Day 2 provided a transition from a social focus to a more educational focus, but I was still thoroughly entertained by the day’s activities. In the morning, we returned to UEF and received a lecture about urban planning and development before our daily Vietnamese language lesson. While our language skills are developing very slowly as a group, we all made strides today in beginning to understand the unique tones associated with different symbols in the language.
For lunch, we visited Tokyo Deli – a restaurant offering primarily Japanese cuisine in addition to the Vietnamese staple of pho. In traditional cultural custom, we removed our shoes upon entering the restaurant and sat at tables resting barely a foot off the floor. In my lifetime, I had only tasted sushi once prior, and I remember strongly disliking the flavor and texture. This time around, I committed to ignore my strong dislike for seafood and sample everything. I managed to eat all ten pieces of sushi while consuming both salmon and crab meat for the first time. Although I don’t plan on visiting every sushi shop I pass, I didn’t hate the experience which I view as progress. One of my main goals on this trip was to approach everything with an open mind and try as many new things as possible. Today, I accomplished a piece of this goal through my sushi experimentation, and I’m looking forward to additional unique cuisines throughout the next couple weeks!
Following our meal, we attended our first professional site visit of the trip. I was blown away. We were greeted by a very technologically-savvy presentation featuring numerous projected images and a 3D map of South Ho Chi Minh City. Phu My Hung is a government-sponsored company who created a “Master Plan” for restructuring a large portion of the Southern part of the city. This “Master Plan” was referred to endlessly as the basis for all of their structures. Their development consists of numerous schools, homes, restaurants, public spaces, and environmentally-protected areas. Phu My Hung has existed for less than thirty years, but it has been a driving force behind infrastructure development in the city which began in the 1970s. While development in this community is clearly directed toward more affluent citizens, the shops and restaurants can be visited by anyone who ventures in the area. The company’s master plan is human-oriented which means they focus on the people and nature in the area. With this focus, the company has protected great amounts of marsh plants, and they adhere to the city’s regulations regarding acceptable amounts of green life.
Phu My Hung also serves a global purpose. The Master Plan was established by three designers from Boston, San Francisco, and Tokyo who were all selected for the project. The project itself is a joint venture operation funded by the Vietnamese government and Taiwan. Members of the Phu My Hung communities represent approximately thirty countries worldwide, and only 62% of residents are native to Vietnam.
While the company’s mission and work was portrayed rather nobly, I felt as if the whole company had a “Big Brother” feel to it. Just as in George Orwell’s 1984, the government seemed to have all of the say over this perfect little world. During the opening video, the line, “All the people here are happy,” also caught my attention, and made me slightly skeptical of the place. Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to one of the most lavish areas in the entire city, and I felt like I gained a great deal of knowledge about development today!