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running away Traveling south east asia, china, australia, new zealand and america. wherever the mood takes me!

saigon to the border

VIETNAM | Thursday, 4 December 2008 | Views [567]

could the hole be any smaller?

could the hole be any smaller?


4th of December, saigon to hue

I left the delta early in the morning and lucky me I got to seat in the front seat of the minivan. You really need nerves of steel to sit in the front of a moving vechical in south east Asia.

The journey was quite long, especially when I stuck in the front with another girl and no one speaks English and they are playing crappy Vietnamese music.

Well I found out why they need the bridge of the future so badly in cantho. The traffic is quite heavy but they only have no way of getting over the mekong, buy ferry. So you have these large buses and trucks and cars and millions of motorbikes trying to get across. It was crazy. Waiting about an hour to que onto the ferry.

When I arrived into saigon, it was to a the southern bus station, so I still had to get into the city centre. I got a motorbike taxi and he dropped me at the street I wanted to go to. When I arrived, there was a lady that came up to me and asked did I need a room, she had one in her house. She was asking 9 dollars originally and I said to expensive, and that I was looking for a dorm. So she went down to 6 dollars which is the same price as a dorm. So I went with her to have a look at it. It was actually really good, so I decided to stay there. The guy in the house was a sweet older guy and a lovely smile. he even brought my bag for me up 3 flights of stairs that had the narrowest and smallest steps ever. I definitely didn't want to be drunk going up or down those stairs.

I left to check out the travel office to see when I could get to the cu chi tunnels and up to hue as fast as possible so I could get into Laos.

There was a day tour that I decided to do which was to go to the caodai great temple for mid-day and then after lunch we were to go to the cu chi tunnels. I would be back in time for dinner and then a sleeping bus to nan trang. So that night it was a quiet one and then I was up early to check out and leave my bag at the tour office for the bus later and to get breakfast before the tour started. The tour ended up being a really nice day out. Not many people were doing the temple and the tunnels from our tour office. They were mostly going to just the tunnels for the morning instead. So our tour was a mini bus with about 10 people or so. Just the right amount.

We arrived to the temple just in time for mass at 12 O. clock. There were a lot of other tours there to see it also. The temple was quite cool and was very different. As the caodai religion believe that all gods are the same and is represented by the eye. So the alter was a globe with an eye on it and above it on the arch was a representation of each of the gods from other religions. Before the mass we were allowed to walk around the temple but as mass was about to start all the tourists had to go up stairs to the balcony, were we all watched from above. It was strange to watch a mass like that. But it was actually quite nice. They were there just to worship, it didn't look like anyone was preaching to them. They all sat on the floor facing the alter and music and singing was sang through out and every so often they would bow. Now of course I don't know what they were singing about, but it was nicer than the preaching we hear at home.

They were also dressed in different coloured robes, which we were told each colour represented a couple of religions each.

We actually had to leave before the mass was finished as we were told to be back at our bus for a certain time and from there we headed off for lunch before the bus headed for the cu chi tunnels.

When we arrived at the tunnels we had to buy our tickets and we were first shown a video about the tunnels that was taken back in 1968. it was really interesting. They actually started the tunnels when the French were occupying the country but it was small then and they continued it before the Vietnam/American war. (in America is called the Vietnam war and in Vietnam it's called the American war) So that it was quite extensive. They did everything underground, hospitals, kitchens, sleep, make weapons and clothes. They used termite hills to disguise their air holes. It was all ingenious.

After the video we were brought to an area and told that there was an original hole there. We couldn't see it at all and not surprised one couldn't find it without knowing it was there. The guide then lifted the cover and the hole was tiny. He then got in the tunnel and then showed us how they covered it after them by putting leaves on top to cover it again when he replaced it with him inside. It was all pretty impressive. They then started to ask if anyone wanted to try going in it. Our guide pointed to this big American guy, who said that he wouldn't fit. But our guide said come and try. He came over and put his foot in which was nearly the size of the hole itself. It was quite funny. Then he was asking around no one wanted to do it. So when he pointed to me and said the Irish girl will do it. I thought why not. I took my camera off me and my bag so it was just me and a guy was nice enough in my group to say he would take pictures for me. I have to say it was a good thing that I had lost weight since travelling or I would have never have fitted in there. It was small. But I made it all the way. Very proud of myself.

After that we were brought around to see the different bunkers they had, like the kitchen and weapon making bunkers. Also the different booby traps that they had for the woods and even in the tunnel just in case an enemy actual found a hole and made it in to a tunnel.

Then we got to crawl through a tunnel. I think it was only 100 metres that we were to crawl through but it felt longer. Cause after the first step if we wanted we could go deeper to actually see some bunkers. But once in the tunnels, its quite small. You move along bent over shuffling on your feet. And it bad enough that your in there but you have to wait for the person in front to move and you can't go back and its only lit every so often, so sometimes the person in front blocks your light. We came to this like turn in the tunnel and it looked like a hole out on one side. Some people had gone on and the guy in front of me freaked out a bit and left through the hole. So I went on but in the mean time they had gone quite far so I had to hurry to catch up. And I was calling behind me for people to come down the tunnel too after me. But just around the corner then I ran into the guy in front of me, who said that this was the exit we were to take and if we wanted we could go further. I wanted to go but everyone was bailing out. The 2 guys in front were leaving through the exit and no one had followed me down the tunnel. So I didn't go any further either. While I was waiting to get out, our guide was there and said that it was hot down there. I said yeah and small. That's when the guide said that this wasn't small. These tunnels we went down were widened for tourists. I was a bit shocked I had heard that but the guide saying it made it true. Then he said well you went down a original hole you saw how small it was. It looked small alright but I just got down the hole I didn't try climbing through the tunnel. So it was something to think about.

The tour was pretty much finished after that. We got some tea then probably to help us with our nerves. And then we set out for saigon, and When we arrived back, I just had time to have dinner before I had to get on my sleeping bus for nan trang.

We arrived real early to nan trang the next morning. It was just after sunrise about 6 O. clock. There was no where open yet and I wasn't staying as I was getting the sleeping bus that night to hoi an. Luckily I was thinking the night before and had bought some bread and cookies and I sat on a bench by the beach just relaxing and snacking, watching the sunrise in the sky over the sea and waiting for the cafes to open. I sat there and watch all the Vietnamese people out for their morning walk or jog and exercises. It was actually very peaceful. Around 9 O. clock I found a cafe book shop, were I stopped in to have breakfast and get a new book to read. I found the beach, which I have been trying to read for awhile. I sat in that cafe for hours, just reading. As I really had no where to go and nothing to do. The left there at lunch time and went to the next place for lunch but the weather was quite nice so I decided to go to the beach and lie out in the sun and read. It didn't last very long though, cause I went to go for a swim but the sea was so rough. The waves were really strong and I nearly got knocked over just standing there. I then started to notice the clouds coming in with the wind and as the sun went away it got colder. I still spent time at the beach on a bench reading away, as I was nearly finished my new book by then. So I wanted to finish it and get a new one before I left that night. Which I was able to do, it had been some time since I had read a book in one day. I got my bus that night and arrived to hoi an early the next morning again. Around 6 and I was to get the next bus to hue, which was at 8. I just hung around the office till I had to get my bus. It wasn't suppose to take to long to get to hue but on the way for some reason we stopped at some cave with Buddha statues. I'm not sure if it was in the marble mountains or not as it was part of my bus ride as far as I knew. So I don't know where we went. I wasn't going to go in as we had to pay but I changed my mind. And I'm glad I did. I was a strange cave, there were different cave rooms with sculptures in them and of course ones with a Buddha But it had like 4 different levels, so I was going up and down steps exploring inside it, going down these short tunnels. It was actually really cool. What was strange was these sculptures of there like demons torturing people, like sawing a girl in half and another with people being eaten by rats. It was all very weird and I don't know what it really represented. The last part was a steep climb on steps to a hole in the roof of the cave to a nice view over the valley. It was a nice surprise.

We finally got to hue and I went to check out at a couple of places to see about getting into Laos. as soon as possible. There was nothing leaving earlier than the next morning, so I had to spend the night in hue. Yea.

I got a room close to where I was going to buy my ticket for the bus. But I ended going with my hotel anyway so it didn't matter in the end as I was getting picked up from there.

I was going just going to hang out in hue like I did the day before in nan trang except I was able to take a shower and had a proper bed to sleep in. I went off to go to the internet and get some lunch. I was walking down the street, when a motorbike came up behind me and my first reaction was to say no thank you, as you get hassled all the time in Vietnam But the guy said no I live here I'm just stopping for lunch. I started laughing and said sorry and that's when I conversation got going. I told him was from Ireland and galley. And he got all excited and said he had relatives in ireland and galway. and that they were visiting him after christmas. And he said he was so happy to meet some one from Ireland and he asked could we have lunch together so we could talk. He was very animated and he swept we along with his talking. So I ended up getting on his bike so we could go somewhere for lunch. We drove around for awhile talking all the way. Him telling me about his family in Ireland and said he had some in England to. After awhile I had no idea where we were but we found a restaurant and had some lunch and afterwards he said he would pay for it. I said I would pay for it and he said I was so kind. He then said he would pay for the food it I paid for some drink for this party he was having for his family and he would pray in his temple for me so I would have good luck. I said I would, thinking that the drink wouldn't be too expensive and we went to pick it up on the way back . We stopped at a shop and he picked up drink he goes what drink would I buy. Good quality, medium or low. I said it depended on the price. The high was way too expensive and so was the medium, the low even was but I said I would buy a drink for him so I bought the low one. I guess I was expecting it to be cheap enough especially since he was asking for it as everything is cheaper for the Vietnamese But now when I think back on it, I just think it was an elaborate scheme. And if it was it was a really good one. So I learn another life lesson in Vietnam again. And I could be jumping the gun and he could have been genuine but the more I learned about Vietnamese people the more I came to believe that they saw all foreigners as atms, where they believe we should give them money for nothing just because we come from a western world and because I'm travelling, I'm richer than them and can afford to give away money. I found out that Vietnamese people don't seem to save, they spend what ever money they have. So no wonder they have to work everyday.

Even though I had fun with phats family and it was an experience I would have never have had otherwise. There where times when I was asked for money to pay for things when I don't think there was need to. It felt like it was more for phat to throw money around even if it was from me. That's why I didn't stay longer down in the delta. I would have loved to have gone fishing, but I was always thinking at what price? So it was time to move on. I have definitely learnt some life lessons and the funny thing is you think I would be more skeptical and I guess I am but about Vietnamese people than anything else. Don't get me wrong I won't be offering to buy something again in a hurry, I'll definitely be more careful but I haven't lost fate totally.

So that is the note I left Vietnam on, which was a pity. Because I loved Vietnam originally and I know now I should have never gone back, as my view had changed.

Don't get me wrong I still think Vietnam is a beautiful country, is just a pity about the people.

Tags: cu chi tunnels


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