Model of Tunnels (notice 3 layers and escape to the river)
Today we woke up around 7:30am. Steve had some interest in going to a site just outside of Ho Chi Minh City
, the Cu Chi tunnels. We saw that there were probably buses that go there around 8am, so we quickly got out of bed, packed up our stuff and left the hotel. We went to the travel agency next door, and it was exactly 8am and we said we want to go to the Cu Chi tunnels now. He said the bus was full, but ran to a nearby travel agency to see if they had room. They did have room so he came back to get us and suddenly we were on a bus to travel the one hour journey to the tunnels. I was in a daze from everything happening so fast, and we didn't have time to get any breakfast!
Before going to the tunnels, we stopped at a handicapped handicrafts store run by the government.
Trap (step on the center and it goes down pulling the spikes into your leg)
This is where a bunch of people who have been effected by Agent Orange from the war can try to make a living. Agent Orange was a very dangerous chemical used by the U.S. army on Vietnam during the war which caused many thousands of birth defects in newborns such as missing limbs, brain damage, etc. The people affected by Agent Orange can work at this handicrafts store making beautiful hand-made goods and are sold at the store and all the profits are split between the handicapped workers. We watched them making the goods, and then shopped at the store. I bought a few things even though the prices were way overmarked, but I figured it was for a good cause.
Then we were off to the tunnels. The Cu Chi tunnels is vast system of underground tunnels developed by the Viet Cong during the war to use in their guerrila warfare against the Americans.
Steve in an escape hole to evade enemies
We first arrived and watched a video about the tunnels, that was sort of an old fashioned propaganda video that glorified the fighting techniques and skill of the Viet Cong against "the enemy" (the U.S.). It talked about how the U.S. army targeted the civilian villages in the Cu Chi area and ruined their peaceful farming lifestyle, and men and women from the village were involved in the fighting.
Next we were off to explore the tunnel area. There were many exhibits showing the fighting techniques of the Viet Cong. They used the leftover shrapnel and bombs from the U.S. to make their fighting materials. We saw a bunch of simple and scary looking booby traps set up using sharp pieces of shrapnel hidden under leaves. Also we saw the little hole they used to escape into the tunnels when the enemy came.
Steve in the tunnel
Steve went inside the little hole which seemed like he wouldn't fit but did. At the end we got to go into the tunnels which was only large enough to crawl in. I couldn't go in because I was too claustrophobic but waited to Steve at the end. Its hard to imagine, but the Viet Cong army lived in these underground tunnels for 20 years during the war and had areas for cooking and ventilation holes throughout the vast system. Also we had a taste of Tapioca, which is a root that tastes similar to taro or sweet potatoe.
After we left the Cu Chi tunnels, we took the bus back to Ho Chi Minh
. We were dropped off at the war remnants museum which was a museum about the Vietnam war (which the Vietnamese people call the American war).
Steve exiting from a tunnel
It mostly had a lot of pictures from the war, gruesome scenes of the destruction and people. They had many photos about the harmful effects of Agent Orange, including deformed unborn babies in jars, which was too much for me to witness, again I felt a little sick from it all. I already am very against war, and this whole day was an interesting view into the perspective of the Vietnamese on this war. Everyone agrees it was a terrible war with many many deaths and injuries. They had an exhibit about the various protests against the war all over the world at the time, including the U.S. Also there were old bomb shells and fighter planes and tanks from the U.S.
After the museum, we went to find some food. Eventually we ate at a little restaurant where no one spoke english and there was no menu.
Of course that made it very difficult to order but somehow the waiter suggested 2 soups and we took it. The soups were very delicious and Steve made his super spicy, I tried a taste of his and it burned my throat!
We walked by the reunification palace, but it was already closed and there was not much to see. Then we walked to the nearby market that we went to the night before and I shopped around for a long time. Finally we went back to try and arrange a bus to go to Hoi An
this evening. However, it is too far and none of the busses go there without stopping in Nha Trang
. In the end, we ended up getting an open bus tour ticket for $14 each that will allow us to go from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang, Nha Trang to Hoi An, Hoi An to Hue, and Hue to Hanoi
whenever we want. Basically they have set bus times everyday, and we can get on a bus whenever we like to go to the next destination. Its a pretty good deal, so now we have all our transportation set for the next several days. We leave for Nha Trang tonight at 8pm and arrive in Nha Trang at 6am tomorrow morning.