Wednesday 20 July 2016. Photos and Videos.
Highlights: Cu Chi tunnels, final fitting for suits, Rex Hotel, Ben Thanh Market
The major highlight today was a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels which took us around 1.5 hours to get to. The trip there and back was made a little easier by the bus having included wifi which is something I rarely come across when travelling, I think the last time was in Iceland.
Our local guide did a good job during the trip explaining the history of Vietnam and Ho Chi Ming City in particular. We learnt that most of the locals still call the city Saigon and that is why most shops and hotels, including ours, still included Saigon in their business title.
The Cu Chi tunnels were used by the North Vietnam Communists and their supporters in the South. Officially the Vietnam War in this country is call the USA War of Agression (1964 to 1975). Seeing how the Viet Cong choose to live and fight you really get an appreciation of why the USA lost this war. The Viet Congress just wanted to win more.
The USA could rarely find the Veit Cong who for the most part stayed underground during the day and attacked at night. The tunnels and hiding places were too small for USA and their allied soldiers to use, they definitely could not go into them using all their weapons. The Viet Cong denied the USA a straight out fight on a battlefield and instead forced the USA to fight in limited space and on ground that the Viet Cong knew well. Check out a video of Josie disappearing into a well hidden tunnel.
The Viet Cong re-purposed exploded shells into small but deadly land mines and the metal into ground traps so the USA soldiers could never be sure what they were stepping on. Add to that they didn’t know if a Viet Cong was hiding behind them and about the kill them and you have the lightly armed inferior force with the upper hand.
I now have a better understanding of why the USA dropped Agent Orange, they needed to destroy the countryside and the advance the Viet Cong had. It’s considered a war crime by most of the world and the descendants of villagers and Viet Cong lives with the consequences as does a lot of USA soldiers who were als exposed.
A big shout out to our chief experience officer BenG who organised extra water bottles for us during the day. The heat and humidity was over the top, especially if you went into the bunkers. How people survived these conditions is very hard to understand. In the end the Allies really had no chance in these conditions without winning the hearts and minds of the locals which they failed to do.
We didn’t get back to Ho Chi Ming City until around 3 pm so we had a very late lunch and I visited the grand central Post Office to send some overdue postcards. In the evening I visited the Rex Hotel, the site that most foreign journalists based themselves during the Vietnam War. Now it is a grand hotel with excellent views of the city. I finished with a visit to the Ben Thanh Market which I didn’t enjoy as it seemed every stall owner was approaching me with several grabbing my arm. I didn’t stay long.
At around 10 pm Miss Bang Chau from Mien Nam Silk, our groups chosen dress and suit maker returned with the results of her and her colleagues work so far. First up the red dress that Josie had made was incredibly glamorous, I think she will make her girlfriends jealous.
I was very happy with the pinstripe suit presented to me. The black ‘plain’ suit wasn’t ready but as they are both the same style I only needed one for the right measurements and arrangements to be made. In the end it costed $380 USD for two suits which both have two pants, add in another $70 USD for shipping back to Melbourne and I have a very good deal on tailored suits. I am actually looking forward to wearing them both to work and especially to public speaking events.