Today was bittersweet as our group attended our last site visit of the trip; Cat Lai Terminal. This visit wrapped up the development aspect of our experience in Vietnam as Cat Lai is one of the largest ports in the country. All of the businesses that we have visited earlier in the trip provide goods and services that are most likely transported through this port when exported from Vietnam. I was blown away but the volume of shipping containers in the park area, this large display was a visual example of the expanding export market in Vietnam. The Cat Lai Terminal allows for companies to bring their goods to the port, go through customs, and load their cargo onto a vessel or barge from the port to the desired location. Extensive planning is required for this process to be successfully carried out. Saigon Newport Corporation, the governmental agency that operates the port, uses a detailed system that labels cargo as blue- ready to export/import, yellow- paperwork is needed to clarify any discrepancies, and red- a physical examination is required for the cargo in order to ensure that no illegal items are being imported or exported. When we toured the Control Tower, I noticed that most of the cargo was labeled as red and would need inspection, I found this interesting and possibly problematic for the efficiency of the port. This large hold seemed to be a reflection of the government’s many quotas on imports. As freight is moved from one place in the port to another, manual messages are sent from truck drivers and other workers to the control tower. Cat Lai Terminal was built outside of Ho Chi Minh City because the location is premier. It provides both access to the river at a deep point which allows for the use of large vessels and is in close proximity to the city and manufacturing areas. There are many ports in Vietnam as exportation is a major industry for the country, these ports provide similar services in the Saigon area and throughout the country.
After a relaxing lunch break at a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City, our group took a tour of the ‘Reunification Palace’ which is down the street from our hotel. Before and during the Vietnam War this beautiful building was the home to the President of South Vietnam and was named the ‘Presidential Palace’. In Vietnam today the palace symbolizes the reunification of the country after the war and signals that Saigon is no longer the capital. Inside it was beautiful and barely remodeled since 1975. The style reflected that of the 70s, but the architecture was beautiful, it was incredible to walk through such a historic building. We were able to walk through the basement and bunker of the building which were used during the war for strategy meetings when combat was occurring on the ground in Saigon. The maps, posters, and strategy plans were left on the walls of the bunker. It was eerie to see the game plan for a war, but overall it was a very interesting experience.
As the trip is beginning to wind down, I am feeling very sad as it seemed to have flown by! But still I am looking for to the last big day of adventures in Vietnam as our group visits the Mekong Delta tomorrow!