I was able to sleep in about a half-hour earlier today, but these early schedule wake-up calls everyday is pretty much wired in. I had actually got some random person messaging me about Vietnam because they saw my blog. I felt pretty good about that because I know most of my friends don’t read this at all and have no interest in my travels. Thank you to those that do!!! I eagerly messaged back and then got out of bed and prepared for my trip!
I was joined by my new friends Hannah and Chris, who were both on the Mekong Delta Tour with me the day before and also were staying at my guesthouse. We met up for our free breakfast and before we knew it, were on the bus heading to a major battleground area of the Vietnam War and home to a massive 200 km tunnel system used by the villagers of the Chu Chi area around Ben Dinh, the Viet Cong, and North Vietnamese Army. It was an area that was continuously bombed by B-52 bombers and swept by U.S. forces during the war.
As we went through the tour, our guide showed us a number of tactics used to wound or kill American soldiers. In most cases, the Viet Cong wanted to wound, not kill, American soldiers because when you wound a soldier, two more are needed to help bring that soldier to safety. This cut down on soldiers actively fighting every time a soldier was wounded. Not only were these tunnels very tiny, but very elaborate in construction. For most U.S. soldiers, crawling through the tunnels would have been impossible because of their size. Tunnel Rats, an elite unit of soldiers who where small enough to go into the tunnels and fight, were often used.
The Viet Cong also used many booby traps to wound American soldiers. We were shown a number of different examples. Also, because up to 30% of the bombs dropped by B-52 bombers did not explode, the Viet Cong used these unexploded ordinances to blow up tanks with road-side bombs or create alternative explosives and ammunition with the gunpowder in the bombs. From here, we then went to the shooting range to shoot a number of different guns, if we chose. I did not shoot anything because a number of the weapons I have shot before and I own an AK-47, that I can shoot anytime I go home.
The best part of the tour was set for last, crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels. Now, there is only a small stretch of tunnel we went through compared to the 200 km of tunnel. For those that felt claustrophobic and couldn’t make it the entire length, there was an exit about every 20 meters. I was 1 of about 3 people in my entire group that was able to go the whole length. The tunnels were a lot smaller than the ones I visited at the DMZ and twice as big as their original size for us big, fat tourists! I really enjoyed this experience of seeing the perspectives and life of the guerrilla soldier. These people were just defending their home and land. Most guerrilla fighters were just farmers and had no interest in politics. All they knew was that another county was trying to invade their land. This was the case for 100 years before the American’s even came to Vietnam. Most of these tunnels were already created from when the French occupied the country. If another country invaded America, I would be doing the same thing.
When we were leaving the tunnel area, I asked our guide if we could get dropped off at the War Museum. Well, it ended up being a good idea because all but about 6 people on the bus got off to go there. I sometimes have good idea moments 😉 The museum was laid out really well and showed the war crimes of American soldiers, imprisonment conditions, torture tactics used on Vietnamese POW’s, the affects of Agent Orange and other chemicals dropped on the jungles, and photos taken by a dozen different photographers of different nations throughout the war. There were also a number of U.S. military vehicles and weapons used on display. I felt it told the story from the Vietnamese side very well and tactfully. The museum wasn’t as propaganda filled as some of the others I had already been to in the country.
After the museum, Hanna, Chris, and I walked around in the same area we had been in the night before. This time I was able to see the Ho Chi Minh statue, which I could not the night before.
After a few beers at a nice bar, my day was complete! Tomorrow I plan on renting a bike and riding around town. Ho Chi Minh City is getting really quiet with all the people who have left town for the holidays. I don’t think I am getting the real Saigon experience and I’m happy with that. Until tomorrow!!