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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cu Chi Tunnel Tour and Our Last Night in Saigon

We booked a Cu Chi Tunnel Tour with our hotel for USD 5. We just paid them the fee and we were told that somebody will pick us up the next day at 8:00 AM.

We woke up a little early that day and waited for the pick-up. We bought bottles of water that we can take to the tour. Mr Bihn showed up at the hotel reception area looking for us and off we went. Then we went to 3 or 4 more hostels and picked up more tourists.We figured that the hotels are booking this tour with certain agencies and then the agency pools people altogether for a trip. We ended up filling 1 tour bus.

Our first stop was a Handicapped Crafts and Souvenir Shop. They sell all these amazing items in the photos below.

hand painted decors

The handicaps artworks were all beautiful. I would really want to bring some home but they were  expensive.

vases and jars

We enjoyed our short visit here. We actually saw how they do all these lovely works of art with their bare hands. If I only had a lot of money, I would've splurged on them.

colorful ornaments 

The Cu Chi Tunnel

We finally arrived at the Cu Chi Tunnel. It was about an hour and a half from the city. We paid the admission fee of VND 80,000 (USD 3.75 or PHP 150). As we all know, Vietnam has gone through several wars in past. The Cu Chi Tunnel was part of a colossal underground tunnel network underlying most part of the country.

First thing we did was watch a film. The short film shows the Vietnamese point of view of the war. Some Americans would probably feel awkward if not offended. The message it conveys is that Vietnam was once peaceful but then callously destroyed by the Americans. Yaiiks. Good thing there were no Americans in our group.

cu chi film viewing

We started to tour around the area after the film showing. We stopped at one of the famous camouflage tunnel doors. When it is closed and covered by dried leaves, you won't notice it all! Great job, Viet Cong! :)

she fits inside!

We were all given the chance to try it ourselves. Most of our "slim" tour mates rocked it. I, however did not dare try. I was afraid getting stuck and not being able to go up anymore haha.

do you think i would fit in? ;)

Mr Bihn (our tour guide), explained why the tunnel entrances were so small. He said these were only made for Vietnamese people. Their normal built is slim or skinny. He said they made it in purpose so Americans can't get into them hehe.

So you ask, what made these tunnels significant? It used to be the base of operation of the Viet Cong for their military campaign during the Vietnam War. It was of great importance to them in their resistance to the American forces and it helped them achieve ultimate military success later on.

another tunnel entrance

The tunnels became their refuge during the war. They were able to continue their lives underneath the soil despite all the bombings. They used the tunnels from 1960s up to the early 70s - that was when the Americans eventually withdrew their forces. Imagine living underground for that long!

tunnel time! :)

We were also given the opportunity to try going down to one of them tunnels. Almost everyone in our group gave it a shot. By the way, there are exits in very 20 meters, so if you feel like you can't go on anymore, just go out.

this is how it looks like

We were being scolded upon by the Brit group behind us while we were stopping to take photos. They were like "Oh my Gawd. Don't stop! Just go on!" *in British accent*. They were freaking out on every single minute they were in the tunnel. Geez. Why don't you guys just go up on the next exit? ;)

Mr Bihn

Our tour guide, Mr Bihn is actually half Viet, half Filipino. His father is a Vietnamese and mother a Filipina. He has a brother who lives here in the Philippines, who is a successful lawyer residing in Quezon City. He showed us his brother's business card. According to him, he's the only one in his family who resides in Vietnam.

the Viet Cong guerillas

Aside from the tunnels, the place also exhibits other things. There were depictions of the guerillas, the things they used back then, arms, ammos and examples of the booby traps they used. You'll see how all of these things made them successful over the American forces.


At the end of the tour, there's an area where you can do some shooting using high caliber military guns. You just have to pay for the bullets you're going to use.

oh shoot!

The Cu Chi Tunnel Tour was worth it. No doubt, it was a substantial part of their history. I first saw it when Samantha Brown of Travel and Living Channel featured Vietnam and it piqued my interest. There's nothing better than going to a place you saw on TV and experience it yourself. :)

We were transported back to the city after the tour. We came back between 1 to 1:30 PM. The first thing we did was look for a place to eat. We found this Pho house just at the Ben Thanh surrounding area. Again, I sucked at remembering the restaurant's name. It wasn't a fancy restaurant. It was one of those that you can find in the streets, like a hole in the wall kind of thing.

pho garnishes

So I have learned that Southern style Vietnamese Pho comes with several plates for garnishing. Once again, when this was served prior to our bowl of pho, my initial reaction was "What are these for? I don't think I ordered these plates of veggies...". Oh well, there's always a first time haha.

my beef brisket pho

Then there came our phos. I had the classic Beef Brisket pho. Oh-my-God! It was so so good! Even writing this makes me salivate, seriously. I distinctly remember how delightful it was. Now I miss Vietnam!

his beef stew pho

Beau got his stew. He loved it too. I'm not a stew-person so I liked mine better hehe. It was so yummy and at the same time heavy. We felt very full afterwards. :)

We continued roaming around as soon as we finished eating. We spent the remaining hours shopping. Our flight back to Manila was later that midnight.

in one of the outdoor shops

Ho Chi Mihn City is also known for selling different "branded" outdoor stuff. We checked out a few shops and found out that they were being sold at a low price. But then, you can not be assured of its quality. I highly doubt if they were all authentic. I did not purchase any. Beau got a TNF jacket. Anyway, he's not going to use it for "climbing" climbing. So I don't think it would matter if it's genuine or not.

It rained so hard in Saigon that afternoon all the way until night. We've been stranded in Ben Thanh Market for an hour, so we decided to just take a cab to the hotel even if it's just walking distance.

We packed our stuff and checked out from the hotel. We had a red-eye flight so we still had time to meet and hang out with a Couchsurfing friend. The hotel allowed us to leave our things for a while. After a few minutes, my friend has arrived.

with my friend Kim :)

I met her thru Couchsurfing. I saw her post in the Manila Group asking for suggestions for her upcoming Philippine trip. Our friendship started there. It just so happened that I was also headed to Vietnam that time so we decided to meet. :)

Saigon Beer

While we were having our smoothie and iced coffee, Beau had a bottle of Saigon Beer. He made a pact to himself to taste the beer of every country he has visited hehe. It was a fun night. We talked about anything and shared travel stories with Kim. I was actually not expecting her to come and see us anymore because of the heavy rain but she still showed up. For that, I was very grateful to her. We saw her again and spent time with her when she came to the Philippines. We're still communicating until now and have plans of seeing each other again or travel together in the future. Traveling has its way of bringing wonderful people to your life. :)

We had such a short time in Vietnam. It is a huge country and I may need at least a month to completely grasp everything it's all about. I am definitely coming back for more hoping I'll never get lost again. :)

This is Part 2 of my Vietnam travel series.

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