Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vietnam - Part Three

My final day in Vietnam was spent back in Ho Chi Minh. Before I left on the bike tour I had scheduled a day trip to a Cao Dai temple and the Cu Chi Tunnels that left at 8am so I was up early and out the door before 7:30. After some confusion on just where I supposed to be (resolved after I raised my voice explaining to the guy asking for my ticket that SOMEONE had ALREADY taken it and they WERE NOT leaving me behind) we were on our way.

We hit the Cao Dai temple first because they like for you to be there during prayer time. Cao Daism started in 1927 and is a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. The ceremony and prayer itself was very interesting but I felt it was ruined somewhat by the hordes of tourists snapping photos (me included.) I wonder if the participants are able to block us yahoos out while they meditate or if only the last half of their prayer time, after most of the tourists wander back to their buses, is peaceful.

One eye is the symbol for their religion.

The altar at the front of the temple

All but the monks wear white while they pray. Tourists gawk from the balcony.

Then it was onto the Cu Chi Tunnels. And just like the War Remnants Museum the history reflected was one-sided and biased to the point it was funny. The interesting part was that the tunnels were actually built during WWII to hide from the Japanese army. They were only expanded later when the Viet Cong moved in and used them to fight the US Army. One US Army base unknowingly was built right over one tunnel entrance making it very easy to steal weapons and information. The tunnels themselves are very small (they've widened sections so fat American and European tourists can have a look) and were heavily booby-trapped. Special markings on the wall told the Viet Cong which way they should go to avoid the traps. US servicemen oftentimes weren't so lucky.

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They had all sorts of nasty traps including this one with bamboo spikes.

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Me inside the tunnels. They weren't so bad after caving in KY.

They had a shooting range where for a small fee you could shoot an AK-47 (I declined.) When it started to rain, our guide hurried us through the last bits showing how the VC used the tunnels to live in and planned their attacks from and into a small area with a video to watch. The video was a propaganda video from 1967 lauding teenage girls who had won medals for being "American killer heroes." I kept waiting for a narrator to cut in and explain the historical significance of the tunnels or put them into some kind of context but no it really was just a propaganda movie from the sixties and nothing else.

Check out the flag and picture of Ho Chi Minh displayed over the TV.

Then we were rushed back into the van in the hopes that we would beat the looming thunderstorm back to Saigon. We didn't. But it worked out okay because I ended up in a cafe with some German girls from the trip while we waited for it to stop raining. We went to dinner together as well and then it was back to the airport for me!

And that was my vacation. I'll probably have one more post talking about all the people I met but this is most of the pictures and sights done. If you ever get a chance to go to Vietnam, I say jump at it. It's a great place and I loved (almost) every minute I was there.

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