Hien and I woke up a little after six this morning and lazily got ourselves ready to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which are a bit far from the city. We left the house around 7:00 and trudged over to the bus stop. Getting to the tunnels involves taking three buses (bus fare 4-5,000 dong) and about two and half hours.
After we took the first bus to its terminal stop to switch to the second, we got some breakfast to go and scrambled into the second bus Asian-style, or in other words, show no mercy. In fact, any show of mercy or chivalry will be greeted with raucous criticism from behind you.
A couple of old ladies who managed to get a seat saw the gauze on my leg and offered half a butt cheek’s worth of space. However, since this area was also occupied by the armrest, it wasn’t much more comfortable sitting than standing, so I opted to sit on the armrest instead. The ladies left a few stops later, so Hien and I had the seat to ourselves, which was nice.
We took this bus to its terminal stop, where a moto driver persuaded Hien to let him take us the rest of the way. I assume this was the right call, as it wasn’t expensive, and he waited for us to finish our visit at the tunnels to take us back to the bus stop as well. Otherwise, we might have waited for the bus for quite some time in both directions. The total price for both of us for the round trip was 150,000 dong (or $7.50). We arrived at the tunnels at around 9:30.
The Cu Chi Tunnels (admission 20,000 dong or $1.00) are a network of layered tunnels used by the people of this one Vietnamese community during the Vietnam War. The first level is one meter beneath the ground, the second is six, and the third is ten. You can only visit select portions of tunnels in the first layer, which have been widened for tourists. The original tunnel dimensions were about .8 meters high (2.6 feet) and .5 meters wide (1.6 feet). This is small even for us Asians and makes me think that even if the GIs could find the tunnels, they wouldn’t be able to enter them anyway (though obviously other means of attack would be plausible). This web of tunnels included kitchens, dining and meeting areas, medical clinics, workshops for building weapons, residential areas, and bomb shelters (in the deepest layer).
There were several attempts made by American forces to find the holes to these tunnels, but between the booby traps and the Vietnamese figuring out ways to get around these tactics, there was no hope of success. For example, the
We told Ha we would be in the city tonight, so we decided to meet up at 6:30 for dinner and then watch the fireworks for Reunification Day (today, April 30).
Hien took a nap from 3:00 to 5:30, during which time I sent some requests to CouchSurfers in
After this exciting afternoon, we left for District 2, where Hien had never been before, on account of its being a more suburban area of the city where foreigners and Vietnamese returning from abroad live in grand villas. Ha had intended to have me try a sort of pancake for dinner, but the shop was closed on account of the holiday, so we stopped by a hawker stand for com tam instead, which is rice (or rice noodles, depending on your preference) with a slab of pork, some cucumbers, and a very sweet oily sauce (to which you may add chili) that you can pour over everything.
Once we finished dinner, we stayed at Ha’s house for a while (where there are a great variety of pets) and then headed over to the bridge to watch the fireworks. We took a taxi, but it could only take us so far before it met a road block a bit of a distance from the bridge itself. Motorbikes could get through, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking a motorbike due to the sheer number of them zooming in and out. You might not wind up with good visibility. Walking to the bridge was very similar to walking to Independence Hall in
After the show, we waited for several minutes for the horde of motorbikes to whoosh past us (but finally just crossed the street) and stopped at a milk tea place (8,000 dong, or 40 cents). There was no way we could get a taxi until we had walked a decent distance from the bridge, but at any city event like this, that’s to be expected. Hien picked up her motorbike from Ha’s place, and we headed home.
As a general note, I’ve noticed that I’ve become accustomed to using Globish, which is to say English at its most basic level. If a word has no meaningful purpose in a sentence (i.e. it is only there for grammatical reasons), you eliminate it. You do not conjugate verbs, either for subject-verb agreement or for tense. So for example, instead of saying, “I went to the market yesterday and bought three pairs of pants,” you say, “Yesterday I go to market. I buy three pants.” You also need to listen to how the locals speak English and use their vocabulary. For example, “
You’ll also notice throughout the region that there are motorbikes with megaphones that play a recorded message or song. In every city, the locals will recognize what the purpose of the motorbike is by hearing the sound. A certain song will mean it’s an ice cream moto; another will mean it’s collecting recyclable materials. This is true in
Also, they have socks in