At 1:30 PM the monsoon rains came for us and so did our peppy tour guide for the Cu Chi tunnels. The foreigner-filled bus took an hour and a half ride out of Ho Chi Minh and through farmlands, industrial parks, battered neighborhoods with a lot of stray dogs and roadside hammocks, and, of course, a ton of rubber trees, to the heart of Cu Chi, where the famous Vietnam War-time Cu Chi tunnels can be found (and toured, climbed-in-to, and explored). The whole thing was an experience, to say the least.
Stepping off the bus was like going back in time- at least once you look past the gift shop- to a place that no American should feel comfortable in, ever. We watched a video that showed how the tunnels were constructed and what they were used for during the Vietnam War. It gave us background information and taught us that history and truth don’t walk hand-in-hand most times. I couldn’t help but wonder what the Germans, Canadians, and Aussies sitting among us took from the Vietnamese history lesson.
We watched demonstrations of the many weapons and traps used to slice, pierce, puncture, and dice American soldiers. It was unnerving.
Next, our petite Vietnamese guide led us down into the tunnels where hundreds of Viet Cong guerrillas hid from American forces; they would only come out of the disease, vermin, and insect-ridden spaces during the night to collect supplies, bathe, or engage in battle. Forty suffocating, pitch-black, steaming-hot, extremely cramped meters later, our foreign-tourist string of heavily perspiring bodies and thumping hearts was ready to hit the road.
We did find a restaurant called Santa Cafe near our hostel with about 300 items on the menu, though. The boys got pizza and us girls stuck to the Vietnamese meat-vegetable-rice-and-something-funky variations we are beginning to get used to.