The Cu Chi Tunnels, and the Maiden Motorbike Voyages
27.05.2008 - 27.05.2008 34 °C
This morning we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground network that the Viet Cong used, undermining the Americans' offensive in the process. It was your typical history walkabout, with an obvious anti-American stance. They showed us an enlarged version of the entrance to the tunnels, which were already very small; some of the Westerners could just barely squeeze through it. Along the way, our guide showed us one of the original entrances; I bet even he wouldn't have been able to squeeze in - it just goes to show how under-nourished the fighters were compared to us today.
Then, there were the weapons that were used: bamboo traps (really freaky, and clearly painful for anyone who survived the fall), pineapple bombs, mines which looked small trees, and of course, the guns. The guns were super fun, for the sole reason that they were selling bullets for us to shoot. They had this whole range of guns, including the M16, AK47, and I don't know what else; there was a whole list of models from which we could choose. Me, I chose the AK 47; I didn't see the point of getting machine gun ammunition because it'd be over too quickly. It was pretty fun actually, shooting the AK, but it was super loud, and even with the mufflers on, I could still feel the vibration in my ears. The recoil also was pretty strong; it didn't throw me to the back of the gallery, but it did keep shifting the gun such that none of my 10 shots hit the target. Sigh... No prize to take...
We also got to squeeze through certain sections of the tunnel that had been enlarged for tourists. At the beginning it was not so bad with the candles; but then the middle sections had NO lights, and my head kept bumping into the butt of the guy in front of me. The camera flash helped a bit, but then it also meant that my eyes couldn't get used to the darkness, so when it was dark, it was REALLY dark. It was pretty stuffy too, very hard to breathe, and the bent over position we had to be in to go through the tunnels made even harder. Then, there was the gal behind me who, from beginning to the point she exited (she went out the earlier exit), was freaking out like nobody's business (Oh! My purse! I don't wanna to get it dirty!... My nails!... Oh! A shortcut! Hey everyone! A shortcut!...). Bimbo.
The second tunnel we went through was higher (enlarged even more), but it was still a squeeze. I still came out of the tunnel panting. Seriously, the tunnels are pretty hardcore stuff. Add in the fact that they also ate, slept, cooked, made weapons, tended to the wounded, basically LIVED in those tunnels, it's a testament of the determination that the VCs had to undermine the American campaign in Vietnam. Their making sandals / slippers out of old tyres only further showed their determination to do anything to fight the US, and the creativity that they had.
We met a Singaporean family who was also on the Cu Chi Tunnel tour, and I got into an interesting conversation with the wife. Post-tour, they invited us to join them for lunch, and the next thing we know, they paid for our food and told us, "Don't worry about it." Considering our financial situation, it was truely a blessing.
We had wanted to go to the Dem Sen Water Park after the tour, so after I picked up my swimming stuff from the hotel, we were off to the park, by motorbike. For Tan, she had already taken a motorbike taxi before (I think in Cambodia), so for her, it was nothing. For me, on the other hand, every piece of common sense in me said that no way, taking a motorbike would be crazy and dangerous. I did it anyways. On the bike to the park, I was freaking out so much I was shaking, to the point that the guy stopped along the way and told me to put my hand on his shoulder instead of the backhandle, because I was affecting the balance of the bike. Still, we reached safely to the destination of disappointment.
On reaching the park, we went to get the entrance tickets, which were 25,000 dong. Pretty decent price, I thought. So into the park, and over to the water park. We were expecting to just show them the tickets that we had, and walk right through. But NO......... They pointed us to this other booth, i.e. we had to get another ticket to get in. Alright, I thought. But all was not alright, because the ticket to the water park was 70,000 dong per person; if we paid for that we wouldn't have any money for dinner, or for tomorrow's breakfast and lunch. Starving for the next 1.5 days just to use the water park for 1.5 hours just really didn't sound like a good deal. We decided to just walk around the park, but clearly, Tan wanted to go to the water park, so at about 4:30, we went back to the booth. Technically, it would be ample time to spend at least an hour there, more if we didn't bother showering at the end. Unfortunately, they had stopped selling tickets (or maybe the counter gal was on a long toilet break), so in the end, we didn't get to go in. From then on, Tan was, and still is, keeping quiet. Uh-oh.
So we took motorbike taxis back to the hotel, and this time, I was comfortable enough to hold the backhandle without shaking the bike. Eventually, I was holding the handle pretty loosely, and pretty comfortable with looking around without freaking out when another motorbike suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Actually, at the end of it, I was pretty much enjoying myself! But still, after the ride, the disappointment from the water park thing pretty much dampened the rest of the evening.
We're coming home tomorrow! So, well, it's not exactly the best end to a great trip. Bleah.