In contrast with yesterday, today we had to wake up much then earlier than we’ve had to so far over the course of the trip. Bright and early, all of us were in he lobby by 6 am with a packed breakfast from the hotel that consisted of a banana, some bread, some bagged milk, and pork pie. By about 6:15, we were off to a beach resort located in the coastal city of Vung Tau.
The drive to Vung Tau is about three hours long, and something surprising was the way the scenery changed so quickly. Within Ho Chi Minh City, there are very expensive stores, beautiful buildings, and a variety of people that sell small things on the street or are in business clothing going to work. Not more than 30 minutes outside of the city, the communities we drove through differed greatly from the city. For example, the streets were lined with trash, and even though this is also true for the city, there was trash everywhere on the streets. Additionally, many of the streets weren’t paved, some of them ranging from a narrow dirt road to simply a small path for a motor bike. In terms of the shops, while I have seen both a Gucci and Versace store in Ho Chi Minh City, there is nothing related to this in the communities we drove through. All of the shops were run by local people, and sometimes didn’t even have doors, as they were just open and taking place in a garage almost. The people were also different, in that there were much fewer people wearing business clothing. Most people seemed to be wearing casual clothes for working in a store that they run, or another small shop. A final point of comparison was the physical scenery. There was much more greenery in the communities we drove through, as there were large bodies of water, large farms, and even some wild goats and cows roaming whenever they please. All of these comparisons illustrate an interesting concept; even though Vietnam has globalized and developed, much of this has only been happening in cities, as many people outside the city continue to live in ramshackle houses and dirt paths for roads. Furthermore, this is interesting because agriculture is still a large part of the Vietnam economy, as they are huge exporters of rice and coffee and in turn need people to work to perform these tasks. In turn, as Vietnam continues to globalize and develop, I would anticipate a disparity between the rich and poor begin to develop as well, since many people in cities will be able to thrive with opportunity, while people in more rural areas with begin to face increasing hardship.
Upon our arrival in Vung Tau, the first thing we did was climb to Jesus! In Vung Tau, there is a huge statue of Jesus with his arms open wide, and one can climb tons of stairs to the statue, and then even more steps inside to stand on Jesus’ shoulders. Even though it was extremely hot, the view definitely made everything worth it.
Afterwards, we spent the rest of our time in Vung Tau at a beautiful beach side resort and pool. It was so nice to spend some time relaxing in the sun, and we all loaded up with sunscreen so nobody burns (hopefully). The ocean was surprisingly warm, and definitely threw everyone off, because we all went into the ocean expecting something refreshing, but the water is very warm. Additionally, there were multiple jellyfish in the water, which were cool but also steered us away from the beach and so most of us spent our time in the pool.
In all, Vung Tau was a cool place. I did not have any expectations for it it terms of a resort town, but it’s fairly clear that the area is able to thrive from the tourists attracted to the area due to the beautiful coast and warm weather. It was super fun to just take a day to relax after a full week of lectures and site visits, and I’m so glad that this experience is a part of this program.