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  • Day72

    Cu Chi Tunnel & Night Bus

    March 23, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    Today we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh to see how the villagers survived during the war with the Americans. On the way there we stopped by an art market where everything is made by folk suffering the effects of Agent Orange. The work itself was beautiful and I'm partly glad, partly upset I didn't have my visa on me to purchase some of the beautiful egg shell panels that were part of the collection on display. Oh well, no where to put it anyways!

    The Tunnels were about an hour away by bus and we had a local guide ride with us there and then give us a tour. On the way he joked about motorbikes saying that unless you had once you couldn't get a girlfriend, and you'd only get a long legged beauty if you had a real nice bike. Funny guy.. Definitely a lot of sexist comments that I think are just normal for them. Like about who makes the money and takes care of the kids, etc etc the usual stuffs.

    Anyway, the Tunnels were a key player in the war, it's where the Viet soldiers would essentially live while hiding from the Americans. The network of Tunnels was incredibly extensive and well thought through and the American's struggled to destroy them although they tried quite hard by the sounds of it. In addition to the Tunnels were traps set by the locals on the land. Traps designed to kill enemy soldiers. We toured those areas first and saw all the different traps the Vietnamese devised. They're all variations on the same thing really, they took iron from bombs and recycled them into long, sharp stakes which they coated in poison. In some traps the stakes were lodged into the ground covered by a false floor, sometimes when you stepped on a piece of wood you sank and the stakes impaled you from the sides, some you stepped on the false ground your foot caught on the stakes and then pulled you because they would be set on rollers... There were maybe 10 or 12 different traps on display all slightly different but all meant to kill. There was one too that would hang above a door and when you opened the door it would fall down and ram into you. They were smart enough too that they considered the fact that men could catch the falling trap and included a hinge on the lower half that would continue to fall separate from the upper, stopped portion of the trap. I think he called it a "daddy ender" or something because the falling piece was at genital height. It was quite interesting and kind of awful to imagine dying that way.. And to think that it's such a recent history for the people here.

    After looking around the property at all the different traps and tanks we went to the shooting range. Some people chose to shoot the machine guns, and Erin and I chose to split 10 rounds on an AK47 used in the war. They had it set up so that there could be no accidents, the thing was bolted to a concrete wall and only the men working there were allowed to load the gun. But, it was still pretty neat! Just to say that I've done it ;) Also my aim isn't terrible, pretty sure I was hitting the targets!

    From there we went to the tunnel entrances and actually had a chance to explore the Tunnels themselves! They were tiny. And larger than the originals, because they've been enlarged for tourists.. I can't even imagine what the tiny Tunnels were like. No wonder so many of the Vietnamese suffered health problems.. They lived in there, treated their sick in there... Intense. The ones we went into were maybe 3' high and only 18" wide. You had to walk hunched over and by the end of it your legs were burning. I only did a 50 M stretch, where you could have done 100, because my knees were protesting so much by that point. It was muggy in there too, the air stale even though they designed ventilation shafts into the Tunnels. I can't imagine having to live in those conditions! Quite an eye opening experience.

    The tour ended by watching a video on the history of the Tunnels which I skipped because I needed to use the washroom, apparently it was a crappy movie anyway and I think I learned more just from reading online!

    We went back to the hotel after the tunnel tour, had some dinner, and caught a night Bus to Jungle Beach. The night Bus was... Interesting! I'm too tall for the beds, so thankfully we had a private bus with extra beds and I was able to spread out over two beds. And by spread out I mean sink so low in my sloped chair that my legs hung over the edge of the headrest of the bed in front of me. Your legs are supposed to go into little cubbies under the head of the person in front of you but I think you need to be about 4" shorter than I am. But, I made do and had a fairly decent sleep once I discovered that comfortable position! At least there wasn't the extreme jarring of the night train that woke you up at every instance. You just had to deal with incessant honking and constant stops. Our driver was clearly running a business on the side or something delivering packages because he was always loading new things into the storage bin below. Including a motor bike at one point... Random!
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