Today, we went to the Cat Lai ship terminal. When the bus drove into the entrance of the ship terminal, we were overwhelmed by the sight of endless shipping containers. A representative from Saigon Newport Corporation talked to us about how the Cat Lai Terminal fits in relation to the global shipping industry. Vietnam is situated very close to many major international shipping routes, and so is perfectly placed to distribute goods to all of Asia. In addition, Vietnam has a large amount of coastline in proportion to its small land mass, so that also makes it a convenient place for a ship yard.
International ships are often too large to enter into many ports because the ocean must be very deep to accommodate them. So, “feeder ships” pick up the cargo in large ports and deliver them to other ports. The Cat Lai Terminal stores and delivers cargo around southern Asia. Because of the quantity of crates, they need a system to organize and efficiently transport the crates. In the past few years, they have implemented a computer program that takes care of this complicated process. The crates need to go through customs, which involves occasional checks when the customs officials are suspicious, including x-ray and physical searches.
After this, we had lunch at Vietnamese Pizza Hut, which was an interesting experience. Then, we went changed into casual clothing and the bus took us to the Reunification Palace, also known as the Independence Palace. It used to be where the President of Vietnam lived with his wife. Now, it is a museum where people can see the historically accurate rooms, and there are occasionally still important government meetings there. The palace was very beautifully decorated, with incredible carpets, curtains, and lacquer paintings. Today, this site symbolizes a united Vietnam, and Vietnam’s endurance as a relatively small country against powerful outside invaders.
We got to see two very different parts of Vietnam culture, but both added an interesting perspective to my understanding of this very diverse country.