We spent about 12 hours in Nga Tranh Beach, but it was raining so we basically just used the internet, got our dirty laundry cleaned, walked around a bit, and relaxed in a hotel room we got for the day. We caught a bus in the evening for our third consecutive night of overnight driving, and headed to Saigon (renamed Ho Chi Minh City after South Vietnam lost the war to North Vietnam in 1975).
Once we were in Saigon, we decided to go out and see the Cu Chi tunnels. These tunnels are an extremely complex network of underground tunnels, all dug by hand, by villagers in Cu Chi to resist the Americans in the American War (what we call the Vietnam War). There are over 200 kilometres of these tunnels! We got a guided tour, and our guide showed us one of the real entries to the tunnels. As you can see, the tunnels were very well disguised, and their entries nearly impossible to locate.
Essentially, only people with a waist size of 32 inches or less can fit into the entry and the tunnels are tiny – only 1.2 metres high and about 60-80 cm wide! We got to walk through a short section of the tunnels too. They were sooo hard to walk through for me (185 cm tall), pitch dark, and extremely stuffy and hot.
To get air into the tunnels for breathing, the people had small tunnels dug at angles to catch the wind and it would naturally enter the tunnels – no fans were used to pull air into the tunnels. To disguise the ground-level end of the air tunnels, there was a mound of clay over it, with small holes on the underside for the air to get in. To prevent debris or smoke grenades from getting down the air tubes into the tunnels, there were several layers of netting as well.
For cooking, there was a hidden kitchen underground, and a long, narrow tunnel for the smoke was dug at a slight upward angle so that the smoke would not be seen from above by enemy aircraft. These smoke tunnels were often up to 100 metres long! The exit of the smoke tube, like the air tubes, was disguised. This time they used a large, 1 metre x 1 metre square of concrete with small holes in the sides and covered it with natural detritus. As a result, the smoke came out very slowly and would not form into a visible smoke cloud rising, as it was diffused into several smaller streams that cooled quickly and so travelled horizontally along the jungle floor rather than up into the sky.
We were also given the opportunity to fire guns at a shooting range. None of us took them up on the offer, but several people in the tour group did. It was far too loud hearing the shots about 20 metres away as we ate a snack and waited for them… I really don’t see what the point of paying $1.50 Canadian per bullet to fire a gun at a target in Vietnam when you can get a meal for that much.
After our adventures at the Cu Chi tunnels, we met up with some friends of Holly’s. That is, they work for the Academy of Learning in Saigon, and Holly’s dad is in charge (I think?) of the Vietnam branch of Academy of Learning. They were reeeeeally nice and very interesting people. They took us on their motorbikes to a market and we forced them to choose the food from the menu for us, to get authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
Turns out this included stuffed snail… the stuffing was a combination of snail and beef with flavouring and stuff, and despite my reluctance, I had one after Jos assured me it was easy to eat.
Ron was a big fan of the rat tails, which I didn’t try.
We had a great time at dinner and afterwards we caught a cab ride back to our hotel and slept well.
The next day …to be continued.