CraSh Williams' Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam War’

Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on May 11, 2011

Waking up at 5am this morning, Shelley and I left the hotel aboard our Minsk – hoping for quiet roads out of the City. No chance! There were thousands and thousands of scooters on the road, at times there were bikes coming at you from all directions (I kid you not!) Locals pointing and laughing at the white guy trying to look ‘cool’ on his Soviet made relic, billowing grey smoke behind him! Cars/buses/trucks hooting their horns – fully observing that well-known rule of the road – we’re bigger than you, you move!

It was bedlam though thankfully we made it to the tunnels in one piece though a little shaken!

The tunnels of Cu Chi are located 70km north-west of Ho Chi Minh City and was the Viet Cong’s base for operations during the Tet Offensive in 1968, plus numerous other battles and resistance. A vast, sprawling network of tunnels, some 200kms in total, all at differing levels; including fighting areas, hospitals, accommodation, kitchens and factories – it’s pretty impressive. As ever, the tour started with the obligatory ‘heads-up’ or propaganda piece – I enjoy this part the most as invariably there’s an American or four who get quite wound up hearing about the poorly equipped ‘peasant’ army taking the fight to US, and winning. Surely, they must know that any victor in battle will tell their side of the story?

Over the course of an hour or so you’re shown various stances with the most interesting being the ‘booby-traps’ piece – mostly primitive in their construction (before the War they were primarily used to kill tigers) though lethal and psychologically terrifying if operating in such areas, it was sobering and impressive at the same time. Also of interest was the ingenuity of the VC in making use of all the unexploded ordnance that was dropped on country, not only did they utilise the unexploded material, they also used the scrap metal, which they heated up and forged into barbed spikes which they then used in the above mentioned booby-traps. Other little things appealed; they recycled car/truck tyres to make sandals – interestingly the tread was always the opposite direction to give the impression to anyone tracking that they were walking in the opposite direction.

We also got to fire some weapons; we opted for the AK47 – weapon of choice for the Viet Cong – there was also several other weapons, mainly American M16 and M60s. Of course, I hit the target 5 times out of 5 – which is more than I hit whilst in the Corps (and more than my good mate Sooty!)

The tunnels themselves if truth be told, were a bit of an anti-climax – for starters they’d been made larger to accommodate the fuller figure of westerners (I assume they meant everyone else, not me!) and were only 100 or so metres long. Disappointingly, no booby traps! Though having ‘stuggled’ through little more than 100m of very wide tunnel, I was suprised at the amount of whinging from some of the group – ‘it’s claustrophobic,’ ‘it’s too hot,’ ‘crikey, it’s tighter than a gnats chuff…’ The VC sepnt months down there, suffering all of it – no wonder they kicked ass.

At the end of the tour you have the opportunity to purchase various souvenirs, the majority of which are GI Zippo Lighters – where ever you go in Vietnam, theres thousands of them, probably more lighters than there were Americans/VC combined. My mate, Tony T sums it up nicely:

Re tunnels, I bet it’s like the Berlin Wall, which would stretch twice around the world if you gathered up all the bits that have been sold to tourists – tunnels are probably the same – you’ll have had every post-war farmer out digging one while his missus is engraving original ‘air cav’  zippos, as used to torch our villages…

It’s been a great day out and pleased to have made our own way there on the bike.

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Lost in the big bad city…

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on May 6, 2011

Ho Chi Minh City is the nuts, the big bad brother to Hanoi – which in comparison seems shy and retiring. Set on the banks of the Saigon River, HCMC has approximately 7 million inhabitants all of whom are darting here there and everywhere, the traffic is a nightmare – there must be tens of thousands of scooters on the roads and I’m pleased we learnt to cross the road whilst in Hanoi as here, it’s much more daunting!

Broken up in to numerous districts, we’re just on the outskirts of District 1 (Dong Khoi, central HCMC,) in the backpackers’ area called De Tham. Our hotel is OK – having being spoilt whilst up near Hoi An, we’ve been brought quickly down to earth – (whereas our last Hotel cost $125US, this one is $20US,) thankfully we’ve bought our earplugs along!

Located here means there’s lots of bars and places to eat – as per our normal routine on entering a new city, for lunch yesterday we went for a good old curry – it was superb as well! Last night we found a bar with half price cocktails so we duly set in for the evening quaffing numerous mojitos and long island ice teas before stumbling out of there to find a Bia Hoi (street stalls selling beer) – we found a great one almost opposite, as well as ice-cold beer, they were also selling freshly cooked crab claws, perfect.

Nearby is the city’s busiest market, Ben Thanh. Having been around for 100 years this vast covered market sells everything you could want and when visiting anywhere for the first time, we always make a point of visiting the markets as soon as a possible as it’s a great place to get a feel for any city and this place was no exception, it was bonkers!

Like all markets this one had a fresh produce section which we wandered through seeing live fish being gutted, live frogs literally having their legs pulled from their bodies (which were discarded) and the still kicking legs placed into a bowl, ready for selling! Feeling hungry(!) we went to the section of the market selling food and quickly found the one selling seafood, ordering fresh clams, snails, crab & scallops we settled in for a very atmospheric lunch amongst the bustle of the market.

We’ve also visited the War Remnants Museum which our Rough Guide states ‘…is the city’s most popular attraction but not for the faint hearted…’ It’s an incredibly moving museum, predominantly photographic in content (though outside is various ‘captured / left behind’ US fighter jets, Chinooks, tanks and big guns of which we took several photos.

The photos are horrific and moving at the same time, not only are they (in places) very graphic it’s the ones detailing the effects of apparently 75 million litres of defoliant sprays (Agent Orange) across the country, which not only destroyed the countryside it ruined the lives of many people not yet even born. There are numerous photos of children born with numerous birth defects and of malformed foetuses. It’s quite shocking to think that this happened in my lifetime – we both came away feeling quite subdued though at the same time amazed that such a country as Vietnam is moving forward at such a pace, particularly given it’s very recent past.

It really is the most incredible place.

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Tomorrow, we leave for Saigon!

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on May 3, 2011

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