Published: April 5th 2008March 18th 2008
Guide at Cu Chi Tunnels
Home to the VC during the Vietnam War
First up, apologies for the cheesy title, but it's not often you actually get to say that from within Vietnam itself!
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly known as Saigon, was renamed after the leader of the North Vietnamese communist party, who eventually won the American/Vietnam War and gained control of South Vietnam. Although now re-united and despite years of bitter fighting between the North and the South, much of the blame and hatred for the war is placed in the direction of the US, who entered the war to assist the Anti-Communist South - an opponent to the spread of Communism from the Chinese-influenced North. 'Uncle Ho', as he is now referred to, is a symbol of Vietnamese patriotism and determination and has many many sights, roads and other memorials named after him across the entire country. So, that's the history in a very small nutshell.
Our first tour in Viet Nam was to be a visit to the world-famous Cu Chi tunnels - home to thousands of Viet Cong (VC) soldiers and guerillas during the 'American War' - a network that by the end of the war had extended to one connected underground system some 260km in
Guide at Cu Chi Tunnels
He wasn't exactly the biggest bloke....
length. We had a quick introduction to the site from our guide and before we knew it we were heading straight into one of the actual tunnels occupied during the conflict. The photos, I hope, show how narrow and cramped it was. It was to our utter amazement that we were later told that the 30m or so length we awkwardly navigated had been extensively widened and heightened to accommodate the larger, western tourists. Now I've never considered myself to be particularly large or over-weight, but to live in these the Vietnamese must be particularly tiny and/or agile. It would seem that our guide, who slid into the narrowest of the tunnel's entrances was more the rule in terms of Vietnamese stature than the exception, and had no problems scuttling up and down the pitch-black and incredibly hot burrows. We, on the other hand, daren't even attempt some of the access points for fear of becoming a permanent feature of the tour!
Afterwards, we made a visit to the War Museum, which contained some extremely graphic photos of hand-to-hand fighting and the disturbing effects of the war, and although it was a very touching museum you could not fail
Cu Chi Tunnels
Liam in one of the Tunnels, ENLARGENED for Westerners, can you believe?!
to be impressed by the intensity and quality of its contents. You could put a thousand photos online, but it really is somewhere that has to be seen to be believed and was genuinely cultural.
Our second day in HCMC was a fairly generic city tour, with morning stops at the city's largest market, traditional temples - where we lit spirals of incense with a message contaning wishes of good luck (apparently lasting a week?!) - and other sights of interest. The afternoon, however, fell rather flat in comparison with a tour of a Catholic cathedral smaller than most in the UK (included only as a rarity in this part of the world) the Grande Finale was inspection of the French-style architecture of the city post office. Having been completely submerged in culture at the tunnels the previous day, this was a little disappointing but I suppose did give further insight into the history of Vietnam and comprehensively showed the city.
Having spent the previous week taking in the breath-taking sights of Angkor Wat, the history behind the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields and the unbelievable ingenuity of the Vietnamese Tunnels, we were looking forward to a couple of
A typically friendly local
days on golden sands and in cobalt waters, so we quickly booked 3 tickets on the next bus to the coastal resort of Nha Trang and headed northwards.
There are more photos below