Continuing the Adventure.. Day 2 Saigon
We were up early … today we were going to explore the Chu Chi Tunnels!
We traveled up to the country side in the big bus that was charted for us. Mr Yi, our tour guide, gave us a history lesson as we drove up.
He told us how it was like growing up during the Vietnam War (he was 9 years old then) and how his village was just 500m from an American Army Base camp. The Americans were kind to them but his family also had so be sympathizers to the Vietcong … they had to! If they were not .. they would be killed.
He talked about how the Americans bombers would let down bombs, how he’d climb up trees to count them as they exploded in the distance … they were always 15 or 30 or 45 explosions.
He was too young to be afraid … it was safe for him as the bombing was away from his village. as the American camp was so near, nonetheless, there were times when he said they hid and slept in their own tunnel, 3m deep under their house, where it was hot and dusty and full of insects … but safe.
When we arrived at the Chu Chi Tunnels we were given a briefing then walked through the complex where Vietnamese soldiers showed us how they hid the many entrances into the tunnels and how they had tunneled 3 levels deep, one level just about 4m below the surface, another about 6m where they lived in tunnels big enough to have meetings, cook, eat and hide … a whole village below the surface!
We were shown how they hid the smoke from the cooking, how they had schools and places to attend the wounded … even triangular underground rooms for the children, women and honeymooning couples to stay! They lived for 17 years underground … going above the surface to fight when they were ‘on duty’.
They showed us how they worked in teams … always digging more tunnels and getting rid of the earth by throwing it into the Mekong River so the digging would be undetected by the soldiers.
They cooked only in the early morning and created a series of chambers from the cooking area so the smoke would trickle out and look like part of the early morning mist … if the Americans saw smoke they would send planes to bomb the area from above
… so they were always invisible in the jungle, which was their home.
For 17 years they fought. They made traps, bombs out of shrapnel taken from the American bombs, always disappearing into the tunnels which were 200km long cris-crossing beneath the jungle itself.
Wow! I was amazed!!! What resilience … I cannot imagine living my life in such conditions! Every day they tunneled … it was part of their way of life!
My sons tried out shooting at a shooting range. We sampled the standard food they ate during the war … boiled tapioca dipped in salt. We even went into a short stretch of tunnel … not me though (yuck!) … apparently there were parts where they had to crawl and it was pitch dark!
It was such an amazing experience! …. and what I was left with, was a deep gratitude that we in Malaysia did not have to live like this … though my parents did for a short time experience war during the WW2 … my children and I live in wonderful, safe, peaceful Malaysia …. thank you God!
Then we returned for more serious shopping!!!