For our November office outing, Vero’s Vietnam team took on a challenge inspired by the classic game show The Amazing Race.
Following the lead of Suong, our guide from Team Building Ho Chi Minh City, we split into six groups, rode around Ho Chi Minh City’s central District 1 on bicycles, and raced to complete a variety of challenges that mixed teamwork with critical thinking and getting to know the city we call home in a deeper way.
The first task was simple: we had to stand in a circle and toss bamboo sticks to the teammate on our left ten times without anyone dropping theirs. Still, it required teamwork, coordination, and planning to get right, setting the stage for the challenges that followed. After completing that task, we were allowed to rent bicycles for each team member (except those who couldn’t ride and had to be carried on the back of their teammate’s bike — which clearly represented some sort of lesson about supporting each other).
We solved a puzzle that directed us to ride several kilometers through downtown traffic (though after rush hour, thankfully), which miraculously resulted in zero human casualties, though at least one bike chain sacrificed itself to the cause. Our goal was the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts, where we were given tickets and a list of trivia questions on the artworks inside. We had to power-walk from room to room in the old building in search of works of paintings and sculptures from Vietnam’s ancient and recent past. Fortunately, museum staff were there to lend a hand with finding some of the more obscure works and facts about them. For some of us, it was our first time at the museum — and just enough to convince us to return when we have more time.
The next task – also uncovered via puzzle – was to head to the famous Café Apartment Building at 42 Nguyen Hue, on one side of the central walking street. Formerly an apartment block that housed government officials during the occupation of Saigon, this charmingly aged building now hosts nine floors of cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s one of the city’s most popular spots for both tourists and local café lovers, so most of us had spent some time there. This time, however, we were challenged to see it from a different perspective, as our task was to use our smartphones to replicate a series of photos taken inside the building — either of familiar scenes from unusual angles, or small details most people wouldn’t notice. It was an exciting scavenger hunt that awakened the budding urban photographer in many of us.
The third and final challenge took place at a market near Ham Nghi street, where we were given 100k VND (about $4 USD) and challenged to buy something at the market and re-sell it elsewhere for a profit. This forced us to consider our marketing and sales skills in terms of finding a viable product, target audience, reasonable price point, and ability to add unique value to the product. Some teams relished the challenge, while others sought to subvert it, but all of us learned something in the process.
Completing that challenge gave us the final riddle, which led us to the restaurant Saigon 3, where we all convened for lunch and the awards ceremony. The first teams to arrive got bonus points, but that didn’t make them the winners (and in fact, they weren’t). Points were also awarded based on how thoroughly each team completed the challenges (with a perfect score requiring answering every art question, taking every photo, and getting a quadruple ROI) and whether they sent photos and videos of themselves doing the challenges. While only one team took the prize box of snacks back to the office, they shared it with everyone, which kind of makes us all winners, right?