Day 74: Tunnel Vision

As planned the alarm clock rang at 7am, much to our annoyance. The beds were comfy, the room was the perfect temperature and it would have been very easy to have stayed there for at least three more hours. By the time we got up and ready it was 7:40am, meaning we didn’t have time for breakfast. Instead, we received baguettes and chewed on them while making our way to the tourist office for our day trip to the Ch Chi Tunnels. They told us the bus wouldn’t arrive for at least half an hour. This gave us time to grab a quick tea to help wake certain people up (uh hum, Sarah). We quickly slurped down the hot beverage and made our way back. We climbed aboard the bus around 8:45am.

We had a brilliant tour guide who went by the name Tung. He began by informing us about what we would be seeing during our trip, then half way through the journey he burst out into song. A song which he’d repeat several times during our tour. Our first stop was to a handicap handicraft shop where we could watch victims of the war create beautiful one off pieces of art, furniture, and jewellery. When we got into the shop you could see all of the finished pieces for sale. The prices rocketed, with certain items costing 105,836,000 dong, if you could afford that it would certainly make for a beautiful conversation piece. When we were outside and waiting for our bus there was one particular guy who had a lot of muscle but no brains. He was stood around in a pair of short shorts and nothing else. I thought it was quite offensive if he walked through the workshop, as the people inside were disabled in one way or another. 30 minutes later we arrived at the Chu Chi Tunnels. Tung spoke very good English which he told us he learned in 1965, he made every effort to explain to us what we were seeing. At one point we watched a video which explained a lot about the war and the people who were involved. Certain villagers were deemed heroes because of the amount of American soldiers they killed, or tanks they destroyed. Tung also went on to say how he was involved in the war and how he was shot twice by Americans, he even went as far as showing us the scar on his shoulder (after seeing that, Jamie and I agreed it would be best if we didn’t insult this man at any point, as the chances were he’d probably killed a few men in his time). Because of his English speaking ability he eventually found work as a tour guide, and I have to say we couldn’t have asked for a better one.

We were then shown a small hole which soldiers would have used to pop out from and shoot. We took it in turns to have our photos taken inside of them, then it was off around the site to see more things the Vietcong used during the war. After seeing the many traps, old tunnel entrances, and room displays (which were set up to display life during the war, one of which showed how soldiers crafted and dismantled bombs) we arrived at the firing range. Jamie and I went halves on 10 bullets for an M1 rifle. It cost 270,000 dong. It was very loud at the firing range, we took it in turns to shoot 5 bullets at targets (of which all 5 of mine missed) before the group moved on to the main show, the tunnels themselves. In a single row we entered one by one, with the ceiling getting lower and lower it was very easy to become panicky. Fortunately for those who did feel slightly penned in there were exits every so many feet. The tunnels started out with lights either side but soon grew very dark, with only a red light every so often to aid vision. Jamie, Sarah and I ended up behind a guy who was overwhelmed with panic, somehow that had a passing effect and suddenly we didn’t feel to comfortable ourselves. I took a few breaths to correct myself and I was back to normal again. However, not knowing how much smaller the tunnels were going to get, I took the first exit with everyone else. That was something I really wish I hadn’t done as it would be something I’d regret for a long time, and it reminded me of Winston Churchill’s famous quote:

“When you’re going through hell keep going”

Sarah was also very annoyed when we got out, as the picture I had taken of her in the tunnel came out blurry. I said I was sorry and that we could go back in to rectify the situation but she didn’t want to, instead, chose to remain angry at me for not being able to capture a good picture. And even more so at the fat man who panicked, which is what caused Sarah to not want to go back in. Feeling like a quitter, we walked to meet the rest of the group around an elongated table for a strange potato like snack. It had a shoot running up through the centre, like a vegetable spine, and it came with crushed up peanuts which were used as a dip. Tung also served us a little shot glass of hot tea before walking us all back to the bus to conclude our day trip.

On the journey back, Tung sang us one last song. This was his coup de grace so to speak, his goodbye song. I don’t think it will reach a top ten, and in my personal opinion it didn’t carry the same vocal punch as his earlier hits. When we got back to town I needed to withdraw some money from one of the many ATMs. I had a sneaky suspicion that something might happen when I used the machine, and it turned out I was right. Thank god Sarah was with me, as when the machine spat out my money I was nearly mugged…. By a 3 year old, THREE!!!! I always have my hand ready for when the card comes out, and straight away I am ready for the cash, but this kid blindsided me. He clearly knew what he was doing as well, and we were pretty sure the man sat on a scooter opposite was the boy’s father. Sarah felt really bad because she snatched the boys arm away. It’s not everyday you want to punch a child, but for that he would have deserved it. If it was the man who sent him over it was both genius and sick at the same time. Genius because the child wouldn’t get in trouble, sick because he didn’t know any better and could have ended up getting hurt in the process. Slightly shaken by my three foot mugger, the three of us went for food.

We ate at the same place as the night before, then when we were done, parted ways. Jamie went to get his hair cut (anxiously) and I went with Sarah while she got a foot scrub in a massage parlour. During her treatment four fire tricks went by with their sirens screaming into the setting sky. I went out to see what all the commotion was, but ended up none the wiser. On my way back Sarah met me half way and the pair of us returned to the hostel. Back in the room there was a new guy called Liam, he was from Dublin, liked his martial arts and fitness, and had several entertaining anecdotes. Our group then decided on what to do for the night. Seeing how there was a cinema around the corner, and The Hobbit had just been released, we thought that to be a good idea. When everyone was showered and ready we set out. We decided to grab food before the film started, so for the third time we went to the same restaurant.

After we settled the bill, we continued around the street until we found the air conditioned cinema. It would have been impossible to get in without a ticket, as every doorway you went through had someone else wanting to check it. I was really happy with the seats this time around because they were very spacious, meaning nobody could recline into my knees. The film was fantastic, if not slightly flawed in places, and both Sarah and I were disappointed with the overuse of CGI throughout. When it was over (some three hours later) we all returned to our hostel around 1am. With the whole group being extremely tired it didn’t take long for us to fall asleep. Probably to have nightmares about trolls, orcs, goblins and the preciouses!!!!

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