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The long life trip

Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City 17 - 21 Sept

VIETNAM | Friday, 20 September 2013 | Views [292]

The guide explains the system of tunnels

The guide explains the system of tunnels

17 September

So we arrrive at Ho Chi Minh (HCM) airport and get in the inveitable queue for our visas - we have our letter of approval and our forms filled out and clutching them and our photos we make our way to the counter - forms handed over and down we sit to wait - suprisingly not too long - hooray!! Immigration and customs are a breeze and the next hurdle is money and a cab.

We got the money changed ( after checking all the rates - 21000 Dong to $1) and found the Minlah cab desk ( had read terrible stories about the cabs ripping you off or kidnapping you till you paid loads of money..) and off to the hotel we go - again.....

Its the May hotel this time which is a 3 star and the room turned out to be quite nice - still no great veiw!! After settling in its time to find some food... off we go after asking the receptionist - she points us in the direction of The Saigon House - boy are we in a posh part of town - Burburry, Prada,etc  they are all here and very nice hotels too - we found the restuarant - a little too upmarket for the likes of us!! Bill is getting grumpy cos he is hungry and so we need to find somewhere soon..

So we settle on the Bier Garden - and have their special dishes which turn out to be pork and red fried rice and beef rib and noodles - actually both very good,so that Bill is happy and noot too costly ($30) including beer ( Sapporo here which is actually Japnese). Then back to the hotel we go for some sleep as we have an early start tomorrow.

18 September


Up early and breakfast before our trip and 8.30 there is our guide Lou waiting with the driver to take us on our trip to Chu Chi Tunnels about an hour and a half drive from the city - interesting drive out  - got to see more of the city and some odd sights - they carry everything on motorcycles here - Lou points out guys on motorbikes carrying about 50 bags of goldfish - just like you used to get at the fair. Lou also points out the "Coffee Hammocks" these are as they sound - small coffee shacks by the side of the road selling Vietnamese coffee and instead of tables and chairs - hammocks - what a great idea except doesnt the coffee counteract the sway of the hammock???


So we arrive a the tunnels and after a quick pee stop we are off at a cracking pace - first stop to watch a video which gives some of the background and another giude explains a bit more - this is going to be an interesting day seeing this information from the Vietnamese's point of view. The tunnels are a massive network of underground tunnels that at thier height reached nearly 250km and stretched as far as the Cambodian border. The tunnels also formed the base of operations for the Viet Cong for the Tet Offensive in 1968. They were used by the Viet Cong soldiers as hiding places but much more the people lived in them -  there were kitchens, dining room, meeting rooms, hosptials, ammunition making facilities etc - they were amazing places - the size of the tunnels is tiny - 50cm x 80cm - the tunnels have had to be widen so us fat tourists can get down!!!! Lou shows us one that has been sealed up as a tourist got stuck in it a couple of years ago - oops  See how small this original tunnel is


Lou is facinated by Bill and how big he is - he keeps feeling his shoulder muscles and putting his arm around him, telling him he was the biggest person at the tunnels - it was so funny to watch... especially when Lou made Bill slither intt one of the tunnel openings - he got in to his waist ( even his fat arse ( as Lou refered to it) got it - well done Bill.

There were many traps on display - some which were quite gruesome and they even made their own sandals, with one special pair which were worn "back to front" to confuse the Americans....The amount of bullets, guns, tanks etc they had and reused was also amazing.

The tour was a bit whirlwind as I think they try to get everyone through as quikly as possible - we had stopped at the shooting range too and could have fired an AK47, M16 etc - we declined having only just fired one in Cambodia - it was $1.50 a bullet!! But we could have fired a rocket launcher!!! At the end Lou sat us down at a table and gave us tea and Semolina root which we dunked into a combination of salt, peanuts and sugar - quite tasty in a weird way....


On the way back we saw a rubber plantation that belonged to the government and a dog in a cage on the back of a motorbike which was apparently dinner!!

 So talking of dinner we found a great restuarant around the corner from the hotel SK1 - apparently these temporary restaurants spring up wherever there is a building space - tranditional BBQ fare of beef and pork you cooked yourself on a brazier on the table accomapanied by an awesome mango salad and beer - the chairs were definately built for "little people" though....




Today we visit the War Remnenets Museum - wow - this place is just full of all the captured US forces machinery, a fantastic exhibition of photos from war reporters ( from all sides) that were killed in the various wars ( remember Vietnam were fighting the French immidiately before the US), and also a section regarding the use of Chemical weapons especially Agent Orange and its continuing affects on the population - I think both Bill and I found this more compelling that other things we have seen on this trip....


So for dinner we go to Ngon - recommended by Lou - wow this is the best meal of the trip so far - the place is huge but as we are early its not too full - all down one side of the building are various food stations - its amazing and the best food - we also had a great chat with a nice Japanese guy we met too.




Today we finally catch up with Guy our friend and lots of beer and memories are had - that and a wicked hangover - eenough said and moving on.....




Time to say goodbye to HCM and board our train for the 17hour journey to Da Nang - there is 4 of us to a carriage - we are sharing with two lovely Vietnamese girls - it is pretty basic and the driver has a heavy foot on the brake so sleep comes in fits and starts but its an experience!!!



Tags: ho chi minh, vietnam

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