Chillin’ in Ho Chi Minh: Cu Chi Tunnels Tour (Day 3)

Day 3 of our trip to Ho Chi Minh started out pretty much like our Day 2 wherein we got up extra early for the day’s activities. For our third day, we were bound for the Cu Chi Tunnels!  We also booked this tour through the hotel, being too lazy to check out other offers.  The half-day Cu Chi Tunnels tour cost us 410,000 VND and the price included the transfers, an English-speaking guide and admission fees to the tunnels.  The four of us thought that the tour would start as early as our Mekong Delta tour, but apparently, the pick up would start at 8:30 instead of 7:30.  We all regretted having made that mistake. Check out our Mekong Delta adventure here.

Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

Our transportation to the Cu Chi Tunnels was another coaster van but with a different tour guide.  His name was Lu and his English was more difficult to understand than Ken’s, our tour guide during the Mekong Delta tour.  Anyway, he explained to us that the Cu Chi Tunnels was 70km away from Ho Chi Minh.  And at Vietnam’s maximum speed limit of 60kph, our expected travel time was 2 hours.  Our stopover for this tour was at the Handicapped Handicrafts where the people affected by Agent Orange create wonderful art pieces.

Handicapped Handicrafts, Ho Chi Minh - Chasing Jayce

the process

Handicapped Handicrafts - Chasing Jayce

the finished product (taking photos was prohibited but I did not know)

Upon arrival at the Cu Chi Tunnels, we were greeted by the sound of gunshots. These gunshots came from the firing range where tourists could try weapons.  These served as our background throughout the tour, adding more to the ambiance of going back in time during the Vietnam War. Cu Chi was the revolutionary base and thus, a bitter battleground during the Vietnam War. It is composed of an intricate tunnel system that served as a hiding space for both the Viet Cong and civilians alike.  It was their communication and supply route and also the means by which the civilians got to their farms at night in order to keep planting and getting food.  The tunnels also housed schools, hospitals and areas where homemade weapons were made.

Cu Chi Tunnel - Chasing Jayce

fit into that

Cu Chi Tunnels, Cu Chi - Chasing Jayce

props for him

Cu Chi Tunnel network - Chasing Jayce

Even with wider tunnels, the Americans were still wary because they were laced with booby traps or there was always the danger of getting lost.

Army Tank, Cu Chi Tunnels - Chasing Jayce

Hey, Joe, you wanna give it a go? (Oh! Cu Chi, Cu Chi, ya ya da-da!)

It was all so very impressive for me.  Lu showed us some of the ingenuous ways by which the Vietnamese tricked their American enemies.  For example, they designed sandals wherein the bigger part was towards the heel.  So, whenever their enemies would track them, they would think that they were going one way, but they had actually gone the other.  It seemed so well thought out.  They also had made some traps out of the bombs and missile shells.  These, together with the Asian-fit-only tunnels, had been essential to their victory.  If the War Remnants Museum caused me despair, the Cu Chi Tunnels definitely lifted my spirits up.

Cu Chi Tunnels Tour - Chasing Jayce

Emerging into the light.

traps, Cu Chi Tunnels - Chasing Jayce

traps

different traps, Cu Chi Tunnels - Chasing Jayce

more of them clever traps.

recycling weapons, Cu Chi Tunnels - Chasing Jayce

recycling weapons

Half-way through the tour, we had a snack break and we were offered the chance to use the guns that we heard as soon as we got there.  But none of us were very interested in that and since I was already hungry, I just ate an ice cream cone (20,000 VDN) and some corn on the cob (15,000 VND).  The tour resumed and we finally had the chance to go through some of the tunnels without getting dirty.  Hehe.

price list, Cu Chi Tunnels - Chasing Jayce

Interested in shooting guns? Here are the prices

shooting range, Cu Chi Tunnels - Chasing Jayce

the shooting range

 

inside the Cu Chi Tunnels - Chasing Jayce

Photo courtesy of: Edison Reyes

We had another break where we were offered some kamoteng kahoy snacks, served with sugar and crushed peanuts.  Then there was also jasmine tea.  After that a short film showing about the war then the tour was over.

snacks, , Cu Chi Tunnels - Chasing Jayce

war food

bombs, , Cu Chi Tunnels - Chasing Jayce

bombs

We got back to the hotel before the designated time of 3pm which gave us the chance to check out the Ben Thanh market.  We had already ran out of shirts to wear so we all bought some t-shirts.  Then we went back to the hotel and freshened up before finally having lunch.

Movie Time at the Galaxy Cinema

The day was still young and I wasn’t very tired yet so I convinced Moche to go to the cinemas with me.  It’s been a goal of mine to see a movie outside of the Philippines.  My attempt failed when I was in Jakarta but it was all a success in Ho Chi Minh.  Before going to the cinema, I made sure first that we would be seeing a film in English and the hotel receptionist told me that movies in Vietnam (or at least at the Galaxy Cinema) would be shown in English and just with Vietnamese subtitles.  The only movie we hadn’t seen was Into the Storm but I was still very excited.

Galaxy Cinema - Chasing Jayce

The Galaxy Cinema: where I first watched a movie outside of the Philippines

The Galaxy Cinema was only a couple of blocks from the hotel so we just walked to go there.  It was a stand alone cinema with just a couple of food places to eat at.  We were surprised because the movie ticket cost less than in the Philippines:  85,000 VND or around 170 PHP.  We got there early so we lined up for popcorn, too.  I bought a small bucket of cheese popcorn (42,000 VND) and a bottle of water (22,000 VND) for the movie.  The cheese popcorn was a bit weird because it’s sweet and cheesy at the same time.  But it was okay. The theater was smallish.  The seats were plush and comfortable and the seating arrangement made the screen easily viewable.  Moche was surprised because they were already in Dolby Surround 7.1. Unfortunately, since the movie was in English and majority of the audience was Vietnamese, it was a bit noisy inside, even while the movie was already playing.  It’s like everyone (or maybe it’s just our seatmates) just chatted away and read at the same time.  Poor us who needed to listen to the dialogue. Still, I had a great time. And on our way back to the hotel, I finally found a place that sold Banh Mi!  We bought one each and brought it back to the hotel as our dinner.  Then, it was lights out and recharging time for the following day:  shopping day!

Up Next:  Shopping in Ho Chi Minh

August 17, 2014

***All photos were taken using an iPhone 5

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Jayce Cairo

Jayce is a linguaphile who speaks four languages and currently works as a translator to finance her various interests. Scoring very high on “Openness to Experience” on the Big Five Personality Test, she is an avid globetrotter who aspires to retire at 35 and travel for the rest of her life.

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