Ho Chi Minh City and the Cu Chi Tunnels

We finally reached the old capital of South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon.

When we arrived around 9pm, we were helped by a little old lady. I’m not sure what she was getting out of the deal, so we were wary of where she was taking us. But we told her we wanted an air-conditioned room, with wifi, and clean sheets for $8.00 and she took us to several guesthouses in the backpackers area, none of which were really exactly what we were looking for. When we were about to give up, she said she had one final last hope for us to be happy. (a little dramatic, but maybe we were being a little too picky in her eyes)

She took us down a very residential alley, where all of the french doors were open to the living rooms of each house we passed so we could see right in to the families that were sitting on their polished tile floors watching Vietnamese game shows and soap operas while the women were right outside taking down laundry or squatting over hot grills with pots full of chicken feet and who knows what else. Their new shoes were even lined up right on the street outside their doors. Without trying to be too intrusive, we also noticed that in almost every one of the homes, there seemed to be at least one disabled person, usually one of the children. Some were missing limbs, some had heads that seemed much to large for their bodies, and some just seemed to be quadriplegic laying on the floor in front of the TV with the rest of the family.

After several twists and turns, we made it to a very clean home that had a small sign on the doorway claiming to be a homestay/guesthouse. A well dressed man with slicked back gelled hair, huge diamond earrings, and a severely sassy attitude greeted us and showed us to the available room. Did I mention that he was also around 4 feet tall and was lacking what most people would consider arms? The room was clean and quiet and seemed to meet all of our expectations, except for the price: $14 with air-conditioning, or $10 without. We started to get into our Vietnamese bargaining mode, but he cut us off and said, “You have no reason to not stay here, it is perfect for you, do you have any problems with the room?” and we were stumped, and exhausted. He was the first person to tell it to us straight and Kelly and I were so busy trying to figure out how his hair was so perfectly gelled that we gave in and took the room.

We didn’t take too many photos in Ho Chi Min City. Because we were warned of pick pockets and purse thieves, the camera was largely locked up in our motel room. We spent most of the scorching hot days inside in places like the War Remnants Museum, which was a slightly skewed look at the American War (we know it as the Vietnam war) and how the Americans came over and slaughtered the Vietnamese people, but they overcame and pushed America out. Most of the museum goers were Asian or European. It was one place where it felt like a hostile environment to be an American.

We also learned a lot about the victims of Agent Orange at the museum. Agent Orange is the code name for one of the herbicides used by the US Military. During the Vietnam war, between 1962 and 1971, the they sprayed 20,000,000 US gallons over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  The goal was to deforest the rural areas where the guerrillas were hiding their camps. They had no idea what the effects would be to the humans that came into contact with it, or the children of those men. People who live in Saigon now are just now showing effects of the damage it caused. After going to the Museum, we realized that our alley we were staying on was not a special Agent Orange alley, but just a common sight in Vietnam.

I’m not going to put any of the graphic images that represent what we saw, but if you would like a representation feel free to google some images, or just click here. *VERY GRAPHIC*

We also took a few day trips while we were in the sweltering heat of Saigon. We went to their AWESOME WATER PARK, only a few minutes outside of the city. We had a great time cooling off. Not to mentions, there were absolutely no lines. It was a full sized water park and there were probably no more than thirty people there. And the Vietnamese mothers and children that were there were completely clothed. We saw a woman get into the wave pool wearing a crushed velvet jacket, jeans, and a hat. They are either really modest or really don’t want to get a tan. Probably both.

 

Our other trip we took was out to see the CuChi Tunnels (I know, I know, but it’s pronounced Choo-Chee).  These are tunnels that the Viet Cong (Vietnamese Guerrilla fighters) used to hide from US troops during the Vietnam War. We saw hideouts that were miles long and virtually undetected.

This is a scale model of the tunnels in the area we were visiting

Death traps for those pesky American soldiers

more booby traps

Kelly hanging out with some Viet Cong

Entrance to the tunnels

going into hiding...

Kelly is doing a great job, considering these tunnels are made for people half our size.

After we made it through the tunnels, they show us how rice paper is made and give us some refreshments like what the Vietnamese soldiers would have had. Strange hard cookies and grass-flavored tea… mmm

sun drying rice paper on racks

After we got back to Saigon, we hopped on the afternoon bus that would lead us over the border into CAMBODIA!

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