This morning in place of our language or culture classes, because unfortunately those are over, we went on a site visit to the Cat Lai Terminal. This terminal is the biggest deep sea port in all of Vietnam, and it accounts for almost 50% of all imports and exports from Vietnam and over 85% of all imports and exports of Ho Chi Minh City specifically. This enormous terminal has room along its dock for 7 large freight boats and it has between 3 and 4 highly technical cranes to load and unload the ships. Along with the cranes for loading and unloading, there must have been hundreds of trucks and forklifts for container transport. The company who runs this port uses a software system in the main control tower to track all movements of the shipping containers and maximize efficiency for its customers. When asking about this software and how long is has been in use the main answer we received from our tour guide was simply that is has been in use for multiple years and has minimized costs for this company and its clients extensively. Considering all shipping containers used to be tracked by hand, I can certainly see why! The customs process is interesting because when containers are removed from the ship they are driven through a customs X-ray scanner and if anything is detected that should not be there, the entire containers is checked. We watched one getting loaded with what must have been over 500 bags of rice, so unloading some containers for a check must be time consuming and costly. This is a prime location for a deep sea shipping terminal because it is right along the main international maritime routes and it is also the largest of its kind in Vietnam. Interesting site tour!
Up next was our group visit to the Reunification Palace (Independence Palace) in Ho Chi Minh City (Aka Saigon). The reason I mention this city’s previous name of Saigon is because Independence Palace is a museum that previously served as the capital building of South Vietnam. When Saigon fell and that well known North Vietnamese tank drove through the front gates, this capital building took on the new role of housing the Vietnam unification meetings and eventually it became the museum it is today. On today’s tour we visited every room of importance throughout the palace, including the President and Vice President’s offices and living quarters as well as the situation rooms and dining areas. The most interesting areas that we visited though were the bunkers for the president and his family for when the capital building was under attack. To many this building was the center of their home of South Vietnam. Today, however, it is now a historical landmark and a symbol of where Vietnam has come from and where it is today.
Before I finish my blog I also want to touch upon the interesting outlook of some Vietnamese people on the end of the war, while at the same time explaining the title of my blog. Throughout the course of this trip, naturally, we have encountered some Vietnamese people who have some understandable rhetoric about the war and the Americans involvement. Along side that though, I have also been aware of some interesting propaganda in different places such as “we support the communist party” signs, this extreme celebration for Ho Chi Minh’s upcoming birthday and also the surprising rhetoric towards Americans at the War Remnants museum. I believe today’s dose of slight propaganda was in our tour of Independence palace. During the movie at the end it portrayed the end of the war as a liberation for all of Vietnam and it showed people celebrating in the streets as if all of Vietnam was thrilled at the fall of Saigon. I expected to encounter propaganda throughout the trip and in some cases it’s not even as bad as I expected, but nevertheless I thought it important to include because it is a different environment then the United States. To finish off, I believe encountering these differences has helped me to grow as a person and as a citizen of democracy. It is no question that we have problems with our government these days, but I am finding reasons to still be extremely thankful and I also appreciate my right to speak out against the political system when I see something that is unfair or unjust. Evidently that can not be said about all countries around the world. It is illegal for Vietnamese citizens to speak out against their government, under the intensions to keep unity and respect for history as the communist party describes it.
Sorry for the little historical and political tangent that I just went on, but I believe it is all important information. Once again I am very appreciative for this experience!
Well, unfortunately for everyone who loves reading my blog tomorrow is my last blog post here in Vietnam. Hope you’ve enjoyed the journey. We still have one more day together though!!! And hey, Enjoy the pictures below!
- Massive shipping container boat getting loaded for an international shipment of everything from commercial goods to rice… lots of rice
- taking shipping containers to the boat. This crane drops the containers on trucks that take them to the boats. You can see the truck in the back
- rice… lots of rice
- ex-vice president of South Vietnam’s office in Independence palace
- epic helicopter on the helicopter pad of independence palace
All the best,