Braving the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City

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As we continued our unplanned travels, we hit a snag when my Russian friend wanted to go to Vietnam and I wasn’t too keen as I had been there before and was quite content with what I had seen.  Also, the visa is 70USD to go there.   So we made a compromise, we would go just to see this cave complex in the middle of the country that has just recently opened up to tourism called the Phong Nha Caves (more on this in next post).

As we were in Cambodia, we first crossed the border and headed to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.  Although I had been hesitant to go back there, upon waking up in the city, I was absolutely elated to be there.  I couldn’t wait to eat banh (Vietnamese sandwiches), pho, bun (Saigon style which is the style that you get in the western countries), and they cook their meats in this lemongrass, ginger, chili sauce that is to die for.  Oh how I’d forgotten how great the food in Vietnam was!

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Then there was the cracked egg shell tea set that I had wanted to buy last time that I was in Saigon, but couldn’t because I had no space to carry it with me.  I thought that I would get a chance somewhere else in the country to buy it once I dumped some of my stuff, but never saw it again.  Not even in China where they make everything.

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Finally, I would have the chance to visit the Cu Chi tunnels which I didn’t get a chance to do the first time round.  No visit to Vietnam is complete without learning about the history of its war.  The Cu Chi tunnels are where the Viet Con hid out while fighting the American soldiers.  You can visit this site which is about a 60 minute drive away from Saigon by paying 5USD for transportation with a tour group and then the entrance fee once there. Here you will be able to explore some tunnels and if you really want to, you can shoot a machine gun.  Yes, shoot a machine gun.

There are two tunnel systems that you can go through.  One mostly everyone walks through.  It’s relatively clean (just dusty) and it is lit with lights.  There are many exit points along the way if you don’t like it and want to exit.  In here the tunnels are connected to rooms where the soldiers would congregate for different activities such as eating.

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And then there were the other set of tunnels… Optional…  This sampling of unlit tunnels that we could choose to go into had a very narrow opening to enter.  Then initially you could “monkey walk”- walking in a squat position, and at some point, you had to go on your hands and knees.  We were warned that these tunnels had bats.  So the first set of people that went down said that they saw the bats, but that they were not in the areas that we were crawling in.  My friend went down and said that she didn’t even see any bats and she was looking.  By the time that I went down, I was one of the last people to go.  Two people were in front of me and we were supposed to stick together.  All we had for lights was the flashlight function on mobile phones.  After posing for some photos as I squeezed my way down the rabbit hole, I got into the tunnel and couldn’t see the two people that had gone ahead of me, but I could hear them.  We had been instructed to turn right and then left in the tunnel.  So I made the right turn and was now crawling on my knees.  Black things were flying past my head.  OMG, bats. I started feeling anxious.   I called out to the 2 ahead of me.  No response.  I couldn’t hear them.  I called out again and nothing.  I found the tunnel where I was supposed to turn left and all I could see were bats hanging from the low ceiling.  If I continued to crawl toward them, I would run into them with my forehead.  I remembered people saying that the bats were not in the parts of the tunnel that we crawled through.  So I thought that I had gone the wrong way.  So I backed up looking to see if there had been another left turn.  Then, thankfully, I heard voices from behind me.  I called out to them.  They caught up with me and I let them go ahead of me because I wanted them to be the ones to encounter the bats first.  They went ahead and as they disturbed the bats and they started to fly, they flew into my head.  So much for not going first.  From this point, we were just 5m around a bend from the exit.  When I came out, my friend and others were wondering what had happened to me in there and why I’d taken so long.  Embarrassed, I told them I panicked because of the bats.  So be warned, if you go down the optional tunnels, they aren’t kidding when they say there are bats in there.

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The Massage Junkie’s Adventures Continued

As tourism is just starting to grow in Burma, Burma has not yet responded like its neighbours to Western tourists by offering them cheap massages.  So I didn’t get any massages while there.

I had almost forgotten about massages altogether until I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City and was inundated by the number of spas out there.  You couldn’t pass a street corner without a flyer being shoved in your hands.  So, the junkie that I am, couldn’t resist the temptation and decided to have a massage.

The place I went to wasn’t the one I had originally intended on going to, but their prices were right and the lady who had given me the flyer was determined for me to say yes.

When I went into the room to receive the massage, I noticed that everyone in the room was a man.  Suddenly, I wondered if this was a “happy ending” type of place.

I laid down on the massage bed and this one lady in a short skirt started massaging my back.  It was the strangest “professional” massage that I have ever received.  She jumped onto the bed, straddled me and was sitting on my butt in order to massage my back.  My suspicions increased.

Then half way through the massage, she switched with another lady.  This second lady had been working on the guy that was beside me.  I have never had therapists switch in the middle of a session.  I am sure that the first girl that was working on me was the happy ending girl.

I was feeling quite uncomfortable during the massage as it wasn’t as professional as the ones that I had received in Thailand.  The massage itself was nothing spectacular.  I am sure that the guy beside was getting a happy ending.

Conclusion: I will wait until I return to Thailand to do anymore massages.  The only thing I liked about this massage was that they never asked me if I wanted a happy ending 🙂