I have finally arrived in Ho Chi Minh City after the long bus ride to cross the border of Cambodia and Vietnam from Phnom Penh.
Since I knew that the long trips and several days of DIY adventures in four cities and 3 countries will wear me out, I decided to book an organized tour in the Ho Chi Minh countryside. I only have a day to enjoy myself in this beautiful city so I made the most of the night and roamed around as I tried out several food stalls and immerse myself in the vibrant city noises.
Last day of my Indochina adventure
Since my itinerary was outside the city and the trips take about an hour to reach for each destinations, I booked a packaged tour with Kim Travel. It was way more convenient since the van will pick you up in your guesthouse.
Our guide, Ben picked me up from my place and off we headed outside the city. He never failed to entertain us with his interesting briefing. He also gave us free bottled water, turned the van’s wifi on, and played a documentary about the Cu Chi Tunnels. The trip hadn’t started yet and I was already getting impressed.
First in the list of interesting places to see that day was a boutique shop called Handicapped Handicrafts. It is an art shop and all of its works are hand made by persons with disabilities. It was amazing to see them work intricately using eggshells and lacquer. Their masterpieces are then displayed in a separate room where visitors can buy them.
I have also found out that the method they use is an ancient Vietnamese form of art with a French influence in it. This type of genre is known in Vietnam as Sơn Mài.
We then found ourselves on the road again after about 20 minutes. It will take us another 30 minutes to the Cu Chi Tunnels when I noticed hectares upon hectares of trees. Ben told us that those were rubber trees. I was immediately intrigued because it was the first time I saw that many rubber trees.
To the Cu Chi Tunnels
We arrived in the admission area at passed 9am. We were welcomed by several war artifacts such as bombs, big guns, and other weapons used by the Viet Cong and the Americans during the 20 year war.
The real attractions were within a vast foresty path where guides will lead you to several interesting things. First of which is a replica of one of the entrances to the tunnels.
The leaves emulated the camouflage to hide these entrances during the Vietnam war. Tourists took turns in trying out the small, cramped, and dark Viet Cong hideout. I also tried to squeeze my way in which I found a bit difficult. Our guide told us that the replica was made for tourists to fit easily inside, imagine the original tunnel entrances where the holes were only almost the size of your two feet!
The Cu Chi Tunnels are just some of the many networks of tunnels all over Vietnam. What’s amazing about this is that it didn’t just serve as a hiding place, but also as shelter, hospital, communication, and pathways for supplies. This made me start to admire the Vietnamese soldiers for such cleverness.
Viet Cong Ingenuity
We noticed several holes on the ground as we moved along. Our guide informed us that the holes served as ventilation for the soldiers underneath the multi-leveled tunnel. It was amazing how they fit inside, not to mention live and recover there. Ben said they dug a very long pipeline so that the smoke will have plenty of time to be dispersed. That way, smoke will be thinner when it goes out of the tunnel. Another is if ever Americans will detect the thin smoke and decided to bomb the area, the Viet Cong will still be safe because of their distance from the vents. Geniuses!
What made the enemies have a hard time dealing with the Vietnamese soldiers were the traps laid out all over the jungle terrain. One careless move and the soldier’s gut or limbs will go bye bye. To add to the fatality, they even add snake venom on the tips of the spikes.
The Viet Cong’s objective was not just to kill but also to maim the enemy soldiers severely that they would wear out their medical supplies.
And how do they get those nails and spikes for the traps? They saw off enemy missiles and weapons and turn the scraps against their previous owners.
Another exciting part of the tour is a shooting range where you can try different types of weapons used during the Vietnam War.
Inside the tunnel
We were given a chance to enter a portion of the tunnel which I think was a scary experience for the claustrophobic. The trip is estimated to be about a hundred or so meters of dark, cramped and winding network of underground pathway. You are crouched all throughout and your shoulders brush against the walls as you go along.
The photo above appears to be bright because of the camera flash, but in reality, it was this dark:
People who are prone of heat stroke and have other health issues were not encouraged to try the tunnel, and if ever you want to get out in the middle of it, there were escape routes for every five or ten meters.
Spent because of all the Cu Chi tunnel adventures, we hopped back in the van and were taken to a restaurant where we were served complimentary lunch.
This part exceeded my expectation of the itinerary because I didn’t expect them to serve us that many food. And the good news is it was only four of us guests so we have the whole table for ourselves.
Mekong River ride
We made our way to the Mekong riverbanks after the sumptuous meal. We had to cross the river to another island in order for us to experience what I have been looking forward to. Ride a small boat along the Mekong Delta.
We were surprised to see what was on the other side. Instead of the delta, we were welcomed by a manufacturing facility where they make different types of exotic candies.
Ben explained to us how it’s made and even offered us to try freshly made ones.
And we were finally able to reach the highlight of the day. We were given a traditional conical hat called a nón lá. With our cameras on and smile on our faces, the paddler made its way through the congested waterway.
It was an amazing experience. It may have ended faster than expected but I think it was all worth it. Ben then lead us to a house with other visitors which I thought was a restaurant. We were then served different types of fruits while performers sang traditional Vietnamese songs. Is this still part of the itinerary? I believe I haven’t read about this.
It was time for us to go back to the mainland by midday. Just when I thought we will be lead to the boat, I was wrong. I was surprised when a horse carriage was waiting for us outside the vicinity.
Before going back, Ben showed us the final attraction which was a bee farm in the area. He showed us how they obtain honey from these bees.
He then offered us tea with real honey in it but we were already so full because of all the eating during the day.
We went back with smiles on our faces and stories to take home with us. It took us more than two hours to get back to the city and drop us off in our our respective hotels and guest houses.
My flight was at 1am and I was back in district 1 at around 6pm. I started the night by having a bowl of Pho before checking out to roam around the city.
Ho Chi Minh City is one of my favorite places in Asia. Though I just barely scratched the surface because of my short stay, I can say that my trip his was indeed worthwhile. I find the people friendly, accommodating, and warm to tourists.
The places within the city are eye candies especially at night, and I find it easy to navigate the places despite the whizzing motorcycles.
My trip to the Cu Chi tunnels made me witness the resourcefulness and admirable prowess of the Vietnamese people. The way they lived an enduring life within the tunnels and using enemy weapons against them made me look up to them and their history even more.
Last night in Saigon
Pressed for time, I walked within the city to visit the French inspired Notre Dame Cathedral and Saigon Cental Post Office.
I then hailed a cab to drive me to the airport for my flight back to Manila.
For itinerary, slot availability and fees, please contact Kim Travel.
- Website: http://www.kimtravel.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kimtravel.fanpage/
- Contact number: +84 839205552
- Email: email@example.com