Today started off with a delicious breakfast at the hotel and then a spectacular reception at the University of Economics and Finance (UEF). Everyone told me in advance that the students and staff at UEF would be extremely kind and welcoming, but I was completely unprepared for the energy and friendliness of the Vietnamese students! The Culture Smart book had told me that many Vietnamese are reserved, but the students at UEF were very outgoing! I had a blast watching the performances as well as dancing and singing along. After the reception, we had our first language classes at UEF! We learned some basic phrases like hello (xin chào), thank you (cám ơn), and excuse me (xin lỗi).
After our language lesson, we had phở for lunch at a local restaurant and then took off for a bus tour of the city. On the bus we saw lots of examples of both development and globalization! We could see the construction sight where the new Ho Chi Minh City subway is currently under progress. The project is a joint venture by Japan and Vietnam, and it was very cool to see such an example of international cooperation! We drove past many familiar stores and restaurants. Scattered throughout the city were retail stores like H&M and fast food chains like Popeye’s and McDonald’s. We also got a chance to see many historic French colonial buildings including the City Hall, Central Post Office, and the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. It started raining and we were trapped inside the Post Office, but it was a great opportunity to explore! Throughout the tour we could see the influence the French had on the architecture of Ho Chi Minh City.
That night, we went aboard the Indochina Queen riverboat for a dinner and tour of Ho Chi Minh City. We were served six courses of shrimp salad, seafood spring rolls, clams, chicken and stick rice, a hot pot, and lemon cream crepes. I wouldn’t say any of the food at dinner surprised me. The food and setting was very similar to what the Culture Smart book had predicted. However, even though it was what I expected, some of it was hard to eat. I ate shrimp when it came with the salad, but I couldn’t stomach it in the hot pot. I know that there was barely a difference between the two, but I suppose there’s something personally off-putting about eating something when you can see its eyes. Overall though, it was an amazing day! After a long weekend of travel it was nice to start our first day with an energetic welcome and then end it with a delicious dinner and a beautiful and calming cruise!