Today we attended a class on the urban development and planning of Ho Chi Minh City. The class was interesting, especially since our teacher, although born after the war, gave us more insight into how the Vietnamese view the Vietnam War. After lunch, the Vietnamese students took us over to a coffee shop next door to UEF. Surprisingly, the coffee shop looked very American and even had decorations that were all in English. I ordered a drink called a blue ocean soda. I still can’t tell what was in it, but it definitely looked pretty! We later went back to the classroom for our Vietnamese language class, where we learned about the six different Vietnamese tones. Today’s class made pronouncing the language seem a lot more manageable.
For lunch, we ate at Tokyo Deli, a restaurant inside of the Phu My Hung development. This experience was unlike any meal I’ve ever had. We took off our shoes and entered a room where the tables were only a foot off the ground. We were served a huge meal of sushi, salad, and pho. Although I’ve tried sushi several times and never liked it, I knew coming into the trip that I wanted to keep an open mind and push myself to try as much as possible. I tried each kind of sushi, but ultimately decided that I’m still not a big fan. The rest of the meal was great though, and I was happy to see that my chopstick skills are slowly improving.
After lunch, we had our first company visit with Phu My Hung. Phu My Hung is a development corporation that has built several neighborhoods in Vietnam. We visited their New City Center, where we viewed a video about the company and were taught about its history. During the Q&A session afterwards, our guide talked a lot about the “master plan” that was developed by three design companies from Tokyo, Boston, and San Francisco. Phu My Hung follows these guidelines strictly, in order to maintain long-term goals: providing a nice environment with greenspace, clean air, and all the amenities one would need in a neighborhood. The environmental guidelines seemed to be important to the company. The development is built over a swamp, so they need to make sure that the land remains suitable and that the excess rainwater is diverted. They are also committed to preserving the green areas and river. As the guide said, if the greenery is not laid out in the master plan, people will build on it for profit. The Phu My Hung development was a stark contrast from the parts of Ho Chi Minh that we’ve seen previously. The area was much more luxurious, with more expensive housing and shops. On our way out, we stopped in a mall that was as nice, if not nicer, than some of the fancier American malls I’ve been in. Because Phu My Hung is more expensive, only 62% of the residents are Vietnamese. The rest of the population are mainly Koreans or other foreigners who speak either Chinese or English. The development was also a lot quieter than the city, and it was almost strange to not hear the noises from a constant flow of motorbikes and pedestrians like in the rest of Ho Chi Minh City.