Vietnam, May 2012

In May 2012, Scott traveled to Saigon (you are a Communist apparently if you say Ho Chi Minh City) and Singapore to study the investment environments there. Starting in Saigon, he wanted to get a first hand understanding of the growth potential there, as cheap labor leaves China and enters this emerging market. First off, this is what Americans remember about Vietnam:

US Embassy in Saigon

US Embassy in Saigon during the Vietnam War


Mekong River Delta

Mekong River Delta


To understand Vietnam’s economic growth potential, let’s look at their demographics. The fact that the bulk of the population is young shows they can support the older population financially and shows massive labor force potential.

Vietnam Demographics


While there, Scott visited the Vietnamese Commodities Exchange and was given a tour by this lady, “Beth.”

Vietnam Stock Exchange

Vietnam Exchange

Vietnam Exchange

After travelling to Vietnam, Cornerstone found that Vietnam has quite a few issues to sort through in order to advantageously develop from this economic opportunity, but it will be an interesting market to monitor for the next few decades.

Now for the fun stuff…

Being a passenger is by far the most entertaining thing to do because Vietnamese traffic is unlike any other. Traffic lights are a mere suggestion, and to go where you want to go, you really just have to be aggressive and get yourself in the way so that others will simply drive around you. As a pedestrian, the rules of the road are show no fear: just book it. Cars and bikes won’t stop for you to cross, but if you start walking, they won’t hit you. They’ll just maneuver around you. It’s liberating, in its own special way.

Saigon Traffic


A huge part of Vietnamese culture is eating. Check out all these different shopping options for rice. As of 2012, about 20,000 dong (Vietnamese currency) equals $1 USD, and Scott spent about $100 USD throughout his entire week stay in Saigon. Bluntly, Vietnam is CHEAP.

Vietnamese Rice

The Vietnamese also love their condensed milk. They put it in their coffee and rice (sticky rice), and it makes everything delicious. Of course the seafood is out of this world also. Scott found a sushi place in Saigon that was unbelievable (called The Sushi Bar). They had one roll with 9 different types of seafood that was about 2 inches in diameter for $5 USD!! That would cost probably $20 in the States (see the middle picture below).

Saigon actually has a metropolitan, hip feel. There are lots of chic boutiques, coffee shops, and bars. On the other hand, when you look at the city from a rooftop, you can definitely see the Communist architectural style mixed in with French colonial style (on the right is the City Hall).

SaigonSaigon City Hall


And to show you just how small a world it is, while Scott was travelling the country side of Vietnam, he met a Vespa rental employee from Ocean Springs, Mississippi (only about an hour away from where Cornerstone is in Daphne, Alabama! His name was Josh, and he had lost his job after the economic crash in 2009 and had moved to Vietnam for the opportunity of getting a job. He has been there for four years now and has no plans to return the States- he loves it over there.

Ocean Springs, MS