Up bright and early this morning as we boarded our tour bus and headed out into the countryside to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which are a series of tunnels used by the Vietnames during the war to live,sleep and fight in and also to trap American soldiers. With Joey, our tour guide, filling us in with a little background about Vietnamese culture it was nice to see a different side of Vietnam other than the hustle and bustle of the city.
The first stop, which we had no prior knowledge about, was Handicapped Handicrafts, a working museum in which victims of Agent Orange manufacture a range of furniture. After a brief wander round and the staff trying to force us into buying stuff for stupidly extrortionate prices, we were quite disconcerted when they were reluctant to answer how much the handicapped people actually got from the proceeds of the sale.
After arriving at the tunnels, we were then given the opportunity to climb in and see for ourselves. They were remarkably well camouflaged and after the first few members of our group emerged after around 10 minutes, despite the distance between the two opening being very small, we decided against going in, especially when the remaining members were quick to point out the bats which had flown at their faces in the photographs that they had taken whilst underground! We were then taken past waxwork models of them making homemade bombs and suchlike, before we were introduced to the various traps which they also used. These traps looked extremely frightening and Joey explained that they were originally used to catch deadly animals such as tigers!
the opportunity then came to shoot some of the weapons used by both sides during the war. Me and sarah stepped up, the other two settling for a more sedate ice cream, and opted for the AK47. It was only after my hearing gradually began to come back and the pain in my arm began to subside that an ex-soldier from Israel who was part of our tour, alarmingly informed me that the way I had been shown to hold my gun could have dislocated my shoulder-Brilliant!!
the next stop showed us getting tricked into entering one of the tunnels, after our tour guide had convinced us that they were large enough to walk through and were well lit. too late to realise, we were soon in the army SAS position wriggling along the floor in the pitch blck and boiling heat for around 10 minutes with absolutely no idea which turning we were supposed to take. So So scary- to think thety managed to cook, live sleep and fight in these tunnels, it must have been absolutely awful!
the bus ride back home provided yet another opportunity to meet yet another boy from Leeds uni-small world and 2 very strange Australian boys who had been taking our pictures all the wya round-very wierd!
Having had enough of the pollution and dirtiness of HCMC we decided that we would catch the infamous reunification Express that night upto a coastal area. However as it was the Vietnamese new Year or Tet, we were forced to take a sleeper bus, as our only option! After filling time until our 8pm departure, we decided to head to a local beauty salon for manicure, pedicure and facial, all of which came to around $5! Slightly worryingly though we found out that all of the products they had used had whitening agent in them, and we prayed we wouldn't lose what little tan we had left!
The bus arrived and we found that instead of seats it had bunk beds arranged in three rows, running the length of the coach, much to our shock which eventually gave way to hysterical laughter-really must be seen to be believed.
the laughs soon faded however, as we drove at breakneck speed, with recurrent close scrapes and honking of horns, literally being bounced out of our beds on numerous occassions! After 10 exhausting and hair raising hours, we arrived at the pretty coastal area of Nha Trang.