Like a crazy bunch of devils...

Trip Start Jan 19, 2005
Trip End Feb 23, 2005

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, February 6, 2005

Today is really the ending of one tour and the dawning of another. Many people on the Cambodian tour have already gone their separate way, but today several of us decided to embark on one last sightseeing trip together.

Renting our own mini-bus with our own tour guide for $120, eight of us took off this morning for the Cu Chi tunnels. It's only about 70 km outside of town, but with the insane amount of traffic on the road it takes about 1.5 - 2 hours to make the trip.

The Cu Chi tunnels are where North Vietnamese loyalists successfully defended themselves from the United States for a number of years. The U.S. never did penetrate their intricate tunnel system (which extends for about 200 km). The people of Cu Chi lived under the ground and had subterranean hospitals, command centres, kitchens, and bedrooms.

Before going in the tunnels, we watched an interesting documentary on the Vietnam War. Up until now, everything I've ever read or seen about the war, has always been from the perspective of the Americans. The video at Cu Chi was really quite anti-American. At one point, which I found quite humorous, the narrator called the U.S. a "crazy bunch of devils". The video also praised numerous Cu Chi people for killing multiple American soldiers.

After this indoctrination, we headed through the trees to the first set of tunnels. Along the way, the live shooting in the distance (I'll explain in a little bit), really added to the ambience of the whole place. It actually felt like we were in a scene from a Hollywood war movie. The foliage and surroundings were something straight out of "Platoon" or "Apocalypse Now".

We descended some steps in the jungle and entered an underground room. Situated off to the side was a well. The only other feature in the room was a small tunnel that led somewhere into the dark unknown. Following the leader, I folded my body in half and tried to shuffle through the narrow passageway. As I went, all I could hear was the scraping of my bag and shoes along the walls and floor. Feeling the burn in my legs, we emptied out into another similar room.

Apparently the tunnels have been widened for European tourists and lanky people like me to get through. Back in the 1960s, the tunnels were a lot smaller and the Vietnamese would have to get on their stomach and crawl through. I'm pretty sure back in the day I'd never be accepted as a member of the VC, as I'd inevitably plug up their tunnel system.

We went back to the surface, walked about 10 metres and stopped. Looking around, there seemed to be nothing of importance here. Why were we stopping? The guide kicked away some leaves on the ground, and a wooden hatch became visible. It was a trap door... and really quite small. The size of it was probably about 45 cm x 30 cm. How the heck could anybody fit down there? But I guess that was the Vietnamese's intentions. They could do it with ease, but any big 'ol American could not.

The girls in our group were able to fit down the hole. Raising their hands above their heads, they slipped down into the dark. About 30 seconds later, in true gopher fashion, they popped up at another hole about 15 metres away.

We looked at a series of tunnels and subterranean rooms that day. However after feeling as if my body was going to snap from doubling over so much, I decided not to descend to the second level in the tunnels. And I'm glad I didn't. Those who opted to go further, emerged on the surface with dirt all over them. Apparently there is one point where the tunnels haven't been widened and you are forced to crawl through them.

The next stop at Cu Chi was something different altogether... and the source of the gun fire I had heard earlier. Near the entrance of the site is a shooting range. But rather than using standard pistols, you were given the chance to shoot a variety of guns from the Vietnam War. There were about seven different types of guns, but I can only remember a few: the AK47, the M2, and then there was a big mutha' of a machine gun. The cost was $1 USD a bullet, regardless of the gun you chose.

Knowing full well that I'd never shoot an AK47 again (at least I hope), I decided to give it a go. I bought 5 bullets and proceeded to the waiting AK. It was really quite safe as well. There was an employee beside you at all times, and the gun was wedged in a stand, so you couldn't move it anywhere. I did okay but failed to hit a target. The metallic cows were about 70 metres away, and each shot was quite close but I was either too high or low. In a sense it was like a carnival. If you hit the target twice, you'd get a prize... if you hit it three times, you get a better prize... and so on. Nobody in our group was able to hit the target.

Tired and exhausted we decided to go back to Ho Chi Minh City. I moved my gear to the new hotel and then said my goodbyes to the remaining people from the Cambodian tour at the markets.

I met my new tour group at 6 pm today. Once again everybody seems quite nice. There's an abundance of Australians again and the same ratio of girls-to-guys... 9:3. The new tour guide, Lam, doesn't seem as good as our last guide, but he'll do.

Oh and finally, I had my first run-in with bed bugs. In this nice $50 US/night room, these pesky little critters were everywhere. My roommate, Thomas, slept in the same room last night and was bitten relentlessly. I sat on my bed for about 2 minutes and was bitten a couple times. For such little insects, they sure pack a doozie of a bite. After a bit of a hassle, we were able to change rooms.
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