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imageby Raymond Harpel

At the start of this trip I was a bit wary of our time in Vietnam given the stories I have been told it being unclean, not very friendly… The people telling me these stories were 100% incorrect!!

While at first glance of the country does give an impression of uncleanliness, when you take a deeper look and focus on what is going on, people are always cleaning. From city workers that adorn their orange jump suits to local store owners out with their handmade straw brooms, at further glance it seems that everyone cleans, everyone moves.

HCM2 - Food tour20


Now while the physical attributes of the country from the city streets and buildings to the countryside and jungles are quiet appealing to the eye, I feel the true beauty of the country comes from its welcoming and fascinating people. The people of Vietnam truly do seem to have a smile on their face at all times and despite any given adversity. From seeing the employees at the Garment factory who smiled even while completing the laborious tasks of sewing and counting to the people on the side of the street or in the rural areas that seem to have very little, but continue to smile. The beauty of the people continues in their openness and willingness to communicate with foreign tourists – their eagerness to meet, speak to and learn more about others is amazing.

A personal example of this occurred at the Presidential Palace. As we walked down the stairs and in the direction if the alace, I saw a young boy studying my every move (also while smiling). The boy’s father turned around, smiled at me and eagerly followed with a very welcoming “Hello”. I replied with a “Hello” in returned and in my American ignorance thought that this was the conclusion of the interaction. Nope, the man followed with a question “where are you from?” “The USA” “Oh, I am from Vietnam”, “Great” I replied. Still the conversation continues as he tells me “I go to Hanoi State”. At this point we reach the bottom of the stairs and he concludes with a cheerful “Goodbye”. At first I though “how random was that” but I thought further about it and started to feel very welcomed and more open to future conversations like this.

HCM2 - Food tour10(2)The Vietnamese people are very inquisitive and very curious, and are not afraid to stop and ask you a question. To some this may seem weird, and to me at first it came across this way being so unlike the behavior we are used to the in US. But as our travels continued, I started to see that this quality really added to the beauty that underlies the Vietnamese culture and its people. I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity to make this visit, to meet people and experience this amazingly beautiful culture first hand.

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