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Published: December 20th 2012
Sadie and the tunnels 1
Crawling away in the enlarged tunnels. Its really hard to imagine how it would have been back then
We woke up at 5:30 am, in a mad rush to get to the tunnels before the tourists. We had decided to visit Ben Dinh and not Ben Duoc tunnels. Ben Dinh, sadly, is not part of the original networks, but made just for tourism and education (of course they pretend it's real when you visit). Ben Duoc is more remote and part of the original system, and includes a memorial temple. We decided to visit Ben Dinh because of two practicalities: there are no maps, road descriptions, or indications anywhere as to how to get to Ben Duoc, and judging by how long it took us to find the right road to Cu Chi, we thought we would spend most of the day tring to find it. The other point was the temple in Ben Duoc, which is part of the visit, and involved of course wearing covered shoulders and knees while crawling through the tunnels. Again, it was well over 40 degrees that day already by 6 am, there was no breeze, and the humidity hit us like a wall. Ben Dinh it was, then.
We got there before the masses, and were lucky to get a guide
Sadie and the tunnels 2
We soon figured out that it was better that Sadie tried the holes where many Vietnamese soldiers hid during the war. It really is not much space there. But even for Sadie is wasn't that easy to get all the way down into the hole
who steered us away from the big tour groups the whole way. We knew a lot already from all the stories we have heard from people along the way, but this visit just reinforced our belief in the tenacity of the Vietnamese. They had nothing, and they used everything they could. Shrapnel was used to make tools to carve the tunnels, unexploded bombs to make pressure grenades, literally everything that was used to attack them , they used to fight back. And while the Allied troops walked around with huge packs in the blistering heat, the VC usually carried a tiny utility belt with all their needs. No wonder things went the way the did.
Satisfied with having seen the tunnels and having been early enough to avoid the madness, we got back on our bikes, had some yummy Pho Bo and coffee along the way and headed towards the Mekong Delta.
We thought we would only make it to Ben Luc, but the roads surprised us (and monday traffic was much kinder) and we made it to My Tho with time to spare.
With the Mekong winding in and out of it, and houses barely stilted
Sadie and the tunnels 3
But when she got down there, it was easy to understand that it would have been impossible for anyone to find her, if they didn't know where to look
above the murky waters, this was yet another change of scenery, and one we'd been looking forward to.
The spotters on the outskirts had given word that we were on our way in, and we were soon offered all kinds of tours and help finding things.
Settled in, we had a wide assortment of street food (skewers galore, including quail eggs, lotus-leaf-wrapped beef and fried okra) for dinner.
Having booked a 5:30 am boat trip, and having found such a nice hotel with such nice beds (http://www.tnktravelvietnam.com/html/detail-hotel.php?hotelid=1048
), we decided that an early night was just what we needed.
- Øyvind's thighs after crawling through the tunnels while holding one camera and having one on his head: destroyed
- Average size of the tunnels now (expanded to fit fat westerners): 1m high/80 cm wide
- Average size of the tunnels back then: 65-70 cm high/50 cm wide
- Amount of skewers consumed by the riverside: 20?
- How to find Ben Dinh (Cu Chi tunnels) by motorbike: If you are driving from Ho Chi Minh City, get on 22 going north. After passing Cu Chi town (just read the addresses on the
As several tourists struggle to complete the short walk in the widened tunnels, there are several emergency exits on the way. We of course, id the whole tunnel
stores you drive by on the side of the road, they always include the town, but remember Cu Chi is also a district, so they will start saying Cu Chi long before you hit the town) - you will see the turnoff to the town, there is a big roundabout and the highway passes over it - keep driving north on 22 for about another 10 km. There will be a sign (read slowly, but it does say "tunnels") on your right and you will turn right. Follow that road through several street lights, and then the road turns a bit remote. When you think you are lost, then wait a little longer and you will see signs to the tunnels again. Part of the way, you will be on the route for the 79 bus. This is a good sign. If you are lucky and the bus comes while you are on the road then you can follow the bus all the way. If not just follow our directions. From the turnoff from 22 to the tunnels is about 20km, so it is quite far. Trust the road and you will eventually get there. Don't try and get there
Porch overlooking the river
A family having dinner at their porch overlooking the river. It sounds fantastic, but the standards are quite a lot lower than one might think from the description
by back roads even though it seems much shorter. There are no signs at all and everyone has their own route so people will send you every whcih way...
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