Cu Chi Tunnels

This week it became more apparent than ever that the kids are growing up compared to when we started 5 months ago! This week alone, Theo learned how to crawl off the bed (no crib here) and open his bedroom door. He’s starting to understand the meaning of “no”, although I think it’s more my hand gesture rather than the word itself. He happily sits on my lap during car rides (no seat belts over here!) and doesn’t try to squirm out of my hold anymore. Eleanor, on the other hand, started to test out being defiant. One day she refused to pick up her puzzle pieces so I told her if she didn’t pick them up, I was going to take them away. She responded matter-of-factly, “That’s ok. You can throw them in the garbage and we can get new puzzle pieces at the next house.” Side note: We either leave or throw away the few toys when we pack up each house, so in her mind, me threatening to take them away was no different than when we pack up and move to a new place. So much for that threat working.

On Monday, I took the kids to the highly regarded Snap Café which has a playground/sand pit in the back and picnic tables for parents to eat at and still be able to watch the kids. I thought we’d have a bit more luck playing outside because the playground was shaded. Again, I was wrong. The kids lasted all of 30 minutes in the humidity before they were zapped (daily temps have been in the high 90’s).

Snap Cafe

Snap Cafe

 

The other days with the kids were spent at TiniWorld (the awesome indoor play area), Sky Park (rooftop splash park), and at a new park for us called Tao Danh Park. In keeping with the growing up theme for this week, Theo decided to go head first down slides. Prior to now, I’ve had him crawl up the stairs, then I situate him to go feet first, and give him a little boost because he couldn’t figure out how to maneuver himself. For whatever reason, he decided to crawl up the stairs, crawl right to the slide, and moved himself to go headfirst. He had the biggest smile on his face after he got to the bottom. He then went directly from the 3 foot slide to the 10 foot slide and again, went head first. We’re in trouble now! I think we’ve entered a whole new realm for Theo and there’s no turning back now. Afterwards and for the next few days, I tried to teach him to go feet first both on his stomach and on his butt. While he figured both alternative ways out, it’s very clear he prefers headfirst (got a little thrill-seeker on our hands) and somehow managed to figure out how to use his hands to either slow down or stop himself all together on any point of the slide. While my nerves don’t spike up anymore when he goes headfirst, it totally freaks out other parents. It’s hilarious to watch their reaction because I probably looked the same way the first couple of times.

On Wednesday, I took my highly anticipated half day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels and it lived up to my expectations! The place was sooooo cool! The history behind Cu Chi Tunnels is Cu Chi was a village. To protect themselves from the war, the villagers ended up moving their village underground via tunnels. By the end of the war, they had dug 250km of tunnels which reached Cambodia. The underground tunnels had three layers. The first layer, located three km underground, was for soldiers . The second layer, six km underground, was for the common areas (hospital, kitchen, etc.) The third layer, 10 km down, was where the villagers slept and also included a bomb shelter.

I booked a small group tour so I ended up with 7 other people (2 Americans, 2 Germans, 2 New Zealanders, and 1 Aussie). On the way to the tunnels, we stopped at the Handicapped Handcrafts factory. This factory employs those who have been affected by Agent Orange, whether directly from the war or from birth defects from the generation after. All the crafts were handmade and absolutely stunning. We were able to see the process each craft goes through as well as the finished product. Agent Orange is everywhere here!

As with the War Remnants Museum, Americans were not highly regarded at the tunnels. We started off with a 20 minute documentary on the tunnels and wow, again, they didn’t hold anything back in both the footage that was shown as well as their hatred

Cu Chi Tunnels 7

Clipping Armpit Trap

to America. We were able to see replicas of the hospital, kitchen, and weapons prepping area. In order to protect the secrets of the tunnels, no maps were ever made. The villagers and soldiers had to memorize the layout of the tunnels. I learned that women fought at night so they wore black. Men fought during the day so they wore cameo. They made their sandals out of old tires and manufactured them so you could slip them on either forwards or backwards. This made it difficult for the enemy to track where their footprints because the imprint always looked like they were going into the forest instead of back and forth between the water and the forest. The Viet Cong (Communist supporters in South Vietnam) used schrapnel from American bombs as well as duds and manufactured them into weapons to  later be used in their traps. These people were clever and very resourceful! I wonder what all Americans did. What tricks did we have up our sleeves? 

 

 

Cu Chi Tunnels 14

I tried a typical meal for the Viet Cong – Tapioca with peanuts and tea. Tapioca looked like a potato and didn’t have much flavor.

Towards the end, you were able to pay 500,000 VND ($22 USD) to shoot AK-47s or some other gun commonly used in the war. I chose not to do this as A) I’ve already shot AK-47s and B) I found it extremely disrespectful. However, they know tourists will pay for the experience so they might as well capitalize on it.

 

The best part of the tunnels was when we got to walk/crawl in them.  The first segment was 40 meters and we had a staff member lead us through with a flashlight. There was an exit 20 meters in if you didn’t like it. In order to fit through the tunnel, you had to squat down as low as you could and then walk in that position the whole length. Some of the taller people ended up crawling (These tunnels were made bigger for tourists. The actual tunnels were only half a meter by 60cm).

Cu Chi Tunnels 2

Not much extra room coming out of the tunnel

After the 40 meters, our tour guide said we could go in a 100 meter tunnel. “Yes! That would be so awesome!” One of the New Zealanders and I were the only ones interested in the longer tunnel. Our tour guide led us to the opening and said, “Good luck. We’ll see you at the end. There’s only one way to go and no exits part of the way through. Oh, and you don’t get a leader”. We weren’t sure if he was joking or serious so we got into the tunnel and started making our way. There were dim lights throughout so we could at least see a little bit. About 50 meters in, there are no more lights and as we’re feeling our way around, we noticed there was a drop. After some slight freaking out (pretty sure I said let’s just turn around about five times), I decided to use the flashlight on my phone and we jumped down to the next level as we could see a glimmer of light. We used my flashlight the remainder of the way and successfully made it the full 100 meters! It was so freaking cool but there is no way I could live in underground tunnels.

 

 

Backpackers Street 3

Backpacker district

I ended up making friends with the lone Australian on the trip. She has a super interesting backstory (the highlights are at the age of 21, she took on the role of caregiver to her 17 year old sister’s baby; she has a long-term, live-in boyfriend who doesn’t enjoy traveling so she jetsets off by herself twice a year for a week at a time while her parents watch the kid; she’s hiking Mt. Fuji this July) and we ended up grabbing some drinks that night in the backpackers district. Sunday was spent wandering around the city with her and ended with pedicures and foot massages. I love being back in the land of cheap massages!

 

 

Starlight Bridge

Starlight Bridge (An Sao Bridge)

 

 

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