In continuation from part 1, here are more nuggets of my Vietnam trip I hope you will find useful in your planning coming up in the next few posts!
[Travel Vietnam 1] What To See in Ho Chi Minh City
We booked a local Cu Chi half day Tour with our hotel, Thien Xuan Hotel (booked through agoda. Use my banner and you too can do so at any accommodation lodging for promotions!). The package included a English speaking guide, bottled water and 2 way transportation inclusive of admission fees and taxes . It is of utmost necessity, in my opinion to get a half-day tour operator. Saves trouble and the need to travel the 70km or so on your own.
A 6-seater van came picking us up from out hotel at 8am and we were delighted to have 1 tour guide to ourselves as it's a private arrangement and did not have to "share" with tourists.
We had booked from Baffulo Tour and costs 33USD per pax.
We had prior in Singapore, emailed the agency first to confirm everything before heading over. They were very prompt in their reply with good English.
It was a fun fulfilling half day as the pace was not too haste and we returned at 1pm.
We felt it particularly useful to have a guide with you on the explanations and stuff and perhaps that's the only way you can get to Cu Chi Tunnel too.
There are 2 relic sites of Cu Chi opened to visitors currently in Ho Chi Minh ( HCM) — Ben Duoc and Ben Dinh. Most visitors from HCM will probably set foot on Ben Dinh, considered slightly nearer from HCM city and takes about 1.5 hours to reach, Ben Duoc takes another 1/2 hour longer.
Listen and Learn
Upon reaching, you will first be briefed on the history of Cu Chi Tunnel via a documentary display. This tunnel was the 'base-camp' for the very smart Viet Cong soldiers and their family who hid underground and totally built their own living space down there, all to fight the Americans back then in 1960s. Visitors got to learnt how the Viet Cong managed to defend their hold for as long as possible before the US eventually bombed the tunnels towards the end of the war. Total span about 50 m leading to various chambers along the way.
These tunnels were of utmost threats for the soldiers and their families but they still beared the risk. The tunnels served many purposes as supply, communication routes etc.
Yes, it is of utmost necessity that every tourist who comes by must at least have this signature pose taken where you emerged victorious from the tunnel. ( I don't know why =))
We came and we squat
The half day spent in Cu Chi was amazing. We learned, saw and experienced all there is to understand about this unique part of Vietnam's history. On a side note, HCM is not the only site with these tunnels. Cao Dai, another region just 60 miles north of HCM is another place where you can possibly visit.
We squatted through the tunnel and it was suffocating and confined; hardly bearable to spend another minute more in there. However it was a good experience and no matter, whatever hesitations might bubble out at the moment when you are there, if you do not have claustrophobia prior or any other medical conditions, then just do it!
It's really pretty safe and you won't get lost even if your guide don't join you down. Just follow the crowds in front of you~
Note that however, these tunnels have been "commercially" enlarged over the years to accommodate the well-endowed tourists worldwide, now flouting to the site and the tunnels size were in fact not an actual representation of what was the much more tighter and smaller space of the original tunnels used by the Viet Congs then.
On the way down. into the tunnel..
While inside, I did not film anything and it was pitch dark with nothing much to show.
You just have to experience the walk yourself!
How the locals breathed while living underground were through these camouflaged air holes, built on stones which really, no one would have expected.
Anw when they cook, the smoke and fumes will escape from this ground ventilations. Again, another amazing camouflage.
To protect themselves, the Viet Congs also invented and built many primitive yet powerful traps for their enemies.
Here's our guide demonstrating on what laid beneath a seemingly harmless grass patch.
When activated, a bed of spikes welcome the enemy!
There were many other unpleasant traps and weapons on display and well, you get the idea.
Educational Visitor Centre
If you think it's just tunnels and forested lands you will see in Ben Dinh, then wrong.
Along the way, you will also see live demos by the staff engaged in various activities. Such as this olden day rice-paper sheets making, used for Vietnamese spring rolls.
There are even hand-made slippers replicated from what the locals wore back then.
Yes, they are for sales.
Even seamstress sawing 'live'.
These clothings are of course what was worn back then by the Viet Congs and for sales too.
We saw various vicious looking mantraps, endless maze of tunnels and the military vehicles remains and weapons crafted by the locals back then,
There was a M-41 tank at the end of the journey that proved to be a hit with everyone scrambling to get to the top for a photo, but I only knew of its importance after the journey and didn't thought to take down photos of it. ( The guide only told us to go take photos~~)
Do note on the tank when you are there next time!
So towards the end of the tour, we were in for a little treat.
It has to do with these trees below, grown in abundance everywhere in that area.
Grown right on site and by the local staff, fresh tapioca which of course was the main staple, and still is, for many in Asia.
A brunch of tapiocas tobe exact.
There... ending of this fruitful half day tour at Ben Dinh Tunnel with sweet fresh tapioca dipped with peanut and salt with fragrant Pandan Tea,
A happy photo to end the trip!
Alright that's all for now!
Stay for PART 3 of Vietnam coming up!