Final day with my vietnam tour group and we spend it going to the Cu Chi Tunnels. These are the tunnels the Viet Cong used to combat the Americans so successfully. We went to the tourist version of them which is about 1.5 hours out of Saigon.
The bus we took with 11 people on it was a full size bus which seemed a little overkill, but they were using it to get to the Cambodian border the next day so I guess it was value. Over breakfast we met the two American girls who were doing the Cambodian tour but they spent one day with us. Rinna was an Asian American and Joanne was a jewish girl from cleaveland. Both now live on Chicago and were the fresh faced healthy looking all American girls who played tennis. Both had been overseas (japan and israel) but this was their first time on the Asian mainland. They were very friendly and nice – maybe around 27 years old? It was fun seeing them go through all the “oh my gods” that we had on our first days in Vietnam.
Our bus took us to a rice paper factory first where we didn’t stay long and then to the tunnels. We were stunned out how small the entrances to the tunnels are and how well they were hidden. Hui said they used different leaves as cover to indicate the entrances. A few tried going down and it is a tight squeeze. I doubted my thighs would even get through so I didn’t even try.
We were shown a lot of the traps they used to hurt the opposition and the were horrid but ingenious. We saw kitchens with chimneys hidden far away, and fake ant hills that provided ventilation. We then got the chance to shoot guns at the firing range – $15 USD to fire 10 bullets of an AK-47. The guns are locked in so you can’t turn them or anything which is safe but damn they were loud! I of course got a bruise on my arm when I shot my three rounds (shared it with two others) but the shotgun we used at the Belmon shooting range had a bigger kick back. Still scary.
Back in Saigon we ate Pho at Pho 2000 – aka pho for the president. Bill Clinton ate there when he came to Vietnam so there were photos of him everywhere. Good pho and I enjoyed the jackfruit drink I had. Then we had a free hour before we went on a rickshaw ride.
The rickshaws are the bicycles with a seat at the front. It cost us 200,000 dong each for 2 hours. They took us past the reunification palace, a church (lots of catholic churches in south vietnam), the post office and then to the war remnants museum. The museum has a whole bunch of us tanks and aircraft outside then a lot of photos and bombs inside. It does seem a little one sided in it’s presentation – the Americans seemed to be the only ones who killed anybody according to the museum but I guess that it is understandable. It was pretty sobering to see all the effects of the war – especially due to agent orange and napalm bombs. It was also a little weird to be seeing it with Americans. I felt the need to take my Boston red socks hat off even though australians were part of the war too.
After an hour in the museum we were cycled to Chinatown to see a temple and give the riders a rest. They have no fear and get abused and dirty looks as the Saigon people want to be rid of them. Shame cause they should be creating more bikeways and stuff. There were a few times when i thought we might get hit but mostly I felt safe with them. The ride went for ages all over the districts. Everytime I got off and on he checked to make sure my camera was secure which came in handy when just near the end of the ride I felt a smack in my head and then a pull. Some guy on a scooter had my camera strap and was trying to rip it off me. I had it firmly clutched with two hands and half of it still round my neck. It all happened in slow motion an all I could do was stare at the seat of his scooter. He turned around and saw he wasn’t going to get it. Meanwhile my bike rider was telling him off so the attempted thief rode off. I ended up with a bit of a burn on my neck from the pulling but I thought it was funny cause no harm was done. Made a great story too. Tipped my driver 50,000 dong at the end and told him his calves were strong. 🙂
Looked at some scooter seat covers when the ride was over but didn’t like anything. At 7pm we went to dinner to say farewell to everyone. We walked to the restaurant that was decorated in beautiful lights. We had a private room which made for good chats an toasting. I finally felt not so ill and cause I’d finished the antibiotics I was able to have a pink cocktail. I thanked Hui for getting us through Vietnam safely. After dinner we walked the markets and then it was farewell, goodbye to the others and then off to bed. They give us the contact details of everyone at the end, so we get email addresses to stay in touch.
My opinion on tours is that they are great for meeting people, take the stress out of getting to places and doing things you may not have organized by yourself. It does make it harder to get a feel of a city though and you don’t talk to as many local people. I would probably do it again in a difficult country but I do like organising things by myself too. It was great fun, but now I’m by myself again!
Accommodation: Saigon Royal Hotel, Saigon
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