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Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » Cu Chi
May 10th 2013
Published: May 10th 2013
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Today was one of the rougher days, honestly. Very emotional. I woke up with last nights' impression of Vietnam-- big bright city, cleaner than Chiang Mai, friendly people... then learned better today. I guess that is part of the experience; seeing the lights and darks, highs and lows of a city. We ate a fancy breakfast at our fancy hotel and then caught a taxi. We really wanted to learn more about the Vietnam war and have a little cultural lesson today and oh boy did we get it. First of all I should mention the taxi driver, since he was pretty influential in the tone of the outing. He was very peppy and nice starting out, and he agreed to take us to three places for 970,000 dong (about $50)- the Cu Chi War Tunnels, the War Remnants Museum, then China Town, and the return back to the hotel. Pretty average pricing. Well, at least I think it is. I am having a hard time thinking clearly after the constant whiplash back and forth for the entire trip!! Gas pedal, brake, gas pedal, brake, dodge a swarm of motorbikes, brake, speed past a pedestrian parked in the middle of the road, brake. They are not all like this, he just had a special gift I suppose. The music selection was also nice at first: Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Metallica, Oasis, but the volume was unbelievable. How much more can I complain about this driver..?! Well after our first site, the tunnels, he was going to just drop us off and still charge us the same price, saying that he changed his mind and that he didn't mean to agree to the three sites. We haggled with him for quite a while and he was getting very upset. Thought I was going to be arrested in Vietnam for a minute there. Eventually we told him we wouldn't pay him the full amount unless he honored his agreement and he angrily agreed. The rest of the ride was very quiet.

Now, backing up to the first site, the Cu Chi War Tunnels. I've never sweat so much in my entire life. Literally I think I lost several pounds of body weight. It was as if I was constantly under a shower head of my own sweaty filth. Gross, right? So the tunnels demonstrate a lot of the actual weapons, traps, tunnels, and torture methods that were used during the war. Tiger traps used to impale unsuspecting soldiers, door traps for more impaling, fake tunnel traps rigged with explosives, poison spears, etc. And the informational video does not sugar coat their continued feelings towards Americans. Hard to sit through as an American. I don't know a lot of the details and causes of the war itself, but hearing anti-American sentiments makes everything much more real. The fear that soldiers from both sides must have faced is impossible to grasp, and the horrible things that were done from both sides are unimaginable. We were able to guerrilla crawl through the tunnels and, in that heat, I can honestly say that I would not survive a day down there. It is literally like a 3ft tall, 2ft wide dark oven. Claustrophobia sets in within a couple meters but you can't really turn back so you have to book it ape crawl style to the end and try to keep breathing.

So, the frustration of the cab driver + the confusing feelings from the tunnels + hunger = a volatile emotional state. Compound that by the emotions from next stop (War Remnants Museum), and I got more than a little teary. Most of the images were of severely injured Vietnamese women/children, mangled corpses, and tortured war captives. Obviously the material is bias, we are in their country after all, and my limited knowledge of the war tells me that dark decisions were made from both sides, but considering each soul in an eternal perspective causes in me deep sadness. I am glad that I believe in a God of justice-that people pay for their mistakes, and a God of love-that He loves all His children. My heart hurts thinking of how much He must have cried for the loss of life during those times. His children (of all nationalities) killed and tortured.

Phew. **Deep breath.**

After all of that we needed some food, so we went to China Town and... Toto, we were not in Kansas anymore. I can't even tell you what dead things were on the side of the road for sale. And that smell. Needless to say we found somewhere a little safer to eat--namely, KFC. Yes, we cheated, and those french fries tasted delightful.

The market itself was busy and had some really beautiful fabrics for sale, a long with many other random items. It was this bustling network of tiny shops with very little lighting and no air conditioning. Similar to the war tunnels, actually. So interesting to walk through there, though. I wish my bartering skills were a little better so that I could have picked up some funky souvenirs. We headed back to the hotel to clean up and rest for a bit, then headed out for some more food. We had to make up for our American cheat meal and eat some authentic Vietnamese food, so we ate some Pho and drank watermelon juice.

The rest of the night we wandered around and bought some trinkets, then me an Stacy got our nails did. Loving all of this spa time here! It's gonna be rough going back to all of the pricey spa treatments at home. Oh wait, I am pretty much my OWN spa at home. Dang it.

Tomorrow we are off to Cambodia!


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