After we arrived at the train station in Ho Chi Minh, we got a few things organized and freshened up a little bit. We then had to figure out a way to get to the Sinh Tourist office for our morning tour! The people at the tourist information office weren’t that helpful, but there was a Vietnamese man that overheard me and came to help me out. He spoke English fantastically. Right before he had to run off and catch his train, he was telling me that we could hire guys on scooters.
It seemed that if you see a guy sitting on a scooter not doing anything, you could walk up and ask for a ride and how much it’ll cost. There were signs or anything to tell us this is a business or organization of any kind, but we tried it anyways. We walked up to a few guys on scooters and showed them the address we needed to go, discussed prices, and were off! Scooters are a way of life around here… They’re EVERYWHERE!! And they weave in and out of traffic with such ease, and I don’t think I saw any accidents! Amazing. It’s like a school of fish… All going in the same general direction, but no organization to it and everyone takes their own route. It was pretty fun!
*Scooter photos are compliments of Miss Karima Walker!
Cu Chi Tunnels
After we got to the Sinh Tourist office, we waited around for a little bit before getting on a bus to go visit the Cu Chi Tunnels from the Vietnam War. It’s absolutely crazy to think about how the Cu Chi people lived during this time. The entire village worked together to build these tunnels and they lived down there, I do believe, throughout the entire time they were fighting the American troops. The would only come out at night, or sometimes during the day under tents so they could not be seen from the air. Food, water, and air were very scarce in the tunnels. They would come above ground at night to tend to their crops, among other things, but after the Americans destroyed their land, finding food was even more difficult. At times when air was really scarce, everyone in the tunnel would have to lay face down on the tunnel floors. This helped slow their breathing and help conserve air. And being in this small place for so long, sickness spread really fast, and most of the people were sick or diseased with something most of the time. Karima and I watched this documentary before we came… Pretty amazing! http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-cu-chi-tunnels/
The guerrillas built lots of well-hidden traps to catch American troops in.
There were also many different rooms built in the connected tunnels: living areas, storage facilities, weapon factories, field hospitals, command centers, and kitchens. We were able to walk through part of the tunnels. The tunnels were so small! And this is after they were made bigger to allow tourists to walk through. I can’t imagine how much smaller they were and thinking about having to live down there… No thank you! We walked through 20 meters of the tunnels. We could’ve walked 40 meters, but the people in front of us were walking sooooo slow and making all these really strange noises, like they were freaking out from claustrophobia or something. I’m fine with small spaces as long as I’m not stuck, and walking behind these people gave me that feeling from walking so slow. Karima and I didn’t feel very comfortable, so we just got out at the halfway point.
War Remnants Museum
After we got back to the Sinh Tourist office, we started walking towards the War Remnants Museum. It was probably about a 30-minute walk, but it seemed longer with the heat and our heavy backpacks! Thankfully the woman at the ticket booth let us store them in the office while we walked through the museum.
The museum was a little intense. There are pictures and facts everywhere. It wasn’t the type of museum that pointed fingers saying this side is horrible and it’s their fault, it just laid out the facts as they are, not choosing sides, but it definitely was not a place where I wanted to admit I was an American. It’s so unbelievable to see what people went through in this war.
There was a special display for Children of the War.
I’ve never been in a war and cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like or what it does to your way of thinking, but I think it’s absolutely horrible what some American soldiers (some, not all!) did to women, children, and the elderly. Some of the stories and pictures made me feel so ashamed to be American. Not to mention, Agent Orange. I honestly didn’t know much about it before I came to this museum, but wow. Seeing the pictures of people that were affected by it and of babies that are being born today that are still affected by it. It’s so sad and depressing. Majority of these people were civilians.
After the museum, we walked around looking for some pho! (Pho is a flat noodle soup and a traditional Vietnamese dish.) I had mine with beef… Yum!
When we were finished, we walked around to find a way to the airport. We found some guys on scooters. After we agreed on a price, we were off! Karima’s driver was probably in his 40’s and mine barely looked like was out of high school. I was a little nervous about this, and rightfully so! Almost got into a couple collisions within the first 5 minutes! Eeeek! (Don’t worry, Mom. I was fine and I had traveler’s insurance.) It was better after a while when the traffic wasn’t so congested and it was a nice little night ride. I was very happy to finally get to the airport though! Once we got off, Karima’s driver (who seemed to be in charge) changed the price on us and wanted double what we had agreed upon. Him and Karima were going back and forth for a little bit and she kept explaining that he said the cheaper price. He eventually gave up, but was pretty disappointed. Sorry guy, but thanks Karima!! I wouldn’t have had enough dong to cover it.
Walking towards the international terminal, I tripped on a little stump or something sticking out of the ground. I normally would’ve been able to catch myself, but when you have a huge backpack on that is probably pushing 35 pounds (that’s probably not accurate, but it was heavy!!) it’s much more difficult. So I hit the ground HARD! It hurt, but thankfully there were no cuts, just some bruises, a jammed big toe, and a jammed middle finger.
We flew to Singapore and had an 8-hour layover there. We stopped in the bathroom to clean up a little bit. (It had been a few days since we showered, and being on the train didn’t help.) My throat was starting to really bother me and my voice is starting to go. We found some comfy chairs to sleep in for the night and then I took some advice from Mama Karima to help my sore throat… Lots of water, some NyQuil, some good salty fries from Burger King, and wear a scarf while I sleep. (I think it helped a little, but I did lose my voice for the whole time we were in Phi Phi, Thailand.)
In the middle of the night, some security guards came to check our tickets and passports. I guess they tried to wake me up first to no avail. They told Karima to help wake me up, but I suddenly came out of sleep suddenly on my own. About 2 seconds after they left, I was passed right out again.