Day 3 – March 27
Katy had her FDP on the third day so I just had a relaxing morning, used the Internet and cleaned up my room. Once she got back we decided to go do the Cu Chi tunnels, because we wouldn’t have any other time to do it. We headed to the hotel where our shuttle from the ship stopped and looked to see what it would be to book a trip out there. It ended up being pretty cheap so we booked it and went out to grab lunch before our trip.
Once we got back to the hotel we met out tour guide, Kha, and our driver Mr. L for the day. We were led to our car for the day, (a Mercedes!) and headed for the tunnels. The Vietnamese first began digging the Cu Chi tunnels during the French Revolution and digging was continued for 20 years until the Americans left Vietnam. The tunnels are over 250 km long, with 3 different levels of tunnels, water holes, and rooms, like kitchens, bedrooms, etc. Around the area there are all kinds of booby traps, hidden entrances to the tunnels and more. Once we arrived at the tunnels, we watched a video about the war, which was obviously very anti-American. Then our guide took us around the tunnels and showed us the recreations of booby traps, a hole left by an M-80, an American tank left abandoned, and more. We had a chance to actually crawl through the tunnels, which had been widened so tourists could crawl through. It was crazy to me that people would have lived in conditions like that. We crawled through bent over so it was really different but there were parts where the tunnels would get so small they would have to get on their hands and knees. They didn’t have lighted pathways, light we did most of the way, and they didn’t have a guide, so they had to memorize every tunnel, especially since many tunnels had booby traps. There were also American men sent in, who had no idea what they were going into and would risk their lives in the darkness of these tiny tunnels.
The food they ate was horrible. It was tapioca root, nothing like tapioca pudding, and they would dip it in a salt, sugar, and seasoning mixture to give it flavor. We got to taste it but it tasted like a bland, yucky potato. It was interesting though because since they were underground and couldn’t just have a smoke stack outside the kitchen, they created a system of chambers that would collect the smoke and move alone to another chamber and after a few chambers, it would come out under a wooden cover with leaves placed on top so the smoke would come out very dispersed and not strong. Our guide was very helpful in telling us about so many things, and I was happy we had brought a guide, because many kids who went to the tunnels independently and had guides hired from the place found the guides to be rude and aggressive in talking about the war. Of course it’s never an easy subject to talk about, but luckily we had a guide who approached the topic lightly. After a few hours of walking through, we got in the car for the hour and a half drive back to the hotel, but not before a few stops along the way. The first stop was at a rubber tree forest, where our guide showed us how they gather the rubber. The next stop was at a lacquer factory, where we watched how they make the beautiful lacquer products, which is often black wood inlaid with mother of pearl shells made into designs. Then it was back to the hotel, and Katy and I walked to the market for some food and then made our way back to the ship.