We woke up at 8AM, and had our complimentary breakfasts. I was anxious about finding a van for us for the day. We wanted to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels, around 60 km from Saigon. We asked the hotel if there was a van available for us. It took a bit of time, so we decided to search for transport as well in Bui Vien.
It felt as if we were in Amazing Race, looking for a van to take us to Cu Chi. A travel agency found one, but the hotel called that they also found one for a cheaper price. So, we went back to the hotel and at 10:30PM started to head out to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
We arrived in Cu Chi around lunch time, so we decided to eat first in a restaurant beside the entrance. The food was crappy, probably the worst of the trip. It did rain as well, so it was a good decision to eat first. As soon as the rain stopped, we bought our tickets (VN 80,000 or P560). We approached the new entrance of the Cu Chi Tunnels, which was a tunnel, giving you the feeling you've been transported to some other place. The last time I was here, there was just a path. They also gave us stickers to wear, and instructed us to go with a guide.
We were made to watch a video all about the history of the Vietnam War and how the tunnels were built. It was a long and boring video, so most of us were just insensitively taking pictures in the bunker while the Westerners continued to watch.
To give a short background, the Cu Chi Tunnels is literally an underground network of tunnels used during the Vietnam war by the Vietnamese to hide from the Americans. The tunnels were also used as an offensive strategy, as it covered a huge portion of the area, and when outlaid, the tunnels were around 1,000 km long. The tunnels were so narrow, so as to make it difficult for the Americans to find and fit into. The Vietnamese lived in these tunnels for years during the war.
We had a guide who spoke like he was drunk. He took us to the traps that the Vietnamese put up in defense of the Americans. We also saw the weapons gallery. The Cu Chi Tunnels were actually remade to fit tourism, so it's more like a museum in a forest. The underground chambers were uncovered and roofed. They looked like bunkers now, but before, they were just found underground, and everything else was forest.
We also had the chance to get inside the tunnels. You could either take a long route or a short one. Going inside is definitely the highlight of the tour, and it is not for the claustrophobic.
There were several other bunkers that explained the Vietnamese way of living during the war, and how they concealed themselves from their enemies. Air pockets and smoke vents were revealed under bushes. A hospital, kitchen and workshop underground were also on display. At the end of the tour, we were able to taste the cassava dish and tea that the Vietnamese ate while underground. The tour ended after 2 hours.
We headed back to Saigon and was greeted by the rush hour traffic. We arrived in our hotel at 5PM, again hungry. We had a quick meal and I continued with completing our itinerary. It was flooded in Bui Vien, so it was more difficult for me to get around, and I was at the mercy of time. I wanted to settle everything by 7PM.
Tomorrow, we would be going by bus for 12 hours to Siem Reap in Cambodia, the base for travel to the Angkor Temples. I have bought our bus tickets (VN 300,000 one way per person) at Sinh Cafe, one of the most reliable tour operators in Vietnam. I also arranged our pick up from the Saigon airport on our flight back from Siem Reap. After Cambodia, we would be going straight to Phan Thiet, where Mui Ne is located.
That night, we had dinner in Milwaukee Bar and Restaurant nearby Bui Vien, and had our first taste of Saigon Beer. I was able to settle everything at 9PM, paying for everything we needed for the trip. The only problem was the hotel when we return to Saigon, but I figured we could easily look for one in the backpacker hub when we arrive back from Mui Ne, 5 days later.
So, now, I can finally breathe and enjoy the evening. Our bus leaves at 6:30AM, so we had to be in Sinh Cafe at 6PM. We decided to check out that night so that it wouldn't be a hassle in the morning.