Today I am leaving Portland and traveling through San Francisco and Seoul on a 24 hour journey with the final destination of Hanoi, Vietnam. I've never been to Asia before and this is a dream come true. I am traveling with my best friend and architecture colleague, Tuan Ngoc Vu who is originally from Hanoi. While working together on building design projects over 4 years, it has come up many times that I should check out Vietnam. Now I am taking him up on the offer and am very excited to spend time with his family for the holidays. It will be nice to see his sister Linh again and meet the parents who raised two of the smartest, most talented, friendliest, hardworking and genuine people I have ever met. Tuan's father is a professor of English and his mother is a travel agent. I have briefly chatted with them on Skype and we had an interesting conversation with lots of laughs and smiles. Their English is great and I was surprised to learn they already knew so much about me. I look forward to more time and conversation with this awesome family.
This trip is more or less an open book without many reservations - my favorite way to travel. I'm lucky to be staying at their home (instead of a hotel) to experience real living while having a better understanding of the local news, events, music, culture, food, art and architecture. In addition to spending most of the time in Hanoi, we will be taking a trip down to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Southern Vietnam.
During our trip we are meeting international architect friends of Tuan, development executives, and Dr. Do Tu Lan, a national official working at Vietnam's Ministry of Construction. Dr. Lan is the deputy director at the Urban Development Agency, holds a PhD in architecture and is an associate professor. She has an interest in eco-cities and Tuan and I had the opportunity to meet her when she came to Portland this year. She was visiting Portland seeking urban development expertise across the world. I do agree Portland is a great place to look for a few ideas - both build and even larger ideas waiting to take shape.
Throughout this trip I want to learn more about Vietnamese culture, planning and development through first hand experiences and look forward to discussing design process and issues that they are dealing with. It will be great to have an exchange of ideas about building sustainably and compare challenges and solutions from each of our regions.