Travel Journal

Ho Chi Minh

(Sunday 1 November 2009) by Jon Paul & Sarah
So I’m going to limit this blog to a story, rather than a brief synopsis. Or how ‘bout this… here’s a bullet point list of what we did and I’ll share one.

- Booked a guesthouse with seriously the smallest bathroom we’ve had (I’m lanky and let’s just say it was a challenge figuring things out)
- Had a fantastic Vietnamese BBQ dinner with a view
- Went to the Vietnam War Remnants Museum and definitely soaked in a one-sided perspective of the war (gruesome and intriguing to say the least).
- Checked out the Independence Palace, where the war essentially came to an end.
- Met a man who had served with the American’s during the war and talked for quite a while (he had an amazing story and showed us several of his gunshot wounds)
- Rode on the back of motorbikes through streets that make New York look like child’s play
- Explored the same market where I had been during Semester at Sea 7 years ago (as well as the corner where I had met the special “friend” that took me to a local “bar”;-)
- Walked along the Mekong River and explored the downtown area
- Took a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels
- Had a significant amount of pineapple (and ice cream)

So here’s the Cu Chi Tunnels…

On Friday October 23rd Sarah and I headed out on a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels where the famed Viet Cong staged many of their attacks against US troops, often seeming to appear out of nowhere.

Sarah and I were really excited to go explore the tunnels and I’m not totally sure what we were expecting, but when we got there it became clear to us that what you were supposed to do was to be lead through the area systematically by one of the guides. Sarah in particular was not pleased with this (whether you know or not… boundaries and Erikssons don’t mix… and restrictive guided tours are merely an extension of that :-D). Actually, we were both really bummed because we found out that we really could have traipsed all over the tunnels if we had only been smart enough to bring a flashlight. We actually both ditched the whole tour group the first chance we got and tried to see if we could guide ourselves through one of the tunnel entrances using only the flash from our camera… sadly this just wasn’t good enough and we continued to ask other park workers if the gift shop sold flashlights.

After being rejected a couple of times with looks of concern, we were told that we needed to join our tour group. Dejected, we found them in one of the movie/demo huts, having the background of the tunnels laid out for them. Our guide was actually quiet good and humorous – describing the reason the tunnels were so successful was because “American ass so big.” Either way, it turned out to be a really informative tour, and as luck would have it, probably saved Sarah and I from being really stupid and going off to explore the tunnels on our own…

See… the tunnels are not only divided into three different layers (the first layer for troops and other such things, the second for housing and food, and the third for schools and storage), but they extensively range much of the Cu Chi area – amounting to well over a couple hundred kilometers in tunnel length. They also branch into various directions, spreading as a vast network all over the area, linking other villages. This, coupled with the fact that “American ass so big,” meant that if Sarah and I did have our flashlights with us before joining the tour group – we very well may have still been wandering around those tunnels trying to find a way out (especially since the original ones are too small for us to turn around in).

So we were contented to later huddle through the tour guided tunnels that they had widened a little to accommodate our slightly larger proportions. ;-). All in all, it was a great day and an excellent experience.

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