I’ve ordered heavenly fresh-squeezed, sugary, Vietnamese orange juice so many times here that the phrase is the most natural Vietnamese I speak (yes, it beats out “thank you” and “hello.”) As this is the last blog post I will make during my time in Saigon, I thought it was an appropriate blog title. I will pay homage to Vietnamese orange juice until the day I die.
These past few days in Saigon, I’ve done a lot of great exploring. I’ve bought pants at the local market for $3.50 and Arsenal, Chelsea, and Leicester City soccer kits for $4.00 each. I’ve tried and failed to haggle with local Vietnamese. We visited the War Remnants Museum, a bright pink Catholic Church, and a really cool Buddhist temple. We became regulars at various coffee shops and somewhat regulars at the local club. I can now cross the street relatively confidently! (although it’s probably false confidence, like the old blindfolded lady in Mulan crossing the street with her lucky cricket).
Despite all these adventures, however, I want this blog post to focus on observations/things I have learned about the inequality in Vietnam. Saigon is huge and sprawling with 24 districts, and we are fortunate enough to live in the center of District One: the richest and the home to all important government buildings/monuments. For the most part, there are no snooty or pretentious vibes like you would get in rich areas of NYC or SF. Our Vietnamese buddies, who attend the university across the street, are extremely humble and chill. I’ve always known that District One is theoretically the “rich area” of Saigon, but it seems so normal that I didn’t really give it a second thought.
And that was just District 5. We sat through a couple of lectures with Dr. Christophe Robert about inequality in Vietnam, during which he showed us some very compelling maps. One of them is below:
DukeEngage has succeeded in taking us out of the “Duke bubble,” but I think we may be experiencing a bit of a “Saigon bubble” in Vietnam. While I love this city, and am so thankful for getting the opportunity to explore it, I think we’re all excited to board a plane to rural Quang Tri tomorrow to pop that bubble.