Due to a combination of things, mainly our desire to spend more time in Nha Trang (the beach town), we ended up with hardly any time in Ho Chi Minh City.
The bus from Nha Trang took quite a while, it was supposed to take about 10 hours but I think it ended up being closer to 12 hours.
We were picked up by a mini bus shortly after 7am and after a bit of waiting around by the side of a road, another bus came to take us to Ho Chi Minh.
As we got off the bus, feeling stiff like the tin man from the wizard of oz, we were approached by the usual local taxi drivers.
We were only a few minutes walk to where our hostel was though so off we went and got checked in.
On the first day, we booked a tour to go and see the Cu Chi tunnels which is quite an interesting place.
It’s part of a network of underground tunnels that the Vietnamese used during the war with the US. Before going, we read up bits and bobs about it. As usual, there were mixed reviews. “don’t go, it’s a load of old propaganda rubbish”. “go, it’s an amazing day out”.
On the way there, our tour guide ‘handsome slim’ took us to a factory where people affected by agent orange (a chemical dropped on Vietnam by the US) have a workshop. They make laquer paintings and they are amazing.
All in, a small painting can take approx 2 months to complete. They have to soak the board that it’s made on, sand it, and make the painting itself. Some of the painting is made with broken egg shells that are ground down to give a 3d type effect.
From there, it was on to the tunnels, there aren’t really very much of them left which is a good thing as your average tourist wont fit down them.
There is a trap door style entrance, of which, there were several. These were covered in leafs and dirt so unless you knew what you were looking for, you’d be unable to find them.
At one point, the US army sent dogs to sniff out the enemy. The Vietnamese were quickly on to this and put black pepper and chillis around the place to put off the dogs.
They also took to washing with US brands of soap so that the dogs would think the smell is from a US soldier and not a Vietnamese soldier.
On the rare occassions that the US soldiers did make it into the tunnels, they were often captured and had their uniforms taken from them.
There is a part of the tunnels that you can crouch / crawl your way through but it’s really not recommend for anyone who has a fear of small spaces. I reckon anyone above 5ft in height can’t stand upright.
The tunnels are dark and very humid and warm. They are like being inside the pyramids in Giza – amazing to see but not a particularly comfortable experience.
This is the same tunnels that several of the Vietnamese lived in for weeks or months at a time.
Before the tunnels, you are taken to a firing range where they have all sorts of massive guns and live ammunition that you can pay to fire.
Some of the American people in the area seeemed to have a good knowledge of the weapons and were quite excited by the prospect of this. Prior to then, I had only really fired a water gun so I paid my money, got 10 of the cheapest (and smallest) bullets and off I went.
A worker loaded the bullets and I shot them into a mound of dirt across the other end of the firing range. I had nothing against the dirt but that was where the gun was pointed and I don’t know how to aim the thing so the dirt had to suffer.
After the tunnels, it was back to the city. You could either be dropped off at the war remnants museum or you could be dropped off at your accommodation.
We opted for the war museum.