Today, May 7, 2018, was truly an unforgettable experience. We started the day at the University of Economics and Finance (UEF) where we received the warmest, most cheerful welcome from our new Vietnamese friends. We danced, sang, played games, and bonded with the students from Vietnam. The students’ radiating happiness and excitement really made all of us from Pitt feel welcomed.
Then, after eating a delicious bowl of Phở (traditional Vietnamese noodle soup) at a local restaurant, we headed out on a tour of Ho Chi Minh City. One of the stops included a look inside of the Central Post Office and a view of the Note Dame Cathedral. Even from first glance, the French influences on the buildings architecture were very evident. Standing in the gothic and renaissance building reminded me of the iced coffee I drank earlier in the day. You may be thinking how does a building remind you of coffee? The connecting thread between the coffee and the architecture is the French influence. After a quick google search, I found out that coffee was introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by a French Catholic priest. The coffee and the architecture are just two of many examples of globalization and the intertwining of cultures. My thoughts of coffee and French influences were abruptly interrupted by a thunderous rain storm which meant we hopped right back on the bus. Now looking at the city from the bus, we passed some construction for the city’s soon-to-be metro. The metro, comparable to subways in the US, seeks to decrease traffic congestion and air pollution. It is a result of the rapid growth of urbanization and the economy. In other words, the metro is a sure sign of development in Vietnam’s largest city.
After the city tour, we were measured for custom Áo dài (traditional Vietnamese garment) and suits. Then we headed off to dinner which took place on a boat on the Saigon river. I was very surprised at the number our courses we were served. It felt as if every time I looked up from my dish there was a new dish sitting right in front of me. However, what didn’t surprise me was the quality of the food. Each course tasted fresh and satisfied my appetite. Another highlight of the meal was sitting with our new Vietnamese friends. Before coming on this trip, I had heard the Vietnamese people were polite and inviting. However, they were even more polite and inviting than I could ever imagine. Their effort to welcome us is very much appreciated.
Well, today was fully packed with activities, and I can assure you that a nice night of rest is very needed! Tune in to my blog posts to hear all about the rest of my adventure in Vietnam!