Day 10 – 5/16 – Well-Suited for Vietnam

Our last normal day of the trip is coming to a close. This morning, we had our final site visit of the trip when we visited Cat Lai Terminal. The terminal is essentially a massive plot of paved land with ten docks where massive ships and trucks haul 20 or 40-foot metal containers of goods to different locations. In total, the 2km port successfully loads and unloads 80 vessels per week, taking about 16 hours for each vessel. On a global scale, the Cat Lai Terminal welcomes business from many different countries, and last year alone they shipped and received over 6,000,000 containers. Domestically, the terminal is a powerhouse controlling 92% of the container market share in South Vietnam and 50% in the country as a whole. This facility sits in an ideal location on the Saigon river where it has access to both Southeast Asia, and Ho Chi Minh City itself. While other ports of this nature exist, Cat Lai Terminal is the largest and most modern of its kind.

At the terminal, each container must go through customs which requires an x-ray security scan and additional inspection at random. Based on the results of the scan, each container is classified as blue, yellow, or red, and this color indicates the level of further documentation that is necessary to process the containers. In short, Cat Lai is extremely busy and chaotic, but operations run smoothly thanks to the control room – which somehow, we were allowed to enter. The only downsides of the visit were the extreme heat, and the crisscrossing, standstill traffic we attempted to navigate our bus through within the terminal. All in all, Cat Lai was not one of my favorite site visits on this trip, but the sights were still impressive to behold.

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Again, we stopped by a food court for lunch, and again, I consumed a full two meals of delicious food. Today, I also tried a kiwi mojito. Although I haven’t eaten a kiwi for years, the drink’s mixture of 7up, orange juice, and kiwi was actually quite appetizing.

In the afternoon, we visited the Reunification Palace – formerly the Presidential Palace – just a couple blocks from our hotel. This building is where a tank infamously demolished the gates, and the South ultimately surrendered in the War. During the War, many crucial decisions were made in the Presidential Palace about war operations. The peaceful, openness of the expansive building today symbolizes the unity of the country as indicated by the building’s renaming. Nearly every decoration and piece of furniture has remained untouched over the last few decades, preserving the room in its past image. The design and old-timey feel of many of the rooms was fascinating to look at.

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For the end of the programmed part of our day, we received our custom-tailored suits. My black with faded pinstripe suit fit perfectly. Hopefully I don’t put on too much weight this summer. Tonight, we will be eating Korean barbeque with the students from UEF. Only two days to go! 🙁

P.S. Here is a picture of a bus on a stack of containers on a boat. You’re welcome.

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