Tuesday, 13 July 2010
We travelled over the Cambodian border into Vietnam. We stayed overnight in Chau Doc, which is in the Mekong Delta, the most fertile farming area in Vietnam. It's a large area of paddy fields, streams and canals. We took a boat trip along the river to a floating Market and a fish farm. The following day we had an 8 hour bus ride to Saigon. We visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, about an hours drive from Saigon. It was really interesting to learn about the Vietnam war from our guide Hai who was a veteran of the war. He fought for the south side, supporting democracy and the Saigon government. The North we g fighting for Communism to reunite the country. The Vietcong were guerilla fighters, supporting the North but were among the villagers of the South so it was difficult to tell who was on whose side. The Cu Chi tunnels are a large system of underground tunnels which the Vietcong used to fight against the South army. They used booby traps, 2 meter deep holes in the ground covered by leaves with large bamboo spikes at the bottom to trap and maim their enemies. The tunnels have really small openings and inside there is only room to crouch and walk and even crawl on your hands and knees in some parts . The north won the war and renamed Saigon Ho Chi Minh city. They also put all the higher ranking soldiers from the South army into 're-education' camps, which were really labour or concentration camps. Hai's family weren't allowed to visit him in the first year but after that they were allowed to visit him and bring him food and medicine, otherwise he may have starved to death. Hai's first hand account of his experiences during the war really brought home the harsh realities of warfare. The guides on our trips have been really good and their first hand accounts of their experiences are so interesting.
Ho Chi Minh city is full of motorbikes and scooters, with a population of 6 million, over 4 million people own a bike. The roads are crazy, bikes coming at you from all directions and to cross the road, you step out and just keep walking at a constant pace and hope the bikes will avoid you. Scary!