Today, after about 30 hours of traveling, we were finally able to see Vietnam.
We began the morning with a welcoming ceremony at the University of Economics and Finance, full of dancing, singing, and enough pictures to make me run out of storage on only the first day. Following some lessons on the Vietnamese language, even more singing, and an incredible lunch, we ventured on a bus tour of Ho Chi Minh.
Some things that stood out to me on this bus tour (other than the enormous downpour that cooled us off partway through) were the large number of shops and restaurants filling every street we turned onto. These shops and restaurants ranged in every size, color, and nature – with some being local and others more universal (ex. Popeyes, Versace), with a great deal of them advertising in English, French and Vietnamese. This, to me, was one of the most apparent indicators of globalization thus far. The development of Ho Chi Minh, and Vietnam as a whole, could be detected just as easily, with construction painting every inch of the city. The most prominent example of construction serving as evidence of local economic growth was that of the city subway station, more or less similar to Pittsburgh’s own T. The projected year of its completion, unanimous with the projected development of Vietnam, is 2020.
Once we had finished the tour and endured a little more rain, we got ready for dinner on the boat, the Indochina Queen. Here we were able to spend more time with the Vietnamese students. Though, by this time, we were more used to how friendly they all were. I, along with the rest of the Plus3-ers, had been surprised earlier on by how many hugs they were eager to give. While the CultureSmart book had warned us that physical contact was strongly avoided in Vietnam, we were met with the opposite case – it was fearlessly pursued. Though, it was more than a pleasant surprise – I’m never one to turn down a hug. Can’t wait for more to come!