1st August 2012
Today we visit the Chu Chi tunnels which are about 90 minutes from Ho Chi Mingh city. We the hotel at 8:30 with our local guild Mr Hi. He is a war veteran and severed as a translator for the Americans and later commanding his own men in the South Vietnam army. He explains the history of the Vietnam war and how the tunnels we are off to see played a vital part of the war for the Viet con. We arrive at the tunnel site and watch a propaganda video which shows the south of Vietnam and the Americans as the villains of the the war. After this we head off into the jungle and before long we come to a area with a few trees and stand there whilst the guide explains how well the tunnels were hidden. He tells us to move back clears some of the leaves off the ground and opens a small trap door in the floor. He then demonstrates how the Viet con would enter the tunnels through these holes and disappear in seconds. It truly is amazing and you would never know the entrance was there. We are then invited to have a go a climbing down the hole and most people do this without to much trouble and Tracy even manages it after she has squashed her chest a bit. Then it's time for the happy Buda to give it a go, not a hope in hell! We continue around the site being show various booby traps than were set for the American troops. We are also shown how the used American shells and amo were used to make new weapons against the Americans. The we arrive at a coffee shop and next to it is a firing range where we are given the opportunity to buy some live rounds for various types of guns and fire then. Simon and I buy 10 M16 bullets between us as that's the minimum amount you can buy. This costs 400,000 dong ( about £12 ). The guns are all mounted on a wall so the can firstly only be fired in one direction and secondly to reduce the recoil from the gun. We fire our shots, pick up a shell case each for a keep sake and head off to have a cigarette. Once everyone has had a rest we head off for the chance to crawl through one of the tunnel sections and they have made the entrance bigger so us not so slim westerners can get into the tunnels. The tunnels have light in them but they are very cramped and I'm guessing that they would have only had candle light when they used them. Every 20 meters or so is and exit and some of the group do exit rather than going the full 100 meter stretch. As we come towards the end the tunnels narrow and I can only just manage to squeeze through. We are told when we emerge on the surface that the narrow section would be the standard for the tunnels during the war. There would be little chance of me getting away from my enemy if I had been there! We leave the site and head back to the city being given an option of being back at the hotel or at the war museum. 9 of us choose to be dropped off at the museum. We wander round the museum which tends to be mostly photos from the war and very little else apart from a few planes and tanks outside. We regroup outside and Hans takes the lead heading towards the market and looking for somewhere to get some lunch. We find a small restaurant and all go in for lunch. Whilst eating the sky turns black and before long the heavens open and it pours down. Thank god were inside. By the time we have finished eating the rain has eased off and we head to the market. Roger and I head back to the hotel and leave the rest to their shopping. Dinner tonight there are 22 of us as we have 7 new people joining us and 8 leaving tonight. I will be sad to see them leave as we have bonded so well. After dinner we head off to a bar for a few drinks and none of the new people come with us apart from Emily. We have a few shots and dance and chat till around 01:00.
In order to combat better-supplied American and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War, Communist guerrilla troops known as Viet Cong (VC) dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels, including an extensive network running underneath the Cu Chi district northwest of Saigon. Soldiers used these underground routes to house troops, transport communications and supplies, lay booby traps and mount surprise attacks, after which they could disappear underground to safety. To combat these guerrilla tactics, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces trained soldiers known as "tunnel rats" to navigate the tunnels in order to detect booby traps and enemy troop presence. Now part of a Vietnam War memorial park in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), the Cu Chi tunnels have become a popular tourist attraction.