Lasting Impressions – The Beauty of Vietnam

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.

Travelling to Vietnam & Day 1 enjoying the local countryside

Krista Scimeca – Arriving in Saigon:

Arrival in Vietnam2What a trip! After about 21 hours in the air on three separate flights – our travel time totaling well over 24 hours with layovers, we’ve finally made it over to Ho Chi Minh City.  Overall, Cohort 10 faired pretty well through our travels!  We’re a little tired and groggy, but adjusting to the time difference, and we’ll push through the jet lag in no time.  We’ll be arriving at the Sheraton Saigon with nice, big, comfy, warm beds in hopefully about an hour.  I know I won’t have trouble sleeping tonight.

Tomorrow we’re looking forward to a full and exciting day of Vietnamese culture, starting with a tour of the Mekong Delta region and ending with a beautiful dinner cruise.


Wendy Lowe – Day 1: Mekong Delta & Dinner

HCM1 - Mekong Delta5Today we viewed the scenic countryside just outside of Ho Chi Minh City as we headed towards the Mekong Delta for the day.  On the journey there we saw local farmers hard at work, taking care of their crops including fruits and rice.  The students were amazed by the non-stop motorbike activity that served all the purposes of an actual car; including carrying furniture, babies, and supplies for their businesses on the back.

At the Mekong Delta, we traveled by boat, debarked at an Island where a local village resides.  Here we witnessed daily life and the means by which the villagers sustained their families.  Very talented craftsmen, the villagers made items out of every part of the coconut from northern hats, to keychains, to an actual home – roof and all. We were amazed by this ingenuity and by their economical use of this resource.  We also sampled local fruits, honey tea, and coconut candy while on the island and traveled thru the village on a horse and buggy and on a sampan boat.

Angie Stevens said the day was eye-opening.  This wasn’t a simulated place like we often see in a touristy area like Orlando, but the actual “real thing”.

HCM1 - Bonsai Dinner Cruise GroupWe concluded our day with a Welcome Bonsai Dinner aboard a boat that had musical and dancing entertainment, a magician, and a masseuse!

Vietnam has amazing charm; friendly people.  You can walk everywhere and take in the markets along with the sights and sounds of every day living here.  This was a wonderful way to spend our first day in Vietnam, immersing ourselves in the country’s rich cultural heritage.



Tomorrow the real work begins, with business visits to the US Commercial Office and Lowe Advertising.