18 January 2013
We understand that this city is called Ho Chi Minh City by the northerners and Saigon by the south. Although it is a bigger city than Hanoi the people seem more relaxed, the weather is better and the population density is less.
Today most us go on a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels where the locals and Viet Cong hid out and eventually overcame the Americans. They certainly were resourceful people with great skill in both living in such conditions but also in their tactics with snare traps and use of small tunnels that the larger Americans couldn’t fit in (with some that they could fit in to start with but then got progressively smaller).
We’re shown how they get into the holes and pull the camouflage covers over the top. Christian has a go and gets in and out easily. No one else was game so I volunteered. It was easy on the way in although I think I’m pretty near maximum size but the difficulty came when I tried to get out- I couldn’t find much to push on at the bottom and my arms weren’t strong enough to push me up from that position so I had to have 2 guys pull me out.
We also had a chance to walk through some of the tunnels that have been increased in size by about 50% to allow for tourists. Most take the first exit only a few meters in but 4 of us walk right through almost doubled right over and in places needing to sit down to squeeze through. I cannot imagine having to exist in these conditions for any length of time.
Our guide today is Long who born in Da Nang but came here to go to University. He has worked for Intrepid for a month. He looks about 12 but is in fact 28. Long tells us all sorts of information and we stop at a local farm house where the woman keeps pigs and makes rice paper. There are many of these small ‘factories’ with the results collected up for export. She has a sow with week old piglets and we are treated to seeing the 11 piglets all squabbling and squeaking to find a place to feed.
We get to try cassava or tapioca first soaked in coconut milk which was quite tasty but then we had it ‘Viet Cong soldiers’ rations’ style where it was dipped in some ground peanuts with a little sugar. We discovered that it was better if you dipped your piece in your tea first so you could get more peanut mix to stick. None of us would be lining up to enlist.
That evening some of us explored the local area and ended up going to the third floor of a little restaurant up progressively smaller and more rickety stairs and sat on the balcony watching the world go by and enjoying our last night of Vietnamese food. We were a bit surprised to see our dirty plates being carried across the street but we were told “same same”.
For this and other similar tours see:
Explore Asia with Intrepid Travel (a range of different travel styles – see my post on travel styles)
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
Note: After people telling me they had booked an Intrepid Tour on my recommendation, I now have affiliate links with the Intrepid Travel group of companies and may receive a commission if you book a tour online within a couple of months after clicking through to these sites. So if you are enjoying my tips and stories and finding them useful in choosing your own travel, please click on these links and help me to bring you more ☺.