Get in the hole!!!!

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
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Trip End Feb 26, 2011


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Where I stayed
Vy Khanh Guesthouse

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, June 11, 2010

After 6 hours of sleeping off the many, many drinks consumed last night on the secret 'buy 1 get one free' and the Beer Hoi place we got up to go to the Cu Chi tunnels on our organised trip. Located in the Cu Chi district of HCMC, here, the Vietnamese Communists dug an intricate tunnel network to aid their fight against the Americans and Southern Vietnamese (AKA the puppet army).  The tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968.  They lived within these extremely narrow tunnels that opened up in parts in to rooms such as dining areas, kitchens, sleeping quarters and food and ammunition stores.  The tunnel areas were dug on 3 levels, 3 metres, 9 metres and 12 metres deep and they would become extra narrow in parts to make it impossible for American Army Personnel, being somewhat larger than the average Vietnamese, to infiltrate the tunnels.  Add to this some crude traps designed to sever legs, pierce shoulders etc and you have the workings of a pretty secure hideout.

After a coach trip of about 1 hour and 50 minutes, predictably Rorie, Emer and Lady E slept just about the whole way there and back however most of them seem to deny it, we arrived at the tunnels.  As usual us insomniacs just resorted to licking windows while no one else was around to play with.

Upon arrival we were given a briefing about how the tunnels were constructed, the many levels and depths, how kitchen smoke was diverted about 30m away from the real tunnel so that even when the American forces found a kitchen outlet they still couldn’t get the people inside.  

We then watched a film which I think someone neglected to tell us was a piece of Communist Party propaganda from the 60’s, it contained descriptive words such as "Evil American Devils" and all the VC soldiers had smiles whilst fighting but were awarded medals for being “Great American killers”.  We have failed to mention yesterday that there is no balance at all in a lot of the Vietnamese museums or tourist attractions.  I’m not sure if this is because the communist government is still in power or if it is a result of the atrocities carried out with illegal chemical weapons, and massacres of innocent women and children, I’d be interested to see some less biased museums or even some USA literature on the whole thing to provide a little bit more balance.  You do have to think though with so much war around to try and prevent Communism Spreading into Nam the world must have been a slightly terrifying place to be at that time. Sorry I’m rambling again.

Anyway we saw the original tunnel entrances with I could barely get my thigh into never mind my whole body but again they are built Vietnamese size for a reason.  We saw lots of the basic types of traps many of which looked incredibly painful and surprisingly basic but I guess the VC fought the whole war with far more basic technology than the US.

We saw how the VC would collect the unexploded USA bombs then turn them into mines to blow up tanks and infantry patrols.  As this area was a VC stronghold it also got bombed relentlessly to try and blow up the complicated network of tunnels and bring the VC out into the open.  

We then went and got Erica to fire an M16 assault rifle. (Rorie and I had a go as well) but with no ear muffs except for the shooter I think we were nearly completely deafened certainly temporarily I lost hearing in one ear and my ears were ringing.  As Erica has only just got her hearing back it probably wasn’t a great idea.  In hindsight we probably should have gone for the M60 but I wasn’t really bothered as I’m not really a fan of guns.  I guess I’m just a bit of an unmanly big girls blouse - give me Queensbury rules anytime.

Then came the time to try and get into the tunnels themselves Lady E (aka Team Daredevil) had already done the gun firing but seemed more scared by the tunnels.  Obviously they are western size entrances but still have no lights and go up and downhill underground.  Erica wanted to go last so waited for everyone to go then slowly climbed into the hole (Get in the hole) whilst everyone else apparently had managed to crouch and walk Erica started us of on our hands and knees within maybe 3 metres we were in agony with our knees getting cut to shreds on the earth.  As the tunnels started to go up and down Erica started to panic.  I kept taking pictures with the camera just so she could see with the flash of the camera.  She was screaming at me “give me the camera now” so predictably instead of the united force tagging on the back of the group and doing it as the guide had instructed we were basically stuck in serious pain, alone, lost in a pitch black tunnel arguing with each other.  As the argument got more heated I emptied another two people out by reversing the entire length of the tunnel we had already gone down.  

To be fair it is very claustrophobic, very dark and very uncomfortable if one person starts to panic there is not a great deal you can do. No wonder the Americans didn’t manage to penetrate them.  It gives you more respect for the people that could live and spend days down the tunnels whilst carpet bombing was underway although for all the money the USA spent they failed to make any serious amounts of damage to the systems as a whole.

Our eccentric guide made the journey home a little easier with his non pc jokes about blind men and ‘cripples’ who had erections, all very entertaining.

When we got back we headed back to the hotel to try and get the dirt from our knees.  I felt knackered but maybe managed only to get about 5 minutes sleep before team daredevil got me back up.  Went out to finish the city tour with Rorie and Emer but wisely decided to sack it off in favour of going finding some cheap booze (plus I had only had one item from the bakery that morning so I thought I was going to collapse through hunger).  We went into a bar which had a sign for buy one get one free for Larou however we got something we didn’t order.  When questioned the man just ripped the sign down, tore it up then chucked it into the middle of the road.  We still got buy 2 get one free but felt robbed so headed back to the old favorite.

Again we were welcomed with open arms and over excitement at how much we were going to be drinking.  We went in and watched the world cup opening ceremony and the first game between South Africa and Mexico.  We then realised we had drank about 20 odd beers again but when the beer is 15k dong and you get one free, then the base price gets to 7,500 dong or 25 pence.  Yes the beer hoi is cheaper but this has a big screen and some very eccentric people.  I was knackered so took the early night option at 23:30 much to Rorie’s horror.  We said goodbye again to Rorie and Emer (we think for the last time on the trip again).
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