This was a trip of many firsts for me – it was my first time in Vietnam, first time on a GoViet bike, first time in field with the Heist team and first time wearing the design researcher lens as we immersed ourselves in the culture of Vietnam. Compared to my previous travels, this was an extremely different and eye opening experience, one I would have never had as a regular tourist.
Ho Chi Minh City is a hive of activity. If I had been visiting for fun, I’d be focused on conquering all the places recommended by Lonely Planet. But as a design researcher, I started picking up on the cultural nuances, taking time to notice how people used rubber bands as their makeshift wallet, or how they were able to create space from their small bikes to stack and transport goods.
I was blown away by the sights and sounds of the streets. The bike riders were like swarms of bees, zipping through the lanes like an army. Street vendors sold an assortment of things from fresh produce and local delights, to shampoo sachets and cleaning sponges. The crowd swelled after working hours as the riders rode through the market and did their grocery shopping, all while staying on their motorbikes. Learning about vibrant Saigon at different times of the day while remaining observant (keeping the lens on!) was exhausting yet electrifying – and I loved every second of it.
We spoke to people on the streets and were invited into some of their homes to gain a deeper understanding of Vietnamese traditions and values. We mingled with locals after work and joined a rooftop BBQ party for students who were learning English. Not once did we feel foreign here - rather, it felt as though the city embraced our curiosity and gave us so much to learn in return.
Street food is often a highlight across Asia, and while I had my fair share of pho, nothing quite beats enjoying a Banh Mi breakfast with the team along the Saigon river bank. Soaking in the juxtaposition of sounds – the serene and calm waves lapping the shore in stark contrast to the loud and ceaseless honks on the road behind us – was fascinating. The fact that this moment came to us after an extremely hectic week probably added to the blissful feeling of a momentary pause.
My first immersive field experience has been exhilarating and I feel truly privileged to gain a new perspective on this special country. Here are some of my favourite moments captured by the team and I – enjoy!