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Vietnam's Scars & Victorious Past

During the last leg of my more than two months odyssey through Southeast Asia, I traveled from Southern to Central Vietnam. My first stop? Ho Chi Minh City or formerly known as Saigon.

Cu Chi Tunnels

A trip to Saigon would be incomplete without a visit to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. I've heard mixed reviews about this place from fellow travelers, but I was intent on visiting because of its historical significance to the Vietnamese.

The Cu Chi Tunnels are an extensive network of underground tunnels that were widely used during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were primarily used by the Vietcong to hide and attack the Americans and their allies. The Vietnamese also used the tunnels as residence areas, clinics, and storage. The last section of the trip gave us tourists the chance to experience the tunnels firsthand. The tunnels were wider now compared to the times of the Vietnam War to suit tourists of different sizes. The tunnel stretched to a paltry 100m, not exactly the same series of tunnels that the Vietcong used but was enough for a novel experience.

The tunnels were also used as camouflage traps to kill or severely injure American soldiers.

Our guide also showed us several bomb craters. The tunnels served as bomb shelters for the Vietcong.

The Vietnamese made bombs using materials from bombs that did not detonate. Everyone involved in this kind of work knew the risks (death when a bomb suddenly detonates before it was taken apart), but did it anyway.

There were several other crafty traps that the Vietnamese used during the Vietnam War. It was amazing how the Vietnamese managed to fend off the Americans despite coming up against high-tech (at the time) weapons of warfare, they truly loved their country and freedom so much.

*There is an entrance fee of VND90,000 to enter the Cu Chi Tunnels. I booked a tour worth VND145,000 that included the Cao Dai Temple. It is also worth noting that the Vietnamese in the tour were separated from the foreigners during this trip (maybe they had a different tour for locals).

The War Remnants Museum

I'm not particularly fond of museums, but when I do travel I make it a point to visit a few to get insight about the country I am visiting. The War Remnants Museum was recommended by most of the travelers I met in the hostel so I decided to drop by one afternoon.

After seeing some of the exhibits in the museum, my feelings ranged from sympathy and empathy for the Vietnamese to 'I-feel-like-this-is-one-big-propaganda-museum'. The Americans had no right invading Vietnam, but there was growing animosity between the Democratic and Communist worldviews during those troublesome times. And I think that the Americans were carrying their good versus evil bravado that came from two earlier wars, World War 2 and the Korean War, so they were all gung-ho in thwarting another perceived evil. Anyways, I think that everyone's got blood in their hands, so no one is completely clean of any wrongdoing.

Despite winning the war, the Vietnamese got poorer and poorer and hungrier and hungrier, just like many communist countries before them, they started to let go of their ideology and look to capitalism to bring in money, development, and all sorts of perks that were non-existent before (and even allowed their former enemies, the Americans, to invest in their country and bring in all sorts of businesses). The changes in their country reminded me of the stuff I read about China, how a communist country has looked to capitalism to turn their citizens' lives around.

*There is an entrance fee of VND15,000 to enter the museum.

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