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Published: March 19th 2014
Writing this a little retrospectively as now back home in the UK. Didn’t manage to finish this while we were away, just too busy.
Not quite as early a start today though 8.30am is quite early enough when you’re on holiday. We really have been quite hectic this trip, good thing we have had the two relaxing days at the beach.
As yesterday our little coach collected us from the hotel reception and we set off for a 90 minute trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels. We were heading for Ben Dinh which is quite close to the Cambodian border and also the Saigon river. The 75 miles of very narrow tunnels allowed movement between the two countries and also had exits to the river. They were used extensively by the Viet Cong during the Vietnamese war and unbelievably, once we saw how narrow and claustrophic they were, for cooking, sleeping as well as for weapon-making and safe underground travel, hidden from the enemy. In some places there were 3 levels of tunnel.
We stopped at a Handicapped Handicraft Centre, government run, which provides skilled employment for the disabled. It proved to be a wonderful
display of extreme skill with the craftsmen and women making the shell embellishments for some of the fantastic laquerwork we have seen (and purchased) in Vietnam. There was of course also a shop but we didn’t buy just admired.
At the tunnels we followed our guide, Lionel, down the jungle trails. These are through quite young trees as all the original jungle was destroyed by the American “Orange” spray and bombing attacks. Lionel had a good singing voice and had instructed us that if we lost him we should follow the song “Hello, is it me you’re looking for”. We admire the Vietnamese humour !
Lionel pointed out various features along the way. Trap doors, covered with grass, which swung when stepped on, throwing the unsuspecting onto a deadly bed of spikes in the cavity below. Tiny holes in the base of termite mounds, which were the entrances to the tunnels and looked barely large enough to allow entry to a cat never mind a man. Other holes, tunnel entrances, hidden by a tiny trapdoor covered in leaves. Some members of the party tucked themselves into the holes below but Bob and I didn’t as very much afraid
we would not have managed to lift ourselves out again.
Lionel also showed us a display of traps used by the Vietcong all full of deadly spikes and ingenious.
Then we came to the tunnels proper. These have been enlarged to accommodate Western visitors though larger Western visitors should not attempt them.
We entered the tunnel down some steps and only travelled 10 metres along before emerging at the first possible exit. The man in front of me, had a bit of a panic attack as he was too big and not fit enough to fit into the tiny space while moving along it and I was very relieved when his wife managed to pretty well drag him out. I could get along by bending at the waist and knees but Bob had to go down onto his knees to clear the very restricted height.
We just could not imagine how the Vietnamese could travel for miles along these tunnels and live in them for months at a time. Even though the people tended to be very much smaller than the modern Westerner the tunnels were tiny.
We ended the tunnel visit with a film
show, very much a propoganda affair showing the hero Viet Cong and the nasty attacking Americans.
Then back to the coach and a return to Ho Chi Minh City in time for another evening in the city centre.
We took a taxi to the Opera House and found an excellent restaurant at the Lion Brewery next to the Caravelle Hotel. There were no free tables outside but the manager, seeing we were hesitating, immediately ordered a table and chairs be brought outside for us so we had a lovely meal in a very congenial surroundings.
Last stroll through this amazing city at night before returning to our hotel.
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