Me in the Cu Chi tunnels
Got up at 6:30am, washed my hair, and packed what I would need for the Mekong Delta in my daypack. Had the usual breakfast and at 7:30am boarded the minibus with the others to head to the Cu Chi tunnels. Thankfully I had a much better sleep last night as K didn't snore half as much. It took us maybe 1.5 hours to get to the tunnels and I enjoyed watching the countryside turn more rural as we drove along, until suddenly the odd cow began to appear and acres of rubber plantations could be seen. Y was our guide at the tunnels. We saw lots of interesting things including the various booby traps used, the different rooms they had (health centre with plastic sheets on the walls and oil on the floor to keep the bugs away for example), and we even got to have a go in the real tunnel entrance.
Cu Chi tunnels
I had no trouble getting in and out but then K decided to have a turn...she got in okay but no way could she get out, even with 2 men tugging on each arm. They gave up eventually and so she had to crawl 5m through the tunnel to a bigger opening. Y had to help her and got very dirty and sweaty doing so, poor thing. By the end a lot of people were standing around watching her. We saw lots of big jackfruit hanging from the trees, and some durian and cashew nut trees too. There were apparently over 200km of tunnels, the clay being hard like concrete which made the walls strong. Their ventilation system and everything was so clever. We got back on the minibus about 10:45am then headed for our homestay in the Mekong. We left our minivan at Cai Be
and boarded a Mekong Travel boat guided by Hieu and driven by Hoa.
Rolling trap, Cu Chi tunnels
Hieu had extremely good English and was an informative and humorous guide very good at his job. On the boat we were given some tropical fruits including bananas, mangoes, coconuts, rose apples and rambutans (delicious!). We got off at the Bonsai Garden where there were beautiful flowers including orchids, big bonsais, and elephant ear fish. We tried jackfruit there. Lunch we had at a place which had a pet python. The lunch place had many beautiful orchids. After lunch we got to go on a rowboat (sampan) and wear conical hats. They are really good for keeping the sun off. We tipped our driver at the end. It was nice to go at a slower pace and it was beautifully quiet just drifting and gliding along. It was funny to see petrol stations (like Shell) right up on the riverbank.
After the sampan tour we got back on the main boat and visited a brick making factory. The clay is cooked in enormous kilns for 2 months before it totally dries out and the fire is fuelled by rice husks which men carry off a big boat in 2 baskets each weighing 20-30kg when full. The women are the ones who throw the lumps of clay into a machine that makes them into a brick shape. Back-breaking work for women who looked no more than 45kg! After the brick factory we headed off to our homestay owned by Mr Muoi Day, a Protestant man. He lives there with his wife, his only son and his daughter-in-law, 2 cats and 3 dogs. His 4 daughters are all married now and living elsewhere. He has about 20 people coming to stay each week, and Intrepid groups stay twice a week.
His 2 larger dogs (one black, one white, both very fluffy) were very friendly and would come over for a pat when whistled to, but his younger dog (looked like a Cavalier/Papillon/Chihuahua mix) was apparently aggressive so I didn't go near it, not being inoculated against rabies! We lazed around in the hammocks for a while then I had a shower which was nice and refreshing, before helping to prepare spring rolls for dinner. We got some rice paper, put a thin layer of a vinegar/sugar mix on one side, then flipped it over and put veggies on the other before rolling it up. Dinner was delicious. L and I had the fried veggie and spring rolls, a veggie/noodle combo, eggplant, rice paper rolls with mint and noodles, tofu, and a veggie broth. I also had some yummy chicken. The others had a huge cooked elephant ear fish and prawns among other things. After dessert we had some tea and asked Mr Muoi some questions translated by Hieu (who told us at dinner he could eat 13 bowls of steamed rice in one sitting at college, as it was free), then headed to bed quite early, maybe around 9pm, as I was very tired. It was really peaceful enclosed in my mosquito net and I slept well.