06 February 2010

Going UNDERGROUND in Chu Chi

Waking up on my 2nd day in Vietnam, I had this to greet me.
Good morning Saigon!
Morning in HCMC is amazing to watch when the people are about to go about their daily routines.
People were filling up the streets as if everything has been planned out for them EVERY DAY.
As you’ve probably known, I am not really into tour packages. Since Chu Chi (pronounced Ku Chi) is about 40 km from the city center, I had to take one this time. Booking through the hotel, it is 5 USD (RM17.50) for a half-day tour. Quite a good deal.
Tour operators in Vietnam are quite smart. They wouldn’t bring you right over to the intended destination. They’ve always got SOMEWHERE to stop by. On this one, they brought us here.
Vietnam was heavily bombarded with napalm bombs during the Vietnam War. They sipped into water supplies and air, resulting in permanent physical damages to almost 5 million Vietnamese. The ‘less smarter’ ones were forced to go doom and continue suffering while the ‘smarter ones’ were sent to work in a number of factories all over Saigon. This is just one of them.
And the products are just so fascinating to watch.
They’ve got just about everything that is made of just about anything.
Gotta tell you, they are all HAND-MADE. I was deeply amazed.
While my 'humanitarian sensibility' was tugging behind the back of my mind to contribute something by buying at least something, I had to say NO this time. I mean, my travelling budgets wouldn’t allow it, not when porcelain bangles like these were priced at 10 USD each.
And this black and white jar was priced at 169 USD. By current exchange rate, that is like RM590! All my flight tickets to Vietnam didn’t even cost me that much!
And I didn’t even want to think how much it would cost to ship things over to my place in Sabah.
But of course, I wouldn’t leave without taking some photo.
Pulling out from there, we were back on the road again. Mind to tell you that Chu Chi was and still is a rubber-tapping area. But unlike here in Malaysia (or at least Sabah that I know), rubber plants here seem to be so well-pruned and free of over grown grasses I wouldn’t mind rubber-tapping by rolling around from one tree to another.
You know you’re there when you see this map.
While most tour packages don’t usually include the entrance fee, don’t fret. Entrance fees to places of interest in Vietnam are all down to earth. And nothing is more welcoming than having a lady smiling at you at the ticket booth.
Here we go.
Chu Chi that I knew were full of underground tunnels so narrow the big-sized Americans got really fed up of playing cat and mouse they just threw smoky bombs into them to smother the smaller-sized Vietcongs to death. But what I saw was totally different.
All the countless forums and blogs that I read in the internet about Chu Chi were apparently downright lies. Crawling? NO lahh. We were dancing our way in what...
Of course it wasn’t the real tunnel. The real one has this as the entrance.
I had really wanted to volunteer to go in there but my protruding belly would not allow me to. SHIT! Although it looked so narrow, this nenek kebayan from England has had no problem wriggling her way in.
Frustrated that I couldn’t fit into that one, I was so ready to volunteer on this one.
Judging from the size of it, I didn’t think the whole 72kg of me would have any problem sliding my way into it. I was so ready to jump into it when the tour guide came up my way to stop me. And I was glad he did.
Phew! We were taken to a series of bobby traps that were formulated by the Vietcongs to send the Americans to perish.
I gotta say, they were both intelligent - and scary. I lost count at how many times I winced at the sight of them.  
But then, I would say the Vietcongs were very smart and intelligent in formulating all the deadly traps. Just bear in mind, it was the mighty Americans they were fighting against. They had this as a combating weapon.
The Vietcongs had this as a head-blowing weapon.
While some of the American bombs would fail to go off at times, the Vietkongs would collect each of them and turn them into their own weapons.
So, it’s like Americans for the Americans. They got killed by their own weapons. Smart, huhh?
While I had been hearing loud bangs ever since we set foot into the Chu Chi area, I had come to find out that they were actually coming from these.
Real guns. I was so tempted to try one but I hated WAR so much the idea of slugging a rifle was actually making me sick in my stomach. Say NO to war, say YES to peace. : =P But just in case you want to try it in any of your visits to Chu Chi, it’s 200,000 dongs (RM40) for a packet of 10 bullets. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t allow you to take single bullets. Just a few yards away from the rifle range, they’ve got this.
Somehow, they are not for sale (I asked). But then, they don’t look good to me anyway. So WTH.
Ohh, and they actually have an answer for everything like, how did they manage to build a mind-blogging web of underground tunnels that totals up to more than 200 km? The answer lies here.
A humble but realistic illustration. It is just so unthinkable how a hands-on digging like that can result in an underground tunnel that stretches out all the way to Cambodia.
Everything was just so basic that even sandals were made of tires.
Gotta say, good job Vietcongs!
Well, a tour to Chu Chi would not be complete if you don’t get to go inside the tunnel. You HAVE to go inside one of them. It is the closest you can go to being a Vietcong.
But then, you would have to keep up with having an ass wriggling right down your nose.
Some parts of the tunnel can be so dark it is just advisable you shout ‘FIRE IN THE WHOLE!’ before snapping a picture. This unfortunate man behind me must have been one of those American soldiers he got so terrified at the flash of my camera inside the hole. Poor him.
Unless you know where to put them, bringing your glasses might not be a good idea. Otherwise..
Uhuks. My rayband. This underground part of the tour involves a lot of crawling so you gotta be prepared go get messy and dirty. You’d have to expect to come out with smudges all over your face.
Ok. That was a lie. In fact, the tunnel has been widened out so big you can always be assured to come out clean. A little bit sweaty may be, but clean. :-P
Ohhh, how glad I was when the tour guide told us we would be served with lunch. All the crawling had somehow made me hungry. I thought I heard him say ‘MC Donald’. Instead.
Everybody was hungry so, WTH. A toss for the Vietcongs.
The last part of Chu Chi tour would be the viewing of video.
While I was prepared to watch a horrible video of people slaying into pieces of flesh and merciless killings of women and kids, I had to be amused to see how the war was presented in a series of video footages where Vietnamese woman and man warriors seemed to be having a good time playing hide and seek with the Americans. All I saw was happy shootings and killings. But then, PROPAGANDA is just so synonym with Vietnamese people, now and then. I am sure Mr. HCMC had seen to that.
Well, there goes my half-day tour to Chu Chi. I was sent back to my hotel and by 2.30pm, I was already lying on the bed of my hotel room to check emails and twittering.
I had at least one hour before hitting into the streets again.


kenwooi said...

wow.. i would love to go to that place! see bombs and all.. haha.. =)


Anonymous said...
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JIPP said...

Kenwooi: Oh yeah, you should go there. Enough of Europe, go experience the 3rd world. LOL!


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