We arrived in Ho Chi Minh from Nha Trang on the the twenty sixth of April with about four days remaining on our visa. Since we had traveled for most of the day, we got to our hotel, dumped our bags and headed out for food. We grabbed some food from a small restaurant in the Ben Thanh area of the city. Its from here that a long line of Gill ordering food and not getting the right dish begins, no one seems to be able to understand her at all. The looks of confusion from waiting staff at her accent are priceless. The same night we ended up booking a group day trip called the ‘Cu Chi tunnels’ and were recommended to visit the war museum after it.
The next day was an early rise so that we could get our pick up bus at half eight. The bus picked us up and we made our journey across the city and out into the countryside to see the tunnels. We walked into the sectioned off area of the jungle, led by our tour guide to what looked like a normal patch of woodland in the forest. Our tour guide Tony, began to detail to us that the tunnels were used by the North Vietnamese to fight the communist south along with the Americans and that the tunnels were used as hiding and living quarters. Tony then told us that we were actually standing in an area where a secret entrance to the tunnels were. Everyone in our group started scanning the ground, all in disbelief! Until he finally uncovered a patch of scattered leaves and dirt and then lifted a hidden latch. The tunnel entrance couldn’t have been any larger than the size of a laptop screen and Tony informed us that this entrance had actually been widened so that westerners could fit inside it.
We continued round the complex where we were told about all the genius ways that the Northern forces were able to fight the Americans and stay hidden from them. One of the ways in which they did this, was by using shrapnel from the Americans previously exploded bombs, melting them and then shaping them into arrows and daggers. These would then be hidden under trap doors in the forests and trap the soldiers and cause horrendous injuries. I did not believe that the basic equipped Vietnamese soldiers could fight the greatly equipped American soliders but as we made our way through the forrest we came across a huge American tank which had been completely destroyed by Vietnamese foot soldiers using only their own homemade weapons!
As we neared the end of the tour there was a section controlled by the government which allows you to shoot an automatic machine gun. I have been in America a number of times in my life and still never got around to shooting a gun. So I chose the biggest gun on offer, an M30! The bullets cost a pound each so take it easy when holding the trigger, as you could easily rattle through all 10 in a second.
On our arrival back into Ho Chi Minh we decided to visit the war museum. Walking into the courtyard of the museum we were greeted with a huge collection of the American vehicles and weaponry. Then, upon entering the building, there was enough photography and information to keep us reading for the full afternoon. However, Gillian and I whizzed round in just over an hour since the museum was closing but at the equivalent of 50 pence per person entry fee, its well worth a visit.
Next stop: Phnom Penh, Cambodia!