10th May 2012

I’m on all fours. The walls are closing around me. Every time I move forward, they come closer and closer…and closer. The air is stale and hot and I wrest with my mind not to freak out. And I cannot see a thing. I’ve gone past the point of return. Keep moving. My shoulders are squeezing through. Back scraping on the ceiling pressing down on me. I dare not breathe deeply for fear of being stuck. Where am I? The Cu Chi Tunnels.

After a pleasant walking experience culminating with a visit to the War Remnants museum, I decided to find out more about the Vietnam War by going on a day excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels, just outside of Saigon.

What are the Cu Chi Tunnels you may ask? They were the grounds of the Viet Cong, the communists, who lived underground and expanded their tunnels to try and strike the American forces at night. The Cu Chi Tunnels must have been hell for the Viet Cong who had to crawl kilometres after kilometres like the experience I described above. It’s actually smaller than the one I went in and if I did go into the real tunnels, I would be stuck and left to rot forever. Not a happy thought.

Now, if I went on the tour myself, I would have deemed it acceptable but what really made the tour for me was my tour guide, Mr Bin! He was on the side of the Americans or rather the South Vietnamese who were fighting the Communists. He is an old fellow and he really recounted his experiences to us about his time. He has been in prison, seen his fiancĂ© shot in front of him, banished to America and unable to get a proper job as he worked with the Americans. He did get emotional at times and you did feel for him. He was very neutral in his view of the war but he uttered that the ‘war was a waste. No one won.’

We were led round the booby traps and living conditions of the Viet Cong and looked at the weapons still left behind. You could even shoot a gun if you wanted to. Matt had a go.

We were also asked to climb inside a hole where the Viet Cong would squat and surprise the American soldier if he walked past. I just about fit with my shoulders scraping through the hole. Can’t help it that I have strong, butch and manly shoulders…the curse of a fitty. It was truly weird and when it was Matt’s turn, Mr Bin decided to put the lid on and Matt stayed there for rather a long time. Did he suffocate?!

Then finally, We were asked to clamber in to the tunnels that would stretch 30m. It was totally hard going and as the experience described above, it was so hard and I admit I started panicking with 5m to spare as it was extremely tight and also the fact Matt’s bottom was wriggling in my face. See the photos underneath! The photos taken are when the tunnel was at its highest and widest…I didn’t take any when it was small as I was too busy…trying to stay alive…

It was a really good tour and I’m happy to hear the experiences of Mr Bin as it really brought the horrors of war into perspective. However, Mr Bin had a wicked sense of humour and I encourage you to go on his tour and find out why Vietnamese people have slanted eyes…guaranteed to make you laugh!

Part of the tour we went on was to visit a Pottery Village. The Pottery are made by handicapped people as a result of the Vietnam War both directly or indirectly. They are extremely skilled and my mouth dropped at the precision of their work. I also came face to face with the biggest vase in my life! I don’t think my mum would have appreciate me buying this vase for her!

Also, we checked out their finished products. Pretty neat if you ask me. I didn’t buy anything from the shop as it was bound to get smashed in my bag but to support their welfare, I bought a smoothie from their cafe. Probably the best smoothie I ever had!

Have you crawled in the Cu Chi Tunnels?

 

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