We were picked up at our hotel at 8.15 AM. Our street is too small for busses, so we walked out to the main road and picked up more people on the way. Buying a cheap backpacker tour has it’s disadvantages. It took more than an hour to pick up everyone, and we ended up in a group of 23 people on a crowded bus. Lots of great people though, so we didn’t get bored, even though the trip took a lot longer than expected. On our way to the Cu Chi tunnels we stopped at a workshop where people with disabilities made and sold all kinds of art. Especially the pictures made of egg shells were impressive, but we spent our time there eating breakfast instead of shopping.
We finally arrived at the Cu Chi tunnels (Ben Duoc) at 12.30 PM. They are part of a network of up to 250 km of tunnels and played a crucial role in the Vietnamese war. They served as hiding spots and routes for communication, supplies and escape for the Vietcong. They were too narrow for most non-Vietnamese, and were also heavily booby-trapped. While most tunnels were fairly small and simple, the major ones had three levels, and could be up to 10 meters deep. They contained everything needed, like cooking areas, meeting rooms, infirmaries, warehouses and even underwater entrances from the river. They had a ventilation system looking like ant hills, and the smoke from the cooking areas were led several kilometers away. The ones thin enough (like Fredrik) were allowed to climb down one of the original entrances to the tunnel. He had to hold his hands over his head to get in. They also had a tunnel that was widened so that it was easy to get in and possible to crawl through for most tourists. If you went all the way you would exit at the fifth exit. We made it to exit number two. It was just too warm, dark and narrow down there.
The sights were really interesting, but the way they had organized it was very touristy and there were way too many visitors in the park. We walked around like sheep, the group was too big for everyone to see and hear and we always had to wait for other groups to finish. It was also very focused on how smart the Vietcong were and how many Americans they killed, not about the history, the civilian sufferings and the long term consequences. Half way there even was a shooting range we could try if we wanted, so we could hear shooting in the background during our entire visit. Completely different from the Killing Fields in Cambodia where it was very quiet and respectful.
We got back to the city center at 3.30 PM, and since it looked like it could start raining any minute, we stopped at one of the first restaurants we found for lunch. We ordered pizza and beer, and then the rain started. Lots of thunder and lightning and the street got flooded in no time. It was fun to sit and watch wet tourists running around, locals in ponchos pretty much continuing as before, and the restaurant across the street putting all his plants on scooters on the sidewalk for watering. Back at the hotel several employees from the places around us were running around saving floating shoes. It seemed to be a custom here to take of your shoes before entering hotels and stores. Our hotel had a shoe rack, so our shoes were safe.
Since our half day tour took most of the day, we didn’t have time to see everything we wanted, so we booked an extra night at the hotel and also arranged a flight to Hue and booked a hotel there. We also got some other things done, like refilling our SIM card, handing in some laundry and finishing a couple of blog posts. In the evening we had dinner at Cyclo Resto, a resturant that have cocking classes during the day and serve a simple, but very good 6 course set menu for only 6 USD. The staff was very sweet and seemed so proud of the place, and we had much fun reading all the greetings written on the walls. At the end of the meal it was time for us to write on the wall as well.