After another night of rain, dinner and beers, we headed out the next morning to join our tour out to the Cu Chi tunnels. These tunnels were part of a 250km, multi-level tunnel system used by the Viet Cong to avoid the guns, bombs and napalm of the US forces during the war. There are loads of bus tours that can take you out there for a few dollars, but we decided to pay slightly more and go one way by boat along the Saigon River. Amazingly enough it was raining when we started out just after 8am. Who would have thought?
The boat trip lasted a couple of hours or so, and we got to see a few cliched images of Vietnam – fishermen in conical hats on tiny junks, forest on either side, and tin shacks perched precariously on the banks and looking like a decent gust of wind would send them into the river.
The rain came and went, but by the time we arrived at Ben Dinh it had disappeared for a while. Which I was pretty pleased about really, it was wet enough underfoot on the clay trails without having to deal with it from above as well. After enduring an old VC propaganda film and a more interesting spiel from the tour guide with some of the history and details of the tunnel network, we walked from area to area – cooking rooms, weapon rooms, samples of many types of trap, etc – before coming out to a firing range with a variety of different weapons that you could shoot several rounds from. Not usually my thing, but obviously I couldn’t let Deano get bragging rights so my choice was the AK47 which I thought had a decent kick and was plenty loud enough – until he let his M60 off. Holy crap, that thing is enough to cause some serious hearing loss. Was fun though, in a sweaty guy kinda way, and probably not something I’ll get a chance to do again in a hurry.
Next up was the reason we’d all taken the trip out there – the tunnels. These ones have actually been enlarged so that Westerners can fit into them but the combination of the heat, lack of light and cramped conditions led to some fairly stressed members of the party around us. They certainly aren’t wide enough to walk through – more of a shuffling crouch at best – and gives you an immense respect for the VC who lived and travelled through these tunnels for so long, with bombs dropping all around and squads of US soldiers hunting for any sign of smoke or people. Incredible.
The rain came back as we finished the tour, and there was a fair degree of messing around involved in getting people onto buses for some reason, but all’s well that ends well and we got back to Saigon in the late afternoon. Precipitation put paid to our plans to explore further afield than our local area, so dinner & beers just down the road it was. I guess because we’re in the backpacker district we’re paying more than the locals, but it’s still very cheap compared to anywhere in the Western world – maybe NZD $6 or $7 for dinner, and large beers for a couple of dollars or less.
Today we were up stupidly early (5.30am … ick) to catch the 8 o’clock flight to Nha Trang. Yeah yeah, I know, copping out catching the plane when there was an 11 hour bus ride on offer instead. Shame. A half hour shuttle bus ride and a bit of pack humping later, we’d found our hotel, checked in and headed for the beach. Beautiful weather, gorgeous beach and water so warm it feels like you’re swimming in the bathtub. And barely a cloud in the sky. Not a bad way to spend the morning I guess. You know, if I have to. Lunch and a beer beside the water, then a wander up the beach to see what there was to see. Kite surfing, jetskis, sailing dinghies and a dead pig on the high tide line, apparently. Now there’s something you don’t see every day.
A stroll around town and a shower later, and it’s time to find some dinner again. Life just gets harder every day…