Chu Chi Tunnels and City Tour
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog› entry 14 of 24 › view all entries
The honking started again around 4:30am... not sure where all these motorcyclists are going. (But you need to give them props for their amazing ability on their bikes - we saw bikes with families of four balancing on them, men on bikes carrying ladders, huge loads of produce, etc.). Then, strangely enough, weird music started blaring from the park around 5:30 am. It's good our room was far up and set away from the street - or else it would have been unbearable. Since I was already up, I peeked out and saw men practicing tai chi at the park. perhaps the music is for the tai chi???
At breakfast (simple toasted baguette and egg) I met an Australian family on holiday - very sweet. The little girl was only 5 and super articulate and masterful with her fork and knife.
Promptly at 8am our guide (Anh) showed up to get us. We drove out to the Chu Chi Tunnels - about an hour or so away. During the ride Anh told us about the "American War" from the Vietnamese perspective. The man literally teared up as he was telling us. Admittedly, as Americans, it was a tad awkward. I can certainly understand their perspective, but when you've been raised with one version of the history; it is strange to then be confronted with an entirely different version. Don't get me wrong - I don't think Anh was purposely trying to make us feel bad - but he had immense pride in Vietnam, particularly Saigon, that it was almost palpable.
When we got to the tunnels, we saw a propaganda film about the "heroes" who killed Americans. (awkward again) Then Anh explained to us how the villagers and guerillas lived in these tiny tunnels. It's almost unbelievable ... A man demonstrated on how they would hide in some of the escape holes when chased - it's certainly not for anyone with claustrophobia.
We also saw a variety of booby traps - quite deadly and cruel. Here, Anh seemed a bit embarrassed and apologetically said these were necessary in times of war. They were rather horrific...then we were led to an area where we could shoot guns. Anh suggested we shoot the AK47's. (10 bullets for 200,000 VDN) A and I each shot 5 times - the kickback and noise are quite shocking.
When driving back into the city, we saw a bunch of highschoolers heading home for lunch. Anh explained high school girls still dress in long white dresses and trousers - sort of the graceful, iconic image that I had of Vietnam.
For lunch, Anh said he would take us to a local place, a famous pho place called Pho Le in Chinatown. It was definitely better than the pho we had yesterday. yum! I also had my first soursop (a kind of fruit) drink. V had recommended it, and she was right! It was quite delish.
Our next stop was Thien Hau (Lady Temple) - a Chinese temple paying special homage to a lady of the sea who protected sailors and boats (for the Chinese who travelled here across the ocean). The top of the temple had beautiful and colorful ceramic figures crafted by Hue artisans - each of which were unique and hand-crafted.
We then went to the War Remnants Museum - mostly photos of the war and examples of the type of weapons, vehicles, etc. used in the battles against the French and the Americans. The photos were terribly disturbing as any pictures of war and its victims would be. However I think the most affecting display was the Tiger Cells and the guillotine used on political prisoners. It's amazing how cruel mankind can be...
We were supposed to go to a lacquer factory but we opted to check out the Reunification Palace instead - it was the home of the former president Ngo Dinh Diem and on April 1975, it was where the N. Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates and took over the building - symbolically representing the fall of Saigon.
We then drove by the Notre Dame Cathedral and Post Office for photo ops. And our tour was over for the day and while I was happy to learn so many new things, my ankle was now twice its normal size so I really needed a break. (never knew I was so frail...)
Dinner was a bit disappointing. We were both so tired and I couldn't trek very far, so we ate at (don't laugh), the Milwaukee Bar & Grill. It was a total tourist trap and pretty awful - at least my soursop milkshake was yummy. A had a burger with a fried egg on top - she never had it before - even at Fatburger in LA!