Sorry for taking so long to complete this trip blog. I got detoured by a geek weekend; it was like being in high school again. Lucky for me there's no comic book stores around (Note: now they're called graphic novels, which is much cooler and more socially acceptable). Anyway, I didn't write because I watched the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (A), Predators (solid B), Alice in Wonderland (the tim burton one, pretty images, stupid story- C), and Hot Tub Time Machine (B+). I ate out every night too. Livin' the dream.
Back to Vietnam. We made it to Cu Chi with no trouble and were ushered into an imitation bunker where we were treated to a North Vietnamese propaganda movie to get us into the mood for what Cu Chi was during the Vietnam war. The movie extolled the virtues of the hardworking peasants of Cu Chi, "a rifle in one hand and a plough in the other" who dug tunnels and lived underground in order to terrorize "the American invaders" (who I learned were "like a crazy bunch of devils"). It was strange to watch the war from the other side (the Jane Fonda side), particularly when it came to footage of dead Americans and their killers being rewarded with the "American Killer Hero" accolade. After the movie, I got a shot of a model of the tunnels. The picture didn't turn out too great though:
It was raining as we walked out of the bunker to begin the tour, which I think was fitting given the subject matter. I was struck by how thick the forest around us was. I couldn't imagine how heavy it must have been before Cu Chi became a tourist attraction, and how terrifying it must have been to have been a million miles from home with shots coming from every direction as people popped up from tunnels you couldn't see.
The tunnels themselves were not designed for big folk to get in and out of. They allowed you to hop in and out if you wanted to, but I wasn't about to jump in.
Some of the entrances were bigger, but they just led to little tunnels too.
In addition to the tunnels, the tour had examples of the booby traps that the Vietnamese would set throughout the jungle. This is not a patch of grass you want to run across.
Those are spikes waiting for the poor bastard that stepped in the wrong spot. There were other awful booby traps too. This one was called the Fish Trap:
It was designed so that the person who stepped into it would have a spike driven into their foot; their immediate reaction to jerk their foot up would result in the other spikes going right into their leg. Yeesh.
Charlie don't surf.
The tour also included the remains of a U.S. tank supposedly destroyed by a landmine. It was in pretty good shape for having hit a landmine though (more VC propaganda probably).
We were given an opportunity to fire Vietnam era guns at a shooting range, but that seemed beyond crazy to me for a number of reasons. Who's maintaining these weapons? What if some nut takes one of those guns and starts shooting people (that's probably a fear only held by Americans)? I waited in the gift shop as some goons in my group blasted away. They had beverages for the thirsty tourist.
I prefer my whisky with Cobras and Scorpions, not cobras and cobras.
Towards the end of the tour, we had the opportunity to descend into a series of tunnels to travel like the Vietnamese did during the war. I was ready to do it, but when I walked down the stairs to the tunnel and saw how small, hot, and humid it was, I changed my mind. I stuck to the fresh air, wide open spaces, and cobra whiskey.
Overall, the Cu Chi tunnels were a good learning experience. I might have taken it more seriously than I was supposed to on a vacation, but the tour made me really think about what it must have been like to be there during the war. I was glad I never had to worry about the draft. The last thing I would have wanted to do was run through the forest in Cu Chi praying I didn't fall in a spike-lined trap. My thanks and gratitude to those that were called and did serve.
I hopped in the bus and headed back to Saigon, ready for another night of good food and drink.
Tomorrow- Episode III