Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

(December 2012)
 
“Army Force” in the Cu Chi Tunnel

Cu Chi Tunnel … if you have not heard it before since you had slept during your history period in high school (Like what I did in my history class with my eyes open), Cu Chi Tunnel is located in Vietnam. It is one of the historical locations where the Vietnamese war had occurred. It is pronounced as “Ku Chee” not (“Cuci” which means washing in Malay), or it is not an expression which could sound like you are entertaining a crying baby with a “kuchi kuchi” … And please, it has nothing to do with the Hindi song “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”.

I did not expect that one of the best parts of our Vietnam trip is the Cu Chi Tunnel. In fact, initially I thought since it is simply a tunnel, I was not expecting it to be interesting at all.

Cu Chi Tunnel is constructed underground. The connections and links of the tunnel is located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City. It was deeply constructed by the Vietnamese army to be used for hiding combats during the Vietnamese war, to move from one route to another, store food, a form of communication and hideout from the American army force. Their government had preserved 121km of the tunnel for tourist attraction and it is situated about 2.5 hours away from the main Ho Chi Minh city somewhere our hotel was. The existence of this tunnel was a major challenge for the American troops during the war to attack the Vietnamese, in which resulted the American army to be defeated and withdrawn from the country due to huge loss in financial support and army strength.

Lester rite infront of me

Lester rite infront of me

The adventurous moment my colleagues and I had experienced in the Cu Chi tunnel was in fact hilariously challenging. It reminds me of my roller coaster ride in Universal Studio. Only this time the doubts in my mind was not whether the roller coasters’ screws were not intact properly that I would possibly fall, but the fear was what was there right in front of me… which includes the dead ends and possibility that it might lead me to Saigon river.

The best part of my experience during the tunnel journey was the hilarious reactions and behaviour of all of us throughout the 80 metre route (only 2 of my colleagues had went through a shortcut which was only 60 metre). This tunnel had two exits by the way. Definitely it will be more fun and you will feel safer if you enter it with a group of friends/colleagues.

Before I entered the tunnel, I had neutral thoughts. I can say I did not think or feel anything. I thought the worst it could be will be like our expressway tunnels CTE/PIE/KJE. When I started to notice the darkness on the doorway of the tunnel entrance, the first thought was to self-motivate with exaggerated confidence: “Okay this will be interesting it seems. Nothing to worry, should not be that bad, right. If the Vietnamese army can do it, why can’t I !!”. And so, with much determination of an army lieutenant, I went in. Leading our group was a staff of Chu Chi Tunnel dressed in Vietnamese army uniform, followed by our colleagues Kalidoss, Krishna and Kavitha’s 9 yr old son, Sai, an astronaut from Mars who kept asking whether we had reached Cambodia. Then followed by Lester who was in front of me. He is my colleague-Leo’s son, who is the most-est best-est companion in the tunnel. He was sort of my motivator, life saver and also the one who never failed to make me panic.

So once we entered the tunnel, there it goes…it was dim dark – lit up only with small lights by the underground wall. The tunnel was narrowly small that we had to bend while walking as it is half of our height. It was mind blowing which complements the heat and lack of ventilation like nobody’s business.

I consciously remembered that I had started to blabber comments that I don’t think anyone cares, like “Oh shit, what the hell is this place!!” …”I can’t believe this is happening to me”…. “How the hell these soldiers can go through this!! “…”Oh my god, where am I?”… I could not stop myself from laughing and panting – symptoms that I am nervous, scared, lack of air in my brain and lungs. That is the reason why I refused to watch horror movies or listen to ghost stories even though a friend of mine kept assuring me to join her to watch horror movies on an ex-graveyard area. Woahh no way!!! I can’t even sleep properly after watching mystery shows.

In the tunnel (I am still referring to Cu Chi tunnel not the expressway tunnel), my main indicator to whether we had reached the exit was Kalidoss’ high pitch loud laughter. He was the first few in front of me. I guess the staff who lead us had disappeared as he was very fast piercing through the lanes of the tunnel. Well, that is his job. But I still wonder whether he is real?

I could not wait throughout the journey that Kalidoss would exclaim “Finally, we reached!” … however it never happened. Lester who ran not walk/crawl quite fast in front of me had announced for several times “Oh god we lost them!!!”…. He even u-turned his way back towards me, and told me straight on my face – “Hey, we lost them again!!”. ”Damn shit!!” That’s all I could reply…breathlessly. We kept moving further in and deeper into the tunnel. And I started to perspire like hell and it was ridiculously warm..errmmm actually hot.

Lester started to go as fast as he could. Once he was out of my view, I started to feel the panic again. I thought I saw a Dead End!! I started to lose abit of my balance and accidentally hit myself on the wall. I looked at the back of my shoulder and luckily Lester’s mum, Lea was right behind me. She seems so cool… did not even screamed or laughed or showed any reactions which I had.

“Lester, Where are you??!!” I shouted out..

In a split second, Lester came back to me again, and instead of telling me we lost the lead guy, this time he had motivated me “You can do it, letz go, come!! We are reaching soon!!”.

“Great!!” , I responded breathlessly. We jumped into another area of the tunnel where there are no stairs like how Indiana Jones did in Temple of Doom. I had consciously told myself to stop laughing as I could feel that I will faint if I continued to.

Another part of this story are excerpts of what had happened in the tunnel way behind me where my other colleagues and their partners/family members seemed to be struggling too. I am still wondering till now how amazing my colleague Mya was. If you think she had saved us from any danger, no.. that is not what this is about. She had went through the tunnel successfully with her formal attire, blazer, short dress and girly heel shoes. She did it well though with that it seems. I heard she got kicked by Hans or maybe she had kicked Hans while jumping into the deeper part of the tunnel.

Oh yes, I had actually found out also, if you have problem bending your body due to your height or you have hand carry bags, you could in fact hop like a frog. It is easier to move that way…That was what Thet, Mya’s hubby did. You can try!!

Reminder to parents … please never ever leave your kids alone by themselves in the tunnel. Doesn’t matter how old they are, as long as they are your child, please don’t leave them and head for the shortcut. Bryle, Leo’s daughter had been searching and calling out for her dad since the start. And we found out her dad had went through the shortcut way. That shortcut route was lead by our fellow colleague, Kavitha, who is a genius in all aspects of the scientific world. I suspected that she had done an intensive research beforehand on the details of the tunnel and its network. I really feel strongly she did. Well, thanks to Hans, the SuperVietnamese hero who had saved Bryle during the panic stricken situation. Warning to Parents: Do not ever leave your kids unattended in Cu Chi Tunnel.

Letz get back to my scene: By the time I finally heard Kalidoss’ concluding laugh and announcing that they had reached, I started to crawl towards the last part of the tunnel heading towards the lit up area from above. That does not stopped me from blabbering.with.periods. till I reached the top. I was exhausted to the max.

That was like the best-est sweat released exercise I had ever done in my life without even cardio-ing.

The remaining ‘soldiers’ appeared one after another from the tunnel with shattered dead beat looks. Based on my observations, I could conclude that they should be proud that they were not enlisted to qualify for any positions in the army force in their respective home countries.

 

“Back of The Bike Tour” … Check their website here

I had tried this night tour on the bike (as in motorbike not bicycle cos few of my colleagues thought we are taking the bicycles instead). Had explored this with my colleague, Hans. If you can remember, Hans was my travel partner when we went India exactly last 2 years. Such a coincidence, isn’t it.

Before the trip, he was excited enough to surf the internet and wikipedia about Vietnam to be prepared for the journey. Well, in which I did not do any of this for this Vietnam trip. Initially, I planned to just walk by myself on the first day since it is free and easy for our schedule. So, a week before the trip, he told me there is this bike tour at night and asked whether I wanna try. And I jumped and screamed with excitement..”YES YES I WANT!! They have it??” This is one of my dreams too, to be a pillion on a bike in a foreign country where the road is challenging to be in.

So, Hans had researched and emailed the available bike tours companies while I was busy with my work in office (I guess u understand here what I am trying to imply if I highlighted this), and finally we had mutually agreed to try “Back of The Bike Tours” managed by a couple, Thuy and Chad.

To cut the story short, I present the following snapshots.

So the above and the following goes in sequence. From the first until the last stop. This bike tour functions as a light comfortable ride for both to view Ho Chi Minh districts at night and to explore the recommended food by Thuy and Chad. They had done extensive research before starting this business selecting only the best places for tourists. Don’t worry about cleanliness. They are quite okay. We do not experience any diarrhea. In fact, we are too full actually. However, since all of it are delicious, you just could not refused to try though you are kind of full. You should try all when you have the chance to explore this country. The feelings was totally different. Though the traffic was havoc and we will kissed other vehicles in the middle of roundabouts or junctions, you will not feel insecure or scared of accidents. Anyway, I did not cos Thuy had been chatting with me throughout the ride. You just have to trust the person who ride that bike. For me, Thuy seems to be so confident and knew the roads well. And one of the best moments were when she will help me put my helmet for me everytime. No one did for me like that before *sweetish evil laugh*, like never ever.
Commercial break: *We are never ever ever getting back together. Weeee are never ever ever getting back together..”

These are the snacks we had at our 2nd stopover:

This is where we get our soup. The noodle soup taste actually abit sweet. The sweetness I guess is from the seafood stock. So, they told me to add in more cili padi (the smallest chillies but very hot). Yeah, it tastes better after that.

And these are snaps at the final stop – desserts not desert!!

 

These are snapshots taken on the 2nd day of our tour. It covered mainly tours to Cu Chi Tunnel, War Remnants Museum (The pictures in the museum were distracting. It showed all the negative aspects of wars. I hope it will never happen again), Reunification Palace of the President House and Office, Notre Dam Cathedral, General Post Office, Water puppet show, Dinner and end of our tour day.

On the 2nd day tour, we were accompanied by Chuc who was our tour guide. He is from Vietnam and speaks very fluent English. He shared a lot of information about the history of Vietnam and the way the people live there. He was very patient and great with people and kids too. I just hope he did not mind our lack of attention when he was sharing with us the details of the historical places; according to Hans few of our colleagues were actually checking out the spider web at the Reunification Palace instead of listening to Chuc explaining about the living room in that palace; or when Lester, Mya and I was standing infront of a huge fan and we sang, cos I had this Britney Spears’ song “Ëverytime” in my mind during that moment when Chuc was explaining about the President office. He was also patience attending to questions that has nothing to do with Vietnam like “Have we reach Cambodia?”, a question that did not stopped Sai (Kavitha’s kid) from asking throughout the journey to and in Cu Chi Tunnel. And also enduring Lester, Hans and I singing like a jukebox on top of our lungs in the minibus while he was sharing about whatever he was sharing us that time.

Chuc can be contacted at his email: chucktannguyen@yahoo.com

 

Pictures courtesy of my colleagues, Kavitha, Leo and also from my own camera.

 

 

 

 

To conclude, I realised the things in Ho Chi Minh are less costly than in Thailand. I will not compare with China or any other places cos they are costlier. As for fashion wise, it depends on individuals’ preferences. I still prefer Thailand clothes/bags. But if you are in Vietnam, please try their coffee. Buy the ground ones and bring home. I tried and had bought the ground coffee brand-Trung Nguyen. I bought only 200gm and realised it is not enuff. You can negotiate there. It is totally awesome. I planned to get my colleague to buy more for me, who will be going in Jan with our 2nd batch of colleagues.

Other than that, just stay safe like you always do anywhere. And if you are not sure how to cross the road like Hans did, get someone like me who seems and look as if confident to cross the road together. In which I literally did help him to cross the road with confidence, however, this time I had accidentally screamed when out of nowhere a motorbike appeared at my right. (Sometimes, I just wonder whether Hans is really from M’sia, I thought he should be more pro than me to cross that type of havoc roads.)

 

Adieus Amigos…từng yêu bao giờ

 

Check out my trip to India for a wedding and the survivor adventure here:

 

All Rights Reserved including Pictures © Siti Sulianah/S.Sulianah
For Hotels reviews, my Tripadvisor : SnixySwift

4 Comments

4 thoughts on “Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

  1. LAJ

    Wow… It was stunning blog. Well done Siti. Two Thumbs up.

  2. Kavitha

    Great writing…original …as it is brought out from every moment you experienced. keep going!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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