We had the good fortune, being British citizens, that we were able to visit Vietnam without having to pay for a visa for 15 days. Now, we were all for visiting for free, but in order to avoid paying to stay any longer and ensure that we saw everything we wanted to we decided to go on another tour with G Adventures.
The tour in this case which most appealed to us was the Hike, Bike and Kayak Tour. I am not so keen on cycling but I love hiking and kayaking, unfortunately for me it turned out that this tour had much more cycling than the other two. Anyway after meeting our group and going for a meal together to get to know one another we set off early the next morning on our first cycling excursion.
Our start point was listed as Ho Chi Minh City but luckily for me (given my previous experience of cycling in Asian cities) a bus took us outside of the city. I was especially glad of this as I had watched a crash the previous day while sitting having a tea (no body seemed hurt however).
We got on our bikes and it didn’t seem long before we were surrounded by rice paddies as far as the eye could see. We made a stop to watch some of the locals at work and see the plants close up. We even saw a weird looking pink thing which was apparently snail eggs that ate the rice when hatched and was bad for the crop.
We continued further before making another stop at a completely different crop, rubber trees. We saw how trunks were cut in order to harvest the rubber and the rubber collectors left out. We had seen these from afar in Malaysia, but it was good to get a chance for a close up look at the process. The rubber trees also provided us with some much needed shade for our cycle.
Our cycle on this first day was actually relatively short as this was a day that was more about the destination than the journey. The destination being the Cu Chi Tunnels where we had a guided tour. The tour started by showing us the first of many traps employed by the Viet Cong. All of the traps looked really nasty and involved some combination of rusty metal spikes and pits. This particular trap involved a false floor which would swing open if you were to step on it and you would fall onto the spikes below.
We saw evidence of the destruction of both sides of the combat as there was more than one crater left behind by the notorious B52s.
Then our tour guide disappeared. Basically he was demonstrating how quickly and effectively the Viet Cong could disappear through a tunnel entrance. I am pretty sure I couldn’t even fit in the tunnel entrance never mind disappear though it.
This was the most camouflaged entrance that we saw, however there were a number of other entrances which were worked into subtle dips in the land or well type areas.
As well as entrances we also saw vent holes which were made to look like termite mounds and other vents that were designed to distribute cooking fire smoke so it couldn’t be easily found.
As I mentioned earlier we saw a number of other traps which were designed to maim the invading troupes, as a maimed soldier would take out of combat the man and those who carried him. Those vicious looking spikes together with the tropical environment, no wonder the Vietnam war had the reputation that it did.
We even saw one trap in the form of a tank that would have been at some point salvaged from the Americans and then filled with explosives and left as bait.
We saw some scenes set out showing daily life of the Viet Cong. We saw the munitions room where the men were repacking explosives while the women were sharpening bamboo for traps, a subterranean hospital and even a meeting room.
We had a small break from our tour next to a shooting range for tourists. It seemed slightly crazy to me that anyone who had come to see the terrors of war here would then want to go and shoot, but then I am anti-gun so I would say that. The noise from the firing range certainly didn’t make for a peaceful break and I was relieved when the tour resumed.
It was also around this time someone in our groups spotted an enormous spider.
The latter part of the tour was more showing the ingenuity of the Viet Cong. We saw the traditional method of making rice sheets. I am not sure exactly whether this related to the Viet Cong specifically or whether it was just a display of the traditional method. It included various methods of grinding the rice such as a grinder similar to a flour grinder in the west, but also just pounding the rice with hammers.
We saw more mannequins, this time demonstrating the methods used to dig the tunnels. They would dig these pits, and then dig between them, the person at the top of the pit would collect the soil in the contraption shown here and then pull it up to the surface.
We even saw how they made sandals from old tyres and how they were made to be reversible so that they could put one on their foot normally and the other reversed so that it looked like they were walking in two different directions at the same time.
Finally we had the experience of going inside the tourist tunnel. It was called the tourist tunnel because it would give an idea of the tunnels themselves, however they were believe it or not more spacious than the real things. They were very small and I was very glad I didn’t suffer from claustrophobia. Here is my Husband in the tunnels to give an idea of the scale.
I am glad that we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels as it is important to reflect on these points in history and it has inspired me to learn more about the Vietnam war, however I feel that it didn’t focus enough on the human side of the war as I was not as moved as some other sites we visited and it certainly wasn’t my most memorable time in Vietnam.