Development at it’s Coolest

Day two has been just as much of a whirlwind as the first. We started off with a lecture on the Mekong Delta region. It covered the importance of the area to the economy of Vietnam, the culture and customs of the area, as well as how climate change and upstream development are having a negative impact. It is so helpful to have the UEF students with us because they share the inside scoop on everything.

Between classes the students took us to a coffee shop right outside of their university. I had the best peach tea of my life and it didn’t even cost two US dollars.

We then got to practice our Vietnamese language skills again. I think I might be getting better! Well, uh maybe just a tad, as Vietnamese is the most tonal language in the world. Nhưng tôi cố gắng tốt nhất của tôi!

We finished up at the University and started our trek to Phu My Hung, which is just outside of the city. Lunch was at a super authentic Japanese restaurant. We had to take off our shoes and everything. They took our orders beforehand, and despite not knowing exactly the options were, I somehow managed to pick the most American dish on the menu. I am still terrible at using chopsticks, but the Vietnamese locals keep catching me at prime moments and complimenting my skills.

Phu My Hung is the coolest place (both aesthetically and air conditioning wise) we have visited thus far. I love a good fancy corporate office, but this place is far beyond that. It is a huge master planned community, including housing, parks, restaurants, office spaces, international schools – everything you could ever want, need, or imagine. Phu My Hung is an entire city that was built from nothing. The company turned a swampy wasteland into an urban metropolis.

The most impressive selling point, however, is their dedication to space. Their master plan, which was born out of a worldwide competition, is strictly adhered to. They always maintain a low population density. Emphasis is placed on a happy lifestyle, not generating profit. The government accrues a tremendous amount of taxes from the urban development regardless. There is no need to fill every empty space with a building. Phu My Hung and it’s designers strive for a green and environmentally friendly place for those who live there. There is green space all around, with fresh air, flowing water, and abundant plant life. Regulations are followed and different green initiates have been implemented, which is evident throughout the city.

View from a corporate headquarters building

This relaxing scene is drastically different than the Ho Chi Minh City we came from. There is not a single square inch that has gone to waste. I am honestly flabbergasted by the innovation and craftiness of the people. Some of the absolute smallest places have been turned into thriving businesses. Even the sidewalks are multipurpose. Not only are they utilized by pedestrians, but also motorbikes (moving and parked – I can’t believe some of the tight spaces they nonchalantly navigate through) and street vendors.

When Phu My Hung was planning their developments, their goal was to avoid that level of organized chaos. I could truly feel the difference when I was there. It was strange, though, because you don’t even realize you’re transitioning from the city to Phu My Hung until you’re there. It is not some sort of gated off community, there is a seamless transition to the rest of the city. There is definitely a much different atmosphere, and I really liked it. I understand why and how these types of investments have drastically transformed Vietnam. This development was massive and it is only the first one of the planned five. I can’t even comprehend how incredible the entire community will be when it is done. It is already considered it’s own city, and it’s only getting bigger from here.

An important factor of Phu My Hung is the demographics of it’s inhabitants. About 40% of the people are foreign. This has been absolutely critical to the success, economically, socially, and culturally, of Phu My Hung. Everything was built with a clean, simple, modern style, so it is versatile for all walks of life. This population allows for higher rent, and the Vietnamese are happy to earn monthly foreign currency ($600-$1000 USD) this way. The structure and theme of the city is still very Vietnamese, but it is comfortable for everyone. I could imagine myself living there without any problem, and it’s definitely has nothing to do with the rooftop pools.

Because Vietnam is communist, owning property here is a little different from back in the US. Vietnamese must obtain what they call a “red book” from the government, which legitimizes their right to use the land or property. They do not technically have direct or complete ownership of it. The government is still able to implement taxes, though. Due to requiring government approval, acquiring housing is, in comparison to the US, a highly regulated and much more serious procedure here. Foreigners are able to lease property, but not outright own it, as it is owned collectively by all of the Vietnamese people and regulated by the State.

I really enjoyed Phu My Hung in it’s entirety, and I hope the continued development only helps Vietnam to thrive even more.

1 (which is already built) of the 5 planned urban complexes

Again, it was another spectacular day. I learned so much and fell a little more in love with this unique country. However, the day’s not over yet, so I’m off to explore some more!

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