Cu Chi and Coconut Candy

17 05 2010

May 16

Took a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels 90 minutes outside of Saigon with Sinh cafe, who had been recommended, but were perhaps a little too popular given that the bus had 45 people. The tourist scene seems to be changing- the bus was full of Asian tourists who took silly photos of themselves in front of everything, not western backpackers. This trend we noticed in Cambodia as well, where the tourists that were most plentiful and spending the most money  were the Asian travelers.

We past a giant jackfruit tree to a secret hidden tunnel entrance that was covered in leaf litter and very small. We saw booby trap tunnels, swinging door traps, fighting trenches, fake termite mounds with air holes, tunnels that stretched all the way to the river, weapon workshops , uniform and tyre sandal workshops.

Next to the rifle shooting range we watched rice paper being made by hand over a fire steamer.

We got to crawl through a tunnel that had thankfully been enlarged slightly and had lights installed- even so it was dark and cramped and hard to know where to go. Then we watched a DVD on the tunnels that was really bad quality, stopped several times and eventually they turned it off half way through and said it was over.

We returned to Saigon after a shopping stop at a handicapped handicrafts centre, had a 15min lunch break of bananas, take away spring rolls and mango shakes and got on another bus for a half-day Saigon tour.

We visited the War Remnants Museum, which was very interesting if not very sad at the destruction the American war (Vietnam war) caused to the people and land of Viet Nam. Some of the cruelty inflicted was truly barbaric, and brings to mind more recent American army acts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s amazing that even now there is no recognition or compensation of victims of the chemical warfare (Agent Orange, mostly).

After that we toured the opulent Independence Palace and explored the basement War Command Centre rooms with ancient radio equipment.

From there we went to the French-styled Post Office building and Notre Dame Cathedral which was packed with the Sunday mass goers.

Dinner was at Punjabi Indian, then we wandered the Ben Than night markets.

On our last day in Saigon we took a Mekong Delta tour. The Mekong is 4500km long and is the third longest river in Asia after the Yellow and Yangtze rivers in China. The Mekong is fed by melt waters in Tibet.

Our first stop was My Tho, where we got onto the boat. We were about 50km from the South China Sea. We went past fishing boats to a rice paper shop where we watched rice paper being made again. This one was different as they made coconut milk, rice and sugar paper then cooked it to make a sweet and crunchy snack.

From there we went to Ben Tre village, saw bee farms and items made from coconut. Then we took a horse carriage where the driver said he made 20000 dong a day since we were his only ride that day. We listened to awful traditional music and ate tropical fruits until it was time to take a row boat to the coconut candy workshop. Yum! It tasted so much better fresh.

Dinner was at Ngoc Tho where we ate crispy rice noodles and tacos with black beans and tofu.

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