Pt 4 – Travels with Charlie Through the Cu Chi Tunnels

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 continued…

We had become so adjusted to minivans that we were surprised when a big tour bus pulled up out front to take us to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Our guide introduced himself as Ang, but he said we could call him ‘Charlie’ (American military slang for the Viet Cong). This tour could get interesting! Ang stumbled on his English a little bit here and there, but he was full of funny jokes and was an awesome tour guide.

Before we arrived at the Cu Chi Tunnels, the bus made a pit stop at the “Handicapped Handicrafts for Agent Orange Victims.” I would have loved to buy something, but had no room to carry much of anything around with me.

Our tour of the tunnels began with an old, short film with actual footage of the Viet Cong, and how they built weapons and booby traps to injure and kill U.S. troops. The film had an eerily cheerful soundtrack which resembled something more along the lines of Looney Tunes or an old Disney cartoon.

Technically speaking, the Vietnamese won the war, which was something we had to keep reminding ourselves throughout our trip. Although it was a tragedy for all involved, to the Vietnamese, the war was won, making it more of a success story from their aspect. From the American perspective, the war was an epic failure with a colossal number of human casualties. Wherever we traveled in Vietnam, we were encountered by a very forgiving attitude. The Vietnamese seemed to acknowledge the past events without letting bitterness overcome. It was admirable.

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‘Charlie’ showed us one of the hidden entrances to the tunnels, and mentioned that they had to expand the size of it so more Westerners would fit inside. Several of us would get in the hole and Ang would kick a few leaves overtop and say, “Bye bye!”

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Ang told us several ways how the Viet Cong prevented detection from enemy troops. One technique was to rub hot peppers around entry holes so that search dogs would bypass them. Next we’d see some of the different ways that booby traps were disguised, as well as a couple more tunnel entrances (which were too narrow to comfortably travel through), and a U.S. tank that was left behind.

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What followed was a long row of life-sized models demonstrating the various traps used, all of which were very painful to visualize in use.

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The optional shooting range was next. Only two girls from our group decided to pay the 40,000 VND per bullet (about $2 at the time), used for the AK-47. After they were done, I was excited that we were finally able to crawl through the tunnels. It was fun, at least for me. I was feeling blessed that I had more of an advantage than most of the others in the group. I’m not only very short, but I also lack claustrophobia. A girl behind me was in a panic because this was her “worst nightmare” and wasn’t sure which direction she was supposed to go. I felt bad so I yelled to her so she knew which tunnel to turn down.

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The last part of the tour was a bunker where the Viet Cong would cook.

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We hopped off the bus which stopped nearby our hotel, then ate fried tofu at “Five Oyster” before Trevor purchased a “Shuttle Cock,” which was sort of like a Hacky Sack game that we have seen a lot of people playing with lately.

We got a couple beers at “Universal Pub” and watched as a bat flew inside and got stuck, landing on the guy’s shoulder in front of me. I was glad the dude didn’t freak out; I’m sure the bat was too! The bartender briefly shut off the lights and the bat found its way out of the bar. Funny enough, I saw the girl who tried to pickpocket me the day prior. I gave her a dirty look to let her know I remembered her face. She was quick to look away. No more would become of it.


Jump Back to Part 3: Tiny Coffees, Tower Views & Pineapples

Jump Ahead to Part 5: A Post Office, Ring Tones & Sleeper Bus to Da Lat

OR

Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Busing Across the Border to Ho Chi Minh City

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