Goooodbye, Vietnam!

Short and sweet for now – apologies for the delay, but I’ve been melting in the heat, lacking reliable internet access, and picked up a weird cold/flu hybrid to boot. After weeks of wondering why it was so damn cold in this neck of the woods, the heat and humidity finally caught up with us full-time. So glad I had leather boots and a wool coat made in Hoi An.

For our final day in Vietnam, we went to the Mekong Delta and cruised in a riverboat. We stopped along the way to take a lazy side trip through some of the canals before stopping for lunch at a riverside restaurant. Spending several hours slowly making our way across the water, savouring the peace and tranquility, was the perfect anecdote to the hectic pace of Vietnam. The breeze was lovely, as were the giant coconuts we sipped on during the ride.

After returning to Ho Chi Minh City, we finally got pho (at a joint that looked a bit nondescript from the outside, but it had photos of Bill Clinton with the staff on the walls so I figured if it’s good enough for Bubba, it’s good enough for me. And it was. Perfect way to end Vietnam. Well, getting a street beer would have finished it off, but there was a thunderstorm outside that made that a tad difficult.

The next morning we packed onto a public bus and headed to the border for our fourth country – Cambodia. It was a long drive, and much of it was spent watching bad American movies (Rush Hour 3, The Happening). There was something rather…strange…about watching flicks in English, surrounded by Vietnamese and Cambodians who likely didn’t understand half of it (although let’s be honest, does anyone understand M. Night Shyamalan movies?). After a confusing border crossing (they check your temperature with a radar gun, who knew) and an even more confusing lunch stop (more fried rice, hurray), we began the drive to Phnom Penh…before the AC broke down and we sat baking on the side of the road in 40 degree heat.

Welcome to Cambodia.

Stuffing Tourists Into the Cu-Chi Tunnels

Ever have those moments where you laugh at something (internally, of course), and then think “Well crap, I’m going to hell for that”?

I did that yesterday.

Our group is currently in Ho Chi Minh City. When not sweating off pounds (hopefully) from the high humidity, or marvelling at the millions of scooters crammed in the streets, we’ve been fitting in some site-seeing. Yesterday we had a very educational (nerdy, hurrah!) day learning more about the Vietnam (or “American”) War. We spent the morning exploring the Cu-Chi Tunnels, a massive network of tunnels used extensively by the Viet Cong during the war. I had heard a bit about the tunnels in history class, and found it fascinating to see the many uses that these had and how well-planned they were.

As part of the tour, we were able to explore the tunnels, which have been widened for tourists, quite considerably in some spots (such as the one I’m squatting in). Despite the widening I found it EXTREMELY claustrophobic – I only went about 25 metres before bailing at the first exit (and we were also creating a bit of a hilarious traffic jam down there as it was pitch black and we kept slamming into each other’s behinds). To get through the tunnels you essentially walk in a crouching position – imagine living down there while hearing all the chaos of war above you. Just incredible.

In addition to wandering the tunnels and seeing how the typical way of life would have been at the time, you could also try to squeeze into one of the original entrances, sneakily hidden on the forest floor. A few group members took the plunge and sunk down into the hole. Then one of the Americans piped up that she wanted to try. 

Bless her. She’s a sweet lady, but a bit on the heftier side. I looked at the tiny rectangular opening and debated whether my shoulders and hips would fit. This woman is…quite a bit larger than me. So when she excitedly hopped over to the hole, I looked at her, looked at the hole in the ground, looked back at her, and imagined a life-sized version of that game we all played in our early days of school with the square holes and the round pegs. And I thought to myself, “this…may not work out so well.”

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