cu chi tunnels
its a bit of a squeeze!
the bus ride from cambodia to the vietnamese border was interesting. the trip, already tainted by illness on dave's part was made worse by the fact that the radiator decided it was time for a massive leak. this left the driver and his friends with the task of fixing it, a job done by filling the gap with cigarette butts and sealing it with super glue. needless to say there were many more unscheduled stops along the way to add more water and further try to bodge the hole. much to everyone's surprise and relief the trusty cambodians limped us to the border where we crossed into vietnam. we were met by the people from "happy tours" who treated us to an incident free bus ride to saigon and the woman collecting the tickets even sang a couple of songs for us over the tannoy. that was a bit weird but they bloody love their karaoke over here so i guess its a case of any excuse!
saigon is a bustling city that makes central london look deserted. we were told by one of the locals that there are around 3.2 million motor bikes in the city, and judging by
the amount that nearly ran us to the ground, i'd say the lad was telling the truth! we spent a few days in saigon still trying to recover from the curry in phnom penh. we decided to take a tour around the cu chi tunnels that were used from the 50's to the 70's by the vietnamese trying to escape the onslaught of different wars that ravaged the country for over 25 years. they were used mainly during the 70's when american troops were dropping agent orange (napalm) all over the mekong delta and north of the city. many people lived and died in the tunnels, and there were children born in the underground as well. there are spots along the trail where it is possible to go underground into the tunnels to experience the tiny cavities that housed thousands of people. there is also plenty of evidence of the carpet bombings that occurredd during the vietnam war with craters over 20 meters across and 10 feet deep litter the jungle floor. it was interesting to think how these people must have suffered during the military occupation of the country as they had to spend so much time underground, with
little light and even less food and water. there was also a shooting range where you are given the opportunity to fire any number of guns and if you have a special word in their ear, its possible to fire a surface to air missile launcher. this is one of the things i wish i had done, but as i was ready to crap myself at any minute, i think firing an ak47 would have finished the job!
from saigon we made our way to the town of mui ne (pronounced moony) a small beach resort where we took full advantage of the opportunity to head onto the sand, top up the quickly fading tan and take a swim. as we had spent nearly a month without coming anywhere near to smelling the ocean it was a welcomed break from dodging mopeds in saigon and street kids in cambodia! we hired a bike for a day to check out the sand dunes that dominate the mui ne landscape and provide the town with its own micro-climate. there is a fraction of the rainfall here compared to the surrounding area and it makes for a baron landscape and a dry,
dalat was the next destination high up in the mountain ranges of the south. the trip was another hair raising experience with plenty of sheer drops just a couple of feet away from the tires of the bus, and no safety barriers should the driver have a quick nap, or (as happened a few times) the bus slides out of control towards the edge. we arrived safely without plummeting to our deaths and were welcomed by the feeling of cold as dalat's temperature seldom rises above 24 degrees. this was a great change from the suffocating heat we had experienced for most of the last three months and it was strange to see the locals donning hats and gloves at night. the temperature was the same as a summer evening in england so we carried on wearing shorts and t-shirts, much to the amusement of the wool-clad vietnamese. dalat is a really picturesque town with lots of french colonial architecture. the post office has a replica eiffel tower at the rear and the town boasts some great bakeries. the food here was mediocre so it was great to be able to get some ham and cheese, buy
a french stick or two and sit by the lake for a pick nick. we hired bikes to visit some of the surrounding attractions including 'the valley of love' that was named in the seventies by the tacky students at the university. 'tack' really is the word here and we took full advantage of being able to hire a squeaky, rusted metal swan for an hour and paddle around the lake. our time spent in dalat was short and sweet as it was time to catch a bus to the next destination, nha trang.
nha trang is again a beach resort but much larger than mui ne, and has a nice mix of comfortable heat and a cooling sea breeze. we got ourselves a brilliant room for next to nothing and spent the last few days with aussies kerry and dave who we met in dalat hiring bikes and exploring the vast coast line. dave has brought his surf board over and was eagar to catch some waves, so after we had found a half decent spot the locals were treated to a strange australian riding waves on what looks like an ironing board. dave was treated like a
celebrity and everyone was fascinated by the event having never seen anything like it before. the place where we normally went at breakfast for omelets sells 'funny boat tours' around the bay, and for six dollars we had to see what made them so 'funny'. after the initial disappointment of the snorkeling, a lavish lunch was served consisting of king prawns, spring rolls, fish, squid, bread, noodles and rice and more mystery meat (we still think it was dog) than you can poke a stick at. after lunch it was time for 'happy hour' where all the lads working on the boat grab an instrument and play western cover versions, and some vietnamese classics. after the band had played their entire catalogue we went into the water where the floating bar was pouring free dalat wine. it was the start of a long day on the sauce, and me and aussie dave spent the hour with our feet holding onto the bar to ensure we were topped up at every opportunity. the rest of the day is a bit of a blur, vodka was drunk on the balcony before we headed out for something to eat, resulting in a total
lack of memory as to what i ate. a great time was had by all, and the 'funny boat tour' defiantly makes you feel funny the next day, and im told, makes you look pretty funny at the time as well!
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