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Ho Chi Minh City

July 9th, 2009

We arrived in to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) fairly late in the day and were quickly taking another one of Charles’ (dis)orientation walks around the main part of the city. Obviously a working city Saigon lacks the charm of other Vietnamese cities but in some ways this makes it more interesting, especially given the insane amount of (generally scooter) traffic on the roads and the requirement to forget the highway code altogether when crossing the road. The first night was spent familiarising ourselves with the city, some dinner and then a night out in (I think) Go Go Bar. This was not quite the type of establishment you’d expect it to be but the cocktails were strong (In fact the Go Go Slammer nearly floored me) and the music was good.

We got up early(ish) the next day to go visit the Cu Chi Tunnels northwest of Saigon. These tunnels were begun in 1940 and supported the Vietcong during the American War. At there greatest they were over 250kms long and were built on 3 different levels to support the Vietcong, if necessary, for weeks at a time. The tunnels themselves are very small, being dug to allow the smaller Vietnamese stature through the tunnels but being prohibitive for all but the smallest American. Original Tunnel Entrance Both the tunnels and the ground above the tunnels was laced with various types of booby trap. Demonstrated in the museum they are truly horrific, usually made from American ordnance and involving a quick and painful fall into/on to it. In fairness though the Americans didn’t exactly pull any punches with their weapons. In order to keep a fresh air supply the tunnels have shafts going to the surface. Obviously these would be a prime target for destruction, by the americans, but were ingeniously hidden within termite mounds. The museum itself is good fun, an amusing propaganda video on the way in shows off a few “American Killer Heroes” - those Vietcong who killed an American. Along with a few original tunnels there are also a few “modified” tunnels for tourists (i.e. fat westerners) to go through. These were good fun, slightly claustrophobic with absolutely no light at all, save for the guide up front who kept taking the piss out of us, as well as pointing out the very real scorpions on the ground.

Having visited the tunnels we headed back to Saigon to say goodbye to a few of the people who had been with us and then welcome a few newcomers to the group. Having done that we headed off to the War Museum. A chilling collection of photos as well as an excellent collection of weaponry makes this museum a definite highlight. It’s here where some perspective is put on the differences in weaponry between the americans and the vietcong. The biggest bomb there making this all too evident, being about 20 times as big as me, and able to completely destroy everything in a 500 metre radius. Crazy.

The evening was spent saying bye to the rest of the group as they took the night train to Nha Trang and we stayed behind to watch the champions league final (less said the better I think.) We began the night by going for dinner with a couple of girls from the trip and then off to a cowboy bar (of sorts) suggested by one of the girls. We were given our own waitress (for the night) and having had a beer realised that it was, in fact, some sort of escort bar. It was a bit weird really, definitely for sad old men, some of them didn’t even talk to the girls, just had them sitting there. Anyway, we sacked that off and headed back to the hotel for some sleep before the game. Having watched the game we got back to bed and then left Saigon by plane the following morning.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
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