I woke from my bus ride nap as we arrived at Cat Lai Terminal, one of the largest ports in Vietnam. Once we arrived, we were taken into a classroom where a guide taught us about Vietnamese ports and why they matter to the country.
Vietnam has a coastline of around 3,000 kilometers, so it’s appropriate that shipping be a big industry for them. Our guide showed us a map of the most used shipping routes in the world, and the main ones revolved around China and East Asia, flying right around Vietnam (though not actually going TO Vietnam). This, like many other industries in Vietnam, leaves room for a lot of growth, and has led to the construction of 30 ports along Vietnam, including Cat Lai Terminal.
Cat Lai Terminal is special because it’s near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city. It makes sense to have a large port near a large population center. It’s also good because it’s in southern Vietnam, giving it easy access to countries like Cambodia and Thailand who don’t have much coastline and need sea trade.
We walked around the port for a while in the hot sun. We saw cranes lifting huge metal crates which was cool to see. Every port has its own type of container it can carry. Our guide explained that Cat Lai Terminal ships 40 foot and 20 foot length containers. 40 foot containers are used for items that are light but take up lots of space, while 20 foot containers are used for smaller yet heavier items.
On the trip, we also saw how workers put bags of rice in containers and saw the control tower of the port. After that, we went back to the hotel to change out of business casual clothes (the Independence Palace is hot) and then went to lunch at Pizza Hut, which was my first time at a Pizza Hut ever. Apparently it was nicer and better than American versions so I don’t think I’ll be going back.
We then went to the Independence Palace, a beautiful sight near our hotel that we’ve passed many times. The palace is where the president and vice president of South Vietnam stayed, as well as where cabinet meetings and a situation room were held.
The palace is significant today as a sign of victory for the North and liberation of the people. There is a spot on the helipad that shows where a North Vietnamese pilot struck the building, and many pictures are shown of the North storming the gates and the South surrendering. It was very cool to see something exactly how it was decades ago. It felt like time travel.
All in all, today was a demonstration of two very important things in Vietnam: remembering the Vietnam War, and international trade. The Vietnam War is in the past, but it’s influence remains. On the other hand, international trade is relatively new, but Vietnam is already bearing its fruits.