Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels
30.01.2017 - 30.01.2017 32 °C
Up VERY early this morning - 5.45 am - breakfast at 6.15 am and on the bus for the two hour drive to the Cu Chi Tunnels. We had visited them 10 years ago so Phil decided to sleep in and forego the trip, but I decided to go as the only thing I could remember from 10 years ago was how frightened I was when I went down the tunnel and spent five minutes in it crawling along to the other side, in the pitch dark. It was awful. A memory I'll never forget and I certainly wasn't going to do it again! Older and more sense, I guess!
Within the system of Cu Chi Tunnel, Ben Duoc Tunnel was the base of Party Committee and Headquarters of Sai Gon - Cho Lon - Gia Dinh Zone and Military Zone. This is a unique architectural structure, a system of deeply underground tunnels having several floors and alleys that extend for 250 kms, with places for dining, living, meeting and fighting. "This tunnel system embodies the strong will, intelligence and pride of Cu Chi people, a symbol of revolutionary heroism of the Vietnamese people" - a quote from the brochure.
Visiting Cu Chi is a sobering reminder of times past. The cruelty and senselessness of war but when visiting here, I have always been impressed with the cleverness of the Vietnamese people to outwit and outsmart their enemy - the Americans. This system of underground tunnels is really fabulous. The ventilation system, the dispersal of smoke from the cooking fires and the booby trap for the American "Tunnel Rats" are impressive. And wearing their sandals back to front so the Americans thought they were going one way, when in fact, they were going the other!
War is stupid and visiting a place like this, only reinforces that statement.
During our visit, tourists were shooting the AK47s, and the sound of that gun fire in the jungle made it all the more real. We had some tapioca root (tasted like bland cold potato) and some green tea. At the end of our visit, we watched a propaganda movie about the Vietnam War (or the American War as it is known here). I am glad I am not American, because they don't come out of it too well.
After a couple of hours there, we all boarded a speed boat for a 40 minute ride down the Saigon River to a lovely restaurant on the water's edge. We were the only ones in the restaurant and the Vietnamese food was very nice. It was delightful whizzing along the Saigon River, weaving in and out of the floating water hyacinth and we had life jackets that we had to wear as opposed to being in the boat at the teak bridge at Mandalay!
Fresh Mustard Leaf Rolls; Pomelo Salad with Prawn and Pork; Vietnamese Rice Pancake with Seafood; Grilled Pork Ribs with Lemongrass; Sauteed Water Morning Glory with Garlic; Green Cabbage Soup with Fresh Shrimps, Steamed Rice and Seasonal Fresh Fruits and Tea and Coffee.
I was sitting in the middle of the table and kept getting missed out, so they prepared me my own pork ribs. Gosh, after all that food, my own serving of pork ribs was the last thing I needed so Kevin helped me out.
Back to the hotel for an hour before our afternoon's outing. We went to the Reunification Palace and the War Museum. We couldn't remember if we had been there 10 years ago, but as soon as the bus pulled up outside, we realised that we had been here before. Still it was good to see it again. This is the place where the Viet Cong came crashing through the front gate in a tank, which virtually ended the war and North and South Vietnam became one, and communist.
It is humid and quite hot but not as bad as it would be in the wet season.
Then we went to the War Museum and we realised that we had been there also ten years ago. It is a very sobering place too and the photos are graphic and horrible but really a must for everyone to see. But unfortunately, seeing places like that still doesn't deter people from making war.
Tonight's dinner was a Scenic Free Choice and we, along with about 20 others, chose the Colonial House Restaurant. It was a lovely atmosphere in the grounds of a lovely old colonial French residence. The food was Vietnamese but was fresh and tasty.
The streets are decorated beautifully for Tet New Year. They are very hard to photograph at night, from a bus, but hopefully you get the idea.
Leaving the hotel tomorrow for the Scenic Spirit!