Cu Chi Tunnels.
We arranged a half day tour of the Cu Chi tunnel this morning departing 0800. So reluctantly the girls got up and got ready for departure. The guide was on time and we left with about 30 other tourists. He introduced himself as Alex, because he thought he was Alex Ferguson and we should all listen to him. He had a funny sense of humour he whipped around the bus introduced himself to all of us while he collected entrance fees. So from every country he had a joke. The first guy was Canadian so he was all over it with Celine Dion, then to us the only Aussies on the bus, ‘Yah right mate common aussie’. He did this all up and down the bus then returned to the front and gave us all a history lesson on the Cu Chi tunnels and why the Viet Cong (VC) went to the town Cu Chi.
It was interesting hearing that when the war first started the US solders didn’t know who was the enemy so they just shot at everyone. The Vietnamese locals, farmers did not understand why they were being killed and as more of the locals got shot they started to fight back and the VC was set up. The more the locals got shot at the bigger the VC got and they would all travel to Cu Chi to get uniform and weapons.
He even had 2 x history questions for the bus and if we got them correct he would shout the person with the correct answer 100 rounds at the shooting range.
Question 1 “where was all the dirt for the tunnel system stored when removed from the ground” 200km worth of dirt. We had all sorts of answers, they ate the dirt, put it in the river (no river near here). The answer was very simple, they made fake ant mounds with ventilation holes. They would hollow out some bamboo, run it down to the tunnel and then out the ant mound. Any overflow of dirt they would put in the bomb holes left by the B52 bombings.
Second question, “if they could not see 1-2 metres in front of them how could they tell who was US and who was VC”? We had answers like a sound, certain noise, what about the smell but what smell, coffee, cigarettes, deodorant, soap, all no. It was the smell of the army boots. The VC did not have any boots they wore the rubber sandal made out of old car tyre so they had no smell. The US army boot after trekking through the jungle and water would have a distinctive smell.
We arrived at the Cu Chi tunnels and we got to look around all the sites as Alex gave us very informative tour of each section, the secret refuge, the traps, the US tank and workshops. We got to the shooting range and I thought for sure we would have a few people wanting a go. But no we only had 2 people so this was good.
Once past the shooting range and souvenir shop we arrived at the tunnel entrance. It was a tight squeeze but once past the main entrance it got tighter. Summer started but turned around before a metre and got out. That left Autumn, Spring and myself and we had this big Canadian guy try to squeeze through the tunnels he got past the 20 metre mark and then got stuck so we were backlogged behind him. Then one of the girls in front of us panicked and flicked her backpack which blew out a light. If we thought it was dark before, it was pitch black and boiling hot now. Lucky for smart phones, I had a camera which supplied light and helped the lady behind us get her smart phone so we could finish off the rest of the tunnel.
It was a really good experience. It would have been a tough existence in those tunnels with coconut oil lanterns and only able to squat.
We got out of the tunnel and was treated to some taro dipped in peanut sauce and refresher towels. I was a ball of sweat when I got out and took about 15-20 minutes to cool off.
When we returned to the bus our guide gave us a Vietnamese version of whether it will be called Saigon or Ho Chi Min City the short answer is ‘if you are from the north or communist it will be HCMC if you are from the south or democratic then Saigon but both same same, we are in peace now‘.
Returned to hotel and got into homework for a couple of hours prior to heading out to dinner. Decided to walk over to 23/9 park were all the locals exercise on the equipment. Didn’t have a workout just walked around the park watching all the locals on the equipment. Then there was a pop up Chinese New Year dragon show which closed down the main street. We were lucky enough to witness it all right in front of us. The guys were amazing as the crowd grew behind us. We would have watched for about 15m and then went into the Vespa bar for a cocktail and then came back out to watch again. Watched for about 30m and then went back up to Chua An Cao St Pagoda for dinner. This street had some older creepy guys on it but the food was sensational and cheap, well worth the walk returned back to the hotel and watched a bit of TV prior to bed.