As we took the crowded highway from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau, you could instantly notice the stark contrast between the city and the rural population. Similar to American cities and American farmland, the city consisted of well-developed skyscrapers, apartment buildings, city halls, etc. whereas the farmland consisted of, you guessed it, farms. It was a wetland of tropical trees, stray cows, and poorly built single room homes. Homes is a stretch, too. They were 4 wall buildings consisting of one room and tin walls and a tin roof. It was interesting to see how just 15 minutes outside of a booming economic wonder is many people struggling to find their next meal.
We finally arrived in Vung Tau after 3 hours of driving, and the heat was a killer, but the scenery was amazing. We were on a peninsula island, surrounded by nature and clear blue water. We approached the entrance to the Jesus statue, which was on top of the mountain. And after painfully climbing around 800 steps, I made it to the beautiful top, drenched in sweat. Then, I climbed up into Jesus, looked out off the top and took it all in. The view, the scenery, the wonderful opportunity I have been given in life. All of it. It was blissful.
After that, we bused to a 5-star resort and ate a 4-course meal on a beach. That meal was not just amazing, but it showed me the quintessential food culture of Vietnam. With each additional plate, we got to see the styles and elements of Vietnamese food. With Pho, an unskinned fish, hot Banh Mi bread, to the triangular shaped spring rolls, we got to appreciate everything Vietnamese food has to offer, all in a giant meal.
Finishing our meal, we played on the beach and swam in the infinity pool. Both of which were lots of fun to do. Finally, we got to relax, take a break from the diligent schoolwork, and see what Vietnam is actually like. This fresh take really showed me what the Vietnamese do for vacation and how they interpret their leisurely time.
Overall, I was very thankful we did this. It was filled with fun and beauty, but also ugliness. Here’s why. Just about 30 away from where we are staying, with rich people thriving and making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, there are their neighbors struggling to get electricity through their house. The people in the wetlands live such a different lifestyle, that it’s almost a different kind of Vietnamese entirely. It makes you think about the socio-economic stratifications in this country and makes you want to help out those in poverty. It’s very disheartening to be living in such excess and wealth, when there is more than enough to go around for everyone.