Cao Dai Holy See and Cu Chi Tunnels tour
Cao Dai Holy See Travel Blog› entry 12 of 17 › view all entries
Bored with being trapped in Ho Chi Minh City waiting for our visa extension to be issued we booked ourselves onto an organised tour to the Cao Dai Holy See and Cu Chi Tunnels with TNK Travel. Our guide for the day was a true gentleman called 'Slim Jim'. What a star, he has been a tour guide for the past 11 years and knows lots of cockney rhyming slang, Aussie sayings and colloquialisms he has picked up along the way. He was super helpful and very knowledgeable too.
Caodaism is a new religion created in southern Vietnam in 1926. There are about 8 million adherants to it's teachings in Vietnam or approximately 10% of the population.
The service itself was quite beautiful and the temple was awesome. Easily the most interesting church we've ever seen. The three saints of the religion are Dr Sun Yat Sen, a Chinese revolutionary, Nguyen Binh Khiem, a C16th Vietnamese administrator and poet and Victor Hugo the French author and poet. Very strange.
After the service we went for a fantastic lunch at a little roadside restaurant on the way to Cu Chi Tunnels. We were hoping for a full on veggie restaurant as so many of the locals are from the Cao Dai religion but we were disappointed that they also had dead animals on the menu. Oh well our food was murder free and lovely.
We should have already mentioned that this area is the hottest part of Vietnam and the temperature was apparantly 32 degrees.
At Cu Chi we were taken to buy our ticket which costs 70,000VND for foreigners or 7,000VND if you are Vietnamese. It's not a huge amount of money but we have to say this is a practice not uncommon in Vietnam and it does make you feel a bit sick.
The tour of the tunnels begins with a propoganda film which was made in the 1960's. The commentary of the film would be hilarious if the images wern't so gruesome. Listening to the propoganda gives a real insight into the marketing practices and slogans used today for everything here. There is no sublety at all its all sledgehammer to crack a nut kind of stuff. To be honest we decided that it makes you almost blase to everything as you find yourself focusing on the ludicrous propoganda messages and not the already horrific and very real underlying facts they seek to exagerate.
The tour continues with a look at the traps the local guerilla fighters used in the forest around the town of Cu Chi against the US and South Vietnamese soldiers. Horrific is simply not an adequate word to describe them. The guide says that not all that many people were caught in them but the psycological effect of knowing they existed had a major impact on the soldiers who faced them. We can certainly believe that. Next up was a trip to the firing range where all the budding psychos in the group can fire guns which is very unpleasant but appealed to the macho numbskulls in the group, how dull, and very noisy.
Finally you get to the tunnels which Slim Jim informed us had been made double size to cope with fat westerners. The originals were 80cm by 60cm so you basically had to crawl through on your stomach.
The day was superb. As tours go it was excellent and if you can live with the structure of an organised tour we'd thoroughly recommend this one.