08 June 2012

Uncle Ho - A bit of history in ol' Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon)

Going inside the Cu Chi Tunnels. I have no idea what I'm in for...

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t terribly interested in staying in HCMC all that long.  It was just too much… city.  It could have been anywhere.  BUT there are a few things that define it for me… like the 50 cent beers sold at the little beer shops on the sidewalk where you sit in plastic kid chairs, all the “ladies of the night” working at the bars and on the street, the number of museums and historical places that have to do with the Vietnam war like the War Remnants museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels…. Plus, they have a plethora of America chain restaurants like Pizza Hut, KFC, Dominos, and Baskin Robbins where they have the BEST service in all of Asia in them too.  Actually, better service than the US chains too.  Strange. 

When going into the War Remnants Museum, have a strong stomach going in.  The pictures can be quite graphic, along with the preserved fetuses they have that were affected by Agent Orange.  The images are quite horrible portraying what Americans had done during the American-Vietnam War.  We were savage and aweful and they portray it quite well.  Basically, they do a good job of making us look like complete assholes.  Odd thing about the War Remnants Museum, there aren’t a lot of “remnants”.  Some bullets/guns, tanks, airplanes, fetuses, and such, but not a whole lot more.  It’s more photos and some historical facts than anything.  But definitely worth a look.

Cu Chi Tunnels, now this is where it gets interesting.  So the Vietamese built all these tunnels to hide and operate in while they were being bombed by our B-52’s and while all the war was going on above ground.  It’s a huge and vast system of tunnels that are VERY SMALL.  And by VERY SMALL, I mean, even tiny Vietnamese people would have a hard time crawling in them, so imagine when a bunch of Westerners would come through and crawl through them now.  Crazy, SMALL, HOT, and extremely claustrophobic in there.  There's not even room to turn around as you are hunched over and nearly crawling, scraping the sides of the walls with your sides.  I'm not claustrophobic, but I was definitely not cool with this small space.  I lasted all of five minutes in there before I was ready to lose it.  During the war, many Vietnamese stayed in there for several years.  I don’t know how they did it (aside from trying to preserve their life).  I’ve got a lot of respect for how innovative they were and how they were able withstand being in the tunnels for so long.  And the way to get in them was pretty cool too.  The tiniest of hidden doors in the ground, covered by dirt and leaves would lift up and people would fit themselves through and go into the tunnel.  While I did not try going into them, I’m pretty sure my butt would not fit through that tiny hole they call a door. 

Also shown there were some the devices they used to trap and kill American soldiers and it was pretty barbaric…. and resourceful.  Let’s just say that they all pretty much impaled you if you were to get caught in them.  Most hidden under grass in a hole, some come out of doorways when you open them (including some that swung out and hit guys in the family jewels, and some had revolving doors that you would fall into… all grotesque.   

Something I wish I had done while I was there, was shoot an AK-47... or any of the huge machine guns.  Guns are illegal in Vietnam, but this is one place where you can shoot off 10 rounds for super cheap.  It seems like something fun to do outside at targets of tigers or round targets instead of that one time I went shooting at a range near Compton, shooting at targets of people while standing next to some gangs.  You know, the usual thing one does while in Compton.  Shoot guns.

All in all, HCMC is a good stop for history buffs but not a particularly "beautiful" city seeing that the majority of it was bombed pretty good in the war and was rebuilt with ugly, boring architecture.  It does have a good, fun, buzzy energy going on through.  If you're there, head over to where all the guest houses are (another backpackers alley) and enjoy some $0.50 beers while sitting on the sidewalk on a tiny, plastic kid chair... sometimes the shop owners even have you sitting on the street, until they come to yank your chair from under you because the cops are coming and businesses can't be set up on the street... the exception is for the local ladies of the night.  Oh, and trips to the Mekong Delta are sweet... more on that later.

A hidden way into the tunnels

Notice the unfortunate placement of this little device...

No worries, just a few little hidden gems for your walking pleasure
Rolling Trap, anyone?  

My regret, I wish I had gotten in there and shot off an M-16 just once in my life

You can shoot any of these off... just come to the Cu Chi Tunnels!
What the Vietnamese often ate while underground... this root that tastes a bit like bland sweet potato
but the crushed peanut and salt made it taste pretty good

Is that a root in your hand or are you just happy
to see me?  The root I ate (see note above).

Hmmm, which one are we gonna drop today?  The big one or the
gargantuan one?  

Typical night out with some friends


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