Monday, August 26, 2013

Cu Chi Tunnels - Vietnam

District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City, especially the area where we were staying at for the week, is a great location in terms of proximity to many tourists attractions such as the Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Saigon Zoo and many museums. 
But whenever we wanted to explore beyond that, we chose to go on day tours. These were easily arranged through the tour desk at Somerset Chancellor Court HCM
The tour desk at Somerset Chancellor Court is run by Buffalo Tours . One of the biggest and most reputable tour agencies in Vietnam. David and I chose to go on the Cu Chi Tunnels & Cricket Farm by Saigon River tour. 
Unfortunately, that morning itself, David was very ill so we decided it was best that he stayed in. Before I left, the staff at front desk noticed that my husband wasn't joining me for the tour, and I told them he was not well. They asked if any assistance was required, and whether I wanted them to check on him later in the morning to see if everything was alright. Awww... I'm so impressed with their service and concern. I told them it wasn't necessary, and that I would take him to the pharmacy across the road once I get back in the afternoon.
I have to admit, I was quite worried about heading off on this cu chi tunnel tour on my own. I thought I would feel so left out among all the other couples and families on tour. As it turned out, I had nothing to be worried about! The tour group was very small and exclusive, not the kind of tour where it's one tour guide to a bus load of tourists. So it was me, with an older (and very warm and friendly) couple from Australia and our tour guide Dominic.
So we went down the Saigon River via speedboat, the further away from Ho Chi Minh we got, the more rural and untouched the scenery became. Afte ran hour, we reached the Ben Duoc underground tunnel complex.
Before exploring the tunnels of Cu Chi, visitors watched a short video and presentation about the war, and how Cu Chi is an integral part of Vietnamese pride and history. 
After that, our guide Dominic took us around the complex to demonstrate and explain to us the various types of traps the Vietnamese used on these grounds to inflict unthinkable pain and suffering to the enemies. 
It is amazing what they could come up with even with their limited resources. In fact, I find their whole underground tunnel system ingenious! It's over 200km long, consisting of numerous floors underground, including living quarters, ventilation pipes, wells for water supply and even kitchens!
One of the staff showed us how a Vietnamese soldier would typically enter one of the tunnel openings... with his arms up, otherwise his shoulders would not fit through that gap. Once he's down there, the door is totally camouflaged and the enemy would walk right over him without knowing the Vietnamese were right under their feet.
 We also got to see how traditional rice paper is made... such a laborious process!
The best part of it all.. was actually getting to make our way through a section of the tunnels. Loved it!!! We were given torches, and just crawled our way through to the other side. I thought it would be much worse an ordeal, and claustrophobic.. but it was actually quite enjoyable, like an adventure. I suppose it's because they have widened this section of the tunnels for tourists to fit in. 
I found it quite spacious, but not spacious enough to take a selfie in the dark though  :(  This is where my husband would have come in handy! Sad that he missed out on this whole experience. 
 After our little adventure, we took a short ride to a cricket farm out in the countryside. Dominic taught us how to prepare our own Springrolls with crickets. I've often wondered if I would have the guts to eat insects... and as it turns out, it's really quite delicious after all!
It was prepared very well and deep fried..... I don't think I would be able to eat any life insects! *heebeejeebies*
After the Cricket farm tour, we went back on our mini bus are had a comfortable ride back into Ho Chi Minh city. It took about an hour and a half. Before we were dropped off at our hotels, we stopped for a traditional Vietnamese lunch in a restaurant. I loved how the presentation was rustic and authentic with mismatched bowls and plates, the straws for the drinks were made of vegetable stalks (argh! I forgot to take a picture!). We were served about 6 or 7 courses, some I liked more than others. I love their prawn and squid salads and their fried rice. 

When I got home to Somerset Chancellor Court at about 2 plus in the afternoon, I was amazed at how much activity and new experiences I was able to fit in just half a day. (OK, my day did start at 7am!!). Very pleased with my experience with Buffalo Tours. I highly recommend it.

P/S- When I got back to our apartment, David was resting in bed, his fever had gone down but he still had diarrhea. We walked to the pharmacy across the road, and the pharmacist who spoke English, helped us out with getting the right medication. The shocking thing was... the price... we paid like... less than Sgd$2 and got a course of antibiotics for gastric flu, fever tablets, and diarrhea tablets. Oh Singapore... thou art way over priced! By that evening he was feeling much better, and we were able to explore more of Vietnam, together. 

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:44 pm

    The tunnels of Cu Chi were designed over a period of 25 years that started sometime in the late Forties. They were the improvised reaction of a badly prepared peasant military to its enemy’s high-tech ordnance, choppers, artillery, bombers and substance weaponry.

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