Day 3 - Cu Chi Tunnels

May 22nd 2013, 2:44:00 pm

On day 2 I headed to the Cu Chi tunnels on a tour booked through my hostel. Our guide was a very interesting half-Filipino, half Vietnamese man who fought in the war on the USA side. It sounded like he'd had a pretty horrific life, with both his wife and mother killed in the war, and his siblings fleeing the country. It was nice to have someone who was actually involved and from Vietnam tell us that most of what the Vietnamese museums state as truth is horribly biased propaganda, but that the USA is just as full of shit with their telling of events. Both sides did messed up things and there was no real winner.

When we arrived at the tunnels we sat and watched a video that was so nationalistic/anti-American it was painful to watch; how the evil Americans were out to prevent Vietnam re-unifying (completely ignoring that, as I understand it, the south wasn't actually supportive of that, hence why the war didn't end when America and Co pulled out), and how this guy, that guy and another guy was awarded the killing Americans bravery awards for killing Americans, killing American this, killing Americans that. At one point I'm sure that every sentence spoken for a few minutes had "killing Americans" in it at least twice.

The after the propaganda film we moved onto the actual site, were shown huge B-52 bomb craters which were all over the place. We were shown one of the "manhole" entrances to the tunnels. People were allowed to hop in for a photo but the hole looked crazy small and I didnt think my shoulders would fit through so I didn't give it a go. Next we saw a variety of different booby traps they used with the intention of perforating the Viet Cong's enemy soldiers and dogs; they were pretty vicious looking contraptions.

We saw some ammunition making and hospital trenches/holes, then arrived at the shooting range. Having a shooting range on site means there's always the sound of gunfire in the trees, maybe giving the place an atmosphere somewhat like it would have been back in the war. I paid to fire 10 shots with an AK-47 at a whopping $1.60 per bullet. For a rifle that's claimed to be so reliable you can submerge it in water and it will still shoot, the one I had seemed to keep fucking up and not actually firing so we'd take the unfired bullet and put it back in the clip. Having seen the youtube video by that guy fpsrussia where he slathers one in bacon and then slops soft serve all over it and it still fires, I can only assume the one I shot was incredibly old (maybe genuinely from the war?) and was overdue for retirement.

After the shooting range we went down into the enlarged tourist tunnels, and to be honest they were bigger than I expected. I thought we'd be forced to crawl on our hands and knees the whole way but we could walk bent over flat at the waist pretty OK. There was only one tight spot that required hands and knees. I guess in the real ones someone my size would have gone hands and knees all the time, and gotten stuck at the choke points.

Interesting fact we were told about the tunnels is that the Americans would apparently pump a bunch of gasoline into them and chuck in a match to try and flush out the Viet Cong, who would happily escape out to the river, but because the soil was all clay, the fire from the gasoline would effectively kiln the tunnel walls making them harder and the tunnels stronger.

The bus ride home was pretty uninteresting. About half-way back it started bucketing down with rain; it as nuts to see the motorbike's continue to zoom past the bus in water that must have been 15-20cm deep in places. The drains did not look to be coping at all.

Once we got back to HCMC I had a quick shower then headed down the lane and found a bar with tiny plastic chairs (the Vietnamese symbol for great stuff at cheap prices) and had a few beer hois at a price of 7000 VND, or about $0.30 AUD. I also bought some tiny little boiled eggs with some dipping sauce from a lady running a stall just next to the bar, which were very tasty but no idea what bird they were from (or even if they were from a bird for that matter.).

I lazily had dinner at some place that claimed they were recommended on trip advisor on their sign. I had a duck curry which was ok, but the place only had westerners eating there so either the food was bad or overpriced. I notice more and more how much American tastes and expectations differ from other western countries and wish that there was a way to filter out their reviews on such sites. Seeing a place in Vietnam get a high rating on trip advisor and then seeing the review say something like "the cheeseburgers here are amazing, the burritos are good too!" just makes me wonder why these people left home in the first place.

I looked up a good massage place and started walking over towards it when my attention was stolen by the smell of waffles. I traced it to a little old lady on the side of the road making these little pillows of waffle-like/pancake-ish deliciousness. I continued on my quest and eventually found the massage place. It was fairly pricey in comparison to the ones on the main strip, but the Swedish therapy massage I got was totally worth it. It was just like the fancy hotel massages you always see in movies.