Cao Dai Temple And Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Travel Blog› entry 70 of 117 › view all entries
June 2nd, 2007 – by: dan2105
I didn't regret the decision, purely on the basis of our guide. Hilariously-named My Thong, aka Slim Jim, had taught English in the Mekong region for about 15 years. Every so often he would pronounce certain ways with an air of nobility, like foreign footballers picking up words with a regional twang. He had obviously been communicating with foreigners for a while as well, seen as he loved dropping in cockney rhyming slang or saying things like, 'have a butchers,' which I haven't heard since I left England.
First stop was the Cao Dai temple. Cao Daism is an attempt to create a super-religion from existing philosophies of both East and West: from Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism and Taoism. Founded by Ngo Minh Chieu, who practiced seances to speak to spirits, he was said to receive revelations from Cao Dai (a euphemism for God) in which the tenets of Cao Dai were created. During the Vietnamese-American war, 25-000 members of the Cao Dai army were used to fight the Viet Cong. It is still most prevalent in Vietnam in the Tay Ninh area and Mekong Delta. At the temple, there are four non-compulsory services a day, one of which we were allowed to witness. I, like you, initially thought it sounds a little nuts, but I enjoyed the service, if not for the temple, then for the colours of the temple and those worn by people at prayer.
After lunch we headed back towards Saigon, to the Cu Chi tunnels. The Cu Chi region was pivotal in the defeat of the US during the Vietnamese war. Almost completely devastated by continual bombing and napalming overland, many Viet Cong still survived by digging and hiding in underground tunnel networks, initially built in the war against the French. It was also used to counter attack American forces who were bamboozled completely by the system. Large-scale bombing failed to destroy the networks, gassing the tunnels largely failed and American troops called 'tunnel rats' sent down were often killed by the inhabitants within. Despite the Viet Cong winning the war, only around 6,000 of the 16,000 who hid survived.
Only a small part of the network is open to tourists, and even that has been widened to cater for fat Westerners who come to visit.
In addition, Slim Jim showed us some traps used to cripple Americans and stop them from finding the tunnels. Most were enlargened traps used by Vietnamese for catching tigers or whatever, usually involving a concealed trapdoor with spikes underneath. Very clever, and very gruesome. We were also given the chance to fire some guns used in the war at the shooting range.
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