Good Morning, Viet Nam!
Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
18Trip End Dec 13, 2010
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My first day in Vietnam I was given a ticket to the Cu Chi Tunnels by the Dean of Students who I used to work with earlier in the semester.The tunnels are a huge network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City. They were used by Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding spots during combat as well as hospitals, and food and sleeping bunkers. The tunnels spread over about 75 miles and we were actually able to crawl threw a section on of the network. After going down a flight of stairs there was an entrance to a snug little tunnel. When crawling through them I had to be on my hands and knees because the space was very tight, hot and pitch black! The air was thin and the tunnels got smaller and smaller the deeper I went. I was very happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel...literally
Day two in Vietnam: I took a trip to the Mekong Delta. When we first arrived there we took a river cruise to a small island and along the way I could see different homes and fishing businesses. On the island we were given tea a a few minutes to buy souvenirs from the vendors. After hopping to another island were were given lunch and the food just keep coming. They first brought out this..this fish. LOL It was fresh out of the fryer and while sitting there the scales and fins were dropping off. The waitress came over and broke up the fish and made spring rolls out of it which were pretty good. Then she brought out rice and soup, then pho, more rice, salad, eggs rolls, then vegetable ca-bobs, shrimp, then desert! After lunch we took small canoes rides back to the larger boat then back to the mainland.
On day three I went shopping with a friend and rode a motor bike (one version of their taxi system) to Ben Thanh Market, a very lively shopping area with hundred of shops to get lost in. And the bargaining was very interesting. The started the prices extremely high and knowing what products was actually supposed to cost really helped
Day four was "loner day" and I went back to the market to finish up my shopping. Had a few conversations with some locals and I was surprised about how many knew about San Jose and had actually been there. One man who had been to San Jose before asked me about the controversy that took place in San Jose a few years ago. There is a Vietnamese business district on the east side of San Jose, near Story Road near and McLaughlin. Many in the area wanted to call the area Little Saigon (which acknowledges post-1975 communist regime) and others wanted to call it Saigon Business District (which avoids a politically charged name). There were many other issues involved with the naming of the area but the man asked me which name they chose but I didn't follow the matter all the way through and couldn't tell him. He then pointed out many people with who suffered from deformed body parts and explain that babies are still born with the effects of Agent Orange (chemical used for defoliation in the war) and other chemicals from phosphorus, napalm and many other types of bombs. Later that night I went out with another student to eat at a Mexican restaurant which had amazing food
On the fifth day I got a ticket to go talk with a former photographer and journalist named Hoang Van Cuong who worked for United Press International. We actually went to Hoang's home were he has a collection of all his photography from the war, (many of them famous) and plenty of other war antiques. We then went to the Museum of War Remnants where they graphically displayed the brutality of modern warfare. It was sobering to see the cross-cultural view of the Viet Nam War, which they call the American War.
Hong Kong here I come!