Cu Chi Tunnel Entrance
This is one of the traditional entrances, they have also made larger ones for tourists now. Note the hole's lid by the waterbottle. Covered, the entrance really is invisible.
Today I started my tourism in ernest. I signed up for a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels just outside of Ho Chi Minh. It was my first time with a group like that, but very interesting. The tunnels are where the people of the village of Cu Chi hid when Americans were in the area or when the area was being bombed. The tunnels include rooms for sleeping, cooking, meetings, medical clinic, etc. Some of the rooms are as deep as 20 meters, and the tunnels themselves are very narrow. You almost have to crawl through them. The tour was accompanied by the typical government propaganda, but in all it was a very positive experience. The guide had fought for the South and when his side lost he had to do eight years in a "re-education" camp. He laughed it off, but I'm sure it was terrible. One positive thing about the tour was that they emphasized the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the villagers, instead of talking the whole time about the politics of the war. I was the only American in the group, but it wasn't uncomfortable, I didn't feel any animosity. I'm glad they've gotten beyond that, otherwise
Walking down the paths, which didn't even exist during the war,I tried to imagine being a soldier in such a foreign place. The forest is loud with strange insects and not an easy place to be lost in.
it would have been very difficult.
On the other hand, in the after noon when I visited the War Remnants Museum I did feel the animosity. Nobody there knew I was American (there are lots of European and Australian tourists who are easy to blend in with) but the museum was about violence, and it was made very clear that they blamed the US for the violence. The museum was very difficult, though well made. There were several different buildings for different parts. One large building was dedicated to the journalists who died during the war. At the entrance to this building there were photos of every one of the journalists along with their names and nationalities. the majority were Vietnamese, but there were journalists from all over the world and at least two were women. The rest of the museum made me nauseaus, especially the part about the effects of Agent Orange. My personal environmentalism seems pointless in the face of such a large scale environmental devastation.
It was an intersting day, but I need to sit and think more about what I saw today. Like Toul Sleng, it's just too much to take in all at once.
Children's Paintings of War
I sat for a while in the room of children's paintings. It was more touching, but less violent than the other displays in the museum.
It's a good thing I'm not good at hanging on to guilt, or I would feel even worse after seeing all that. So, on that optimistic note I'm going to sign off for the day. I hope you are all well.
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