Underground-Củ Chi Tunnels
18th October 2012
At 8:00 am. we were already waiting outside the hotel, waiting for the bus that will take us on a guided tour of Chu Chi tunnel, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels, used by Viet Cong (VC)during the Vietnamese war. The tour package was about USD 10/pax. Inclusive of entry fee, no food.
Our bus and guide arrived, he explained to us in his vietnamese-slang english some historical facts, stories and legend of the tunnel.
Before arriving at the tunnel, we stopped by a factory, where they make some very nice souvenirs, craft and artwork. We were encouraged to buy somethings as a sign of support to the handicapped workers who worked there. Workers that’s said to be the descendants, victims of agent orange– code name for a toxic chemical used in the war.
Arrived at the park entrance at 11:00 am, after the 2½ hour trip. We started the tour visiting the display at the entrance, showcasing old weapons, then began the tour with a video presentation. Walk through, taking pictures and more explanation by our tour guide.
The camouflage hole was amazing, it was hard to see the trapdoor even today, although it’s been visited and used for many times.
Learned some interesting facts here, booby traps, shape, designs and functions. very innovative I would say, the lifestyle of the VC during the war.
There’ also a firing range where you can buy bullets and have a try at the weapons such as the M16, AK47 and M60 machine guns . VND 40000/bullet. of M16 and the other guns got cheaper bullets, but I wasn’t interested on them.
We had a try at the tunnels and crawled for 40 metres in about 10 minutes, and even that made me sweat and uncomfortable. I imagined what it must have been like during those time, how they were able to dig, make and live inside the tunnels is just astonishing. The tunnels 75 mile (121 km ) long complex, would take about 21 days to explore all that 121 km. :-0
Some of the explanation and facts from the guide, probably will sound a bit biased and form of propaganda from the government but what you’d expect…
Afterwards our tour group had a break before heading home, some tea and boiled tapioca. The was two Scottish (if not mistaken) girls at our table, they didn’t like the tapioca at first, but eventually couldn’t let go of them 😛
We went home a bit exhausted after tea was over, It was about 2:00 pm already and the bus went straight for the city non stop.
On the streets- Saigon
Arrived at the city some 2 hours later, we headed for the market again as my friends wanted to get some souvenirs to bring home. Nothing much, just key chains, fridge magnets, t-shirts and stuff for others back home. Got myself a pair of shorts to wear for USD7.
I just like to see the streets, and reading the wriggly writings.. Pronouncing them however, was not that easy, lot of tongue twister and jaw cramp if you are not accustomed, I learned to say fish in Vietnamese, ca (pronounced kaa) the easiest word so far, nice. 🙂
Try to get some simple vocabulary, and practice them before going as it helps a lot later, finding Vietnamese that’s fluent in english is rare.
Innocent looking and simple they may be, they don’t rank very high on my “good-people” chart, especially the street vendors, I purposely bought a bottled water, without negotiating or asking the price and was charged USD 2 for a 500ml bottle. They don’t give you any chance at all and “definitely will squeeze you dry all out”, at the slightest opportunity.
The shops however, are better, most of the items are tagged and reasonably priced, the owners, are kind and friendly, greets you with a smile. Still, the price at tourist spot, especially those nearby our hotels of course are slightly higher but acceptable.
One significant difference when I arrived, was the presence of uniformed personnel. You can see them at any corner and almost every street. Although it does seems safe with their presence around, cautious and alert when on the streets here is not to be taken for granted, fortunately, I didn’t see or experienced any unwanted mishaps during our stay.
Our guide said earlier that there are 7 million people living in Ho Chi Minh , and 6 million of them are on motorbikes. Imagine for a while, crossing the streets, with few hundred motorcyclist rushing at you… So the phrase “crossing to the other side”, does mean a lot here.
The trick as our guide taught us, is to raise your hand high, go ahead and partially ignore them, just walk along and the vehicles will avoid you. Ok, easier said than done, we’ve tried it, but miraculously, It works.!
Here’s how the system works, when you have a constant motion by crossing the street, the incoming speeding traffic, will have perfectly estimated your position and by the time they get within arms distance from you, they would have already dodged you either by passing in front or behind you, maintaining a constant flow of traffic on the road and at the same time you’d be at the other side of the street, but if you hesitated and stop, go backwards or delay your motion, chaos will arise.
Walked quite far away from the tourist spot, until we were completely ignored, went back to the hotel before we get lost. At the streets still busy and lots of people eating out and by eating out they have these small short stools and mini tables at the sidewalk enjoying their dishes.
looks strange, for a hangout place but that’s how it is. The pubs, mostly located at corner of the streets also with the same concept, would make the chair face outwards so we would be facing the road, looking outwards, and some outlet would make the patrons in a face to face situation, if they are opposite at the same street.
Tomorrow, we will be back to Phnom Penh, Cambodia by bus again, already bought the tickets earlier on for about USD 11 . Requested for a sleeper coach. After a day of walking and wondering about, It’s time for bed.
come view the flickr album for this trip.