Ho Chi Minh City. Wow! I’m not sure exactly what I was imagining it to be like, but it has surely surpassed any of those expectations. I was (and still am) completely in awe of this city.
There is so much life. People are all throughout the streets, selling items, hanging out, cleaning, working, all sorts of different things. There is a serious amount of hustle and bustle here – but the people are so nice!
The motorbikes! I come from a motorcycle family but the amount of bikes here is absolutely crazy. So of course it leads to equally as crazy traffic conditions. They drive all throughout the streets, sometimes the wrong way, on the sidewalks, and they sure do not slow down for pedestrians who are not confident in their ability to cross the street. I think it’s super interesting that here they are used even for Uber-type services. I would be completely shocked to see that at home, but considering the prevalence of motorbikes in the culture here, it actually makes a lot of sense. Oh, and how could I forget… it’s H-O-T. I knew it was going to be humid here, but I was not expecting this kind of heat. I don’t think it is something you can truly prepare for until you experience it for yourself.
During the city tour today, I witnessed signs of development everywhere I looked. There are super modern and new buildings, a subway system in the process of being built, and even the Notre Dame Cathedral in HCMC is currently under construction for restoration and updating. Everything has been so impressive. I can’t even tell I was in a country that once struggled so severely. There is not a type of store or service provider that I did not see on the tour today. They were all focused on different target markets, as well. I saw people from all over the world and businesses that were clearly influenced by different parts of the world. Vietnam is truly global.
I was pleasantly surprised about how many courses were served during our welcome dinner. I do not think a type of meat exists that we did not receive. It was incredible. I thought the first dish brought to the table was the whole meal, but the servers kept bringing tray after tray of food. It was a great way to get to taste test some of the different types of Vietnamese food.
Although I am quite the novice chopstick user, and despite my many, many failed attempts, it was great getting to practice my skills. In Vietnam, the meals are all served “family style” meaning that there are dishes in the center of the table from which everyone gets their food. Besides Thanksgiving, that is not something that occurs much in the typical US home. I was not expecting it, but I did not mind it, as it is easy to get used to quickly. Sharing turns the meal into a sort of bonding experience with the others at your table. It is truly something special – especially when you are all sweaty, on a boat, looking at a beautiful skyline, and listening to traditional, live Vietnamese music. Truly the whole experience was unlike anything else.
I think the Culture Smart book was pretty spot on, especially about all parts of the chicken being used.
All in all, today was amazing. I’m not sure how I even put together words to describe it. My world is being completely opened up in the most incredible way. The pure heart of the students here is taking this trip to the next level. I have never felt so welcomed, given so many hugs, or taken so many selfies in my entire life, and I have loved every minute of it.
I can’t wait to start tomorrow’s journey! Tạm biệt!