Museum, where the Vietnamese perspective on the Vietnam War is recorded. It was extremely sobering to see the opposite perspective on this war and a direct and honest record of the atrocities committed by Americans during the war. Though it is hard to know which side is being more honest, it was clear to me that a large chunk of the truth of this war is left out of most American history books. Despite the now positive relationship between our two countries, this discrepancy shows that our country’s pride still blinds us from the mistakes we have made in the past. We will never be able to learn from our history and our mistakes as a country if we don’t properly remember them.