The day began with a trip to the Cat Lai terminal, Vietnam’s largest commercial international port, where we visited the Saigon Newport Corporation, a military backed terminal operator, ranked 21st in the world according to themselves. We were met with gracious hosts who educated on the world of overseas shipping, logistics, and port operation. We learned about the challenges of dealing with the river systems within Vietnam including Mekong, as factors like river depth, river width, and ship capacity all became factors of what and how things moved in and out of the shipping yard. Being the most dominant company in Cat Lai, Saigon Newport holds the most real estate in terms of seaside storage for containers within different jurisdictions, from international trade to domestic. We learned of the different ship capacities, how they are measured in TEU’s or twenty-foot equivalent units, a measurement of how many twenty-foot sea containers one can carry. With classifications like barges or tankers, the ships are usually classified by TEU capacity, with only small freight ships being able to traverse the relatively shallow depths of the river system. After an introduction to the basic functions of the terminal, we took a short tour through the yard where we saw hundreds of containers, each holding different goods. We passed open containers of coconuts, airing out so as to prevent the insides cooking, we also saw cranes on- and off-loading cargo from docked ships while tug boats guided other ships into open spaces along the port. We eventually reached the control tower, where any industrial engineer’s dreams would come true as personnel shouted out commands directed towards God knows who while giant screens rotated different sets of information from the number of containers stacked in certain designated spaces to the timeliness of all the ships entering and departing the port. The view from outside the tower showed rows upon rows of crates and cranes as crew members hustled about, getting everything to its correct position. We further learned of the advantages of working in a department of defense backed company, as they had many aspects of customs and international trade taken care of easily due to their direct involvement with the government.
After our trip to Cat Lai, we visited the Reunification Palace, the site where a former general used to stay during the war used to stay. The converted area now is an open-air museum with preserved rooms and exhibits of two tanks that crashed through the palace gates, marking the end of the Vietnam War. The many meeting halls, living quarters, and various other amenities are heavily reminiscent when strange polygonal windows and yellow interior decorating was still seen as a good idea. The whole palace mixed traditional Vietnamese designs with the influences of the West the lead architect had due to his education in Europe. Different rooms featured shag carpet while the living quarters housed a small garden of bonsais and small statues of mythological creatures. We learned of the time during the war where presidents and vice presidents rapidly rotated in and out of the job due to the turmoil they experienced. The entirety of the palace marks the triumph of a reunited Vietnam to the citizens, as the last acts of the war happened on the palace grounds.