Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh, Cuchi Tunnels & War museum

09/04/16

This morning I got up early as I had booked myself onto the Cu Chi Tunnel tour. The bus picked us up at 8am, and the journey was around 1 hour until we stopped off at a handicap art workshop. Here the handicapped work for the government creating beautiful eggshell and shell artwork, it was nice to see that the government had set up this factory to allow these people to work and support themselves. I didn’t buy anything as I found it quite expensive and too heavy to carry around.

About half an hour later we arrived at the tunnels, and headed straight through to the grounds. The first thing we saw was a tiny hole about 30x40cm which had a wooden cover. The hole was an entrance to the tunnels and also allowed the Viet Cong to provide the element of surprise and to also retreat quickly. I took a turn in getting into the hole and putting the cover on top. To do this I had to put my arms right up above my head, and holding the cover sink down back into the hole. In the hole it was quite roomy, with enough space for me to sit down.

There were other mounds of dirt which acted as cover for firing and entrances to the tunnels. For ventilation, there were mounds which looked like ant hills with holes in the them. They were always next to trees so when it was rainy season the roots would soak everything up. I found it really inspiring that the Vietnamese had come up with this guerilla warfare style, they are really smart! There were also some traps they created which allowed them to kill or badly injure the US soldiers and while the soldier would be tended to it then allowed the cong to fire.

There was the opportunity to fire a variety of guns, I wasn’t too interested and it cost 400,000 to fire 10 rounds of bullets. Everyone who did it really enjoyed it.

Afterwards we were then able to go into the tunnels, these are reconstructed at a larger size so tourists can get a feel for it. There’s different lengths you can go through so if you feel claustraphobic you have the option to get out sooner than later. I went the whole 100m as it wasn’t as small as I imagined. I actually thought I would have to get on my belly and crawl through like I had done when I went caving in Wales, but no it’s pretty doable and it’s lit up the entire way. I also didn’t get any dirt on me but I’m glad I wore a tshirt as I didn’t want to scrape my back by accident.

We jumped back on the bus and were dropped off at the war museum, in all honesty I really didn’t know the full story behind the vietnam war so made sure to go round the museum in the right order. There I learnt that the Vietnamese had the French ruling them for 100years, and when they wanted independance USA stepped in to give France money to fight the local people so they could maintain control over Indonesia. When this failed as the Vietnamese beat the French Vietnam was granted independancy and the country was split into two where the North was communìst and the south was capitalist, however, the US elected a president for the country who would keep good relations with the West. This president(sorry I can’t remember his name) he turned out to be a dictator and would kill anyone on site if he thought it was against the nation or threatening the country. This led into the civil war between the North who wanted independancy from the US and the south. USA got involved as they were scared that if Vietname became comunist then the rest of Indochina would too. Overall it was completely unecessary the lengths the US got involved, they spent billions more on this war than any other and dropped more bombs than any other war.

The US also used this opportunity of war to test out different warfares such as nepalm and other chemical bombs. In the museum you could see the effects of these bombs and how the US soldiers treated the innocent people of Vietnam to find out information on the Viet Cong. I was really shocked at the lengths they went to, and became secretly happy that they didn’t win.

For me the most harrowing part was seeing the after effects of the Orange effect. The US army dropped this chemical which was so lethal that it burnt many trees and soaked into the soils, which meant that people eating the foods grown there and any fish or animals were ingesting this toxin. The afteraffects of this was that there has been generations of people with deformities. By this point in the museum I wanted to cry, seeing the many pictures of the disabled children who are completely innocent be born this way was so upsetting. I really couldn’t believe that the effects of the war are continuing to affect the people of today.

After the museum I went for a walk and found a nice food spot near the market and had some pork rib with noodles and veg. I bought another banh mi for the train journey as well as some other snacks.

That night we got on a bus to take us to the train station to catch the first train of our journey, this train took 30 mins, then we got on a bus for another 30 mins and then finally we got onto our sleeper train to Nha Trang. The cabin is really decent but filled with mosquitos…. pretty excited to get to the next part of the trip.

 

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