Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 13: Cu Chi Tunnel, living proof of Vietnamese strength

This was my second time visiting Ho Chi Minh City, after almost nine years. The momentum is different because this time I am on full control of things I can and cannot (or shall I say, would?) do. History of Vietnamese, on its French and American wars is well-known to the South East Asia region. I did not have the chance to visit some of the famous historical sites while I was in Saigon, first time, so I decided to follow a day trip to the famous Cu Chi district where the remnants of the Vietnamese soldiers (i.e. VietCong/ VC) are still kept intact for future generations.

After an early pick-up from the hotel, a bus load of tourists was driven to the Cu Chi district, about 30 minutes drive from district 1 (where we depart). Cu Chi district has always been known for the Vietnamese fighters during the French and America wars. After gaining its independence in the 1940’s, the country had gone through tremendous ordeal to really gain their true liberation. Vietnamese soldiers who were seen as terrorists had built an underground life (best known as a mini local city) in order to fight the war.

Depending on the tour package, one must know that to visit the Cu Chi Tunnel site, there is an entrance fee. There is a ticket counter and English guide available for visitors. The first stop after the entrance is a short video presentation of Cu Chi history and about the war itself. Do take note that for many, this presentation is a heavily biased. I personally felt that the video presentation (or even the guided presentation of the tour later) is an honest opinion of the Vietnamese side, especially of those who have fought so hard to getting their country full liberation.

 There is nothing special on the ground of the visiting area. It was just a normal forest, but as you proceed, the guide will further amaze you with the underground life of Vietnamese fighters. Secret underground entrances, small walk-ways underground, 3 levels of tunnel stretching more than 200 km and various other remnants from the actual war are carefully explained and showed by the professional guides of Cu Chi Tunnel. Additional to this, the site also offer the visitors the chance to experience the underground living, if you are not claustrophobic and are not too big sized. Vietnamese are known to be very innovative especially during those times. One can see few samples of self made weapons and nasty booby traps done by the Vietnamese fighters during the war.

At the middle of your visit, visitors can also try to use weaponry from the war times first hand. Just purchase the bullets and you are ready to shoot the guns. The shooting are administered by the Vietnamese Army, so there are professional guides to help you use the weapons. At the end of the visit, the host will serve local delicacy; which was one of the main dishes during the war period, for visitors to taste. If you are observant enough, the food are still cooked traditionally in an underground kitchen. For those who want to buy souvenirs, there is a small shop selling goodies for visitors.

While walking over the ground, I was trying to imagine of the difficulties the Vietnamese fighters had to endure for about 30 over years here in Cu Chi. Their perseverance and willingness to keep on fighting were for their future generations, and for those who have died doing so – I personally believe they will be very happy to see Vietnam now.

After a day in the “jungle”, I was hoping to be able to join Saigon river dinner boat cruise. This was not materialized especially since many of the dinner packages are for couple, rather than single dining. Instead I decided to walk around the area whereby I was staying. There was a cute bar nearby the hotel, so I hang out for a couple of hours sipping local coffee while listening to live music. It was a nice way to end my day.

Click on the web album cover below to see pictures of today’s adventure >>
Day 13 - Cu Chi Tunnel, living proof of Vietnamese strength

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