Having learned only the British/American view of the Vietnamese War when I studied in an International School in 9th grade I was very interested to see the Vietnamese side of it. I booked the tour to Cu Chi to see the tunnel system and planned to go to the War Remmant Museum after coming back to Ho Chi Minh.
I left the hostel early in the morning together with four other people and we drove in a bus that seemed like a bus for the local public transportation with little space and hardly working AC to Cu Chi. We had a stop at a place where handicapped people were handcrafting and drawing on wood with egg and sea shells. They looked very pretty once they were finished and it was fascinating with what precision they did their work.
We arrived at the tunnel place about 2 hours after we left Ho Chi Minh and first went into a little hut to watch a b&w movie about the war. I quickly stopped counting how often they repeated “… and became a war hero by killing Americans!”. It seemed a little bit like a propaganda video as it advertised how happy the Vietnamese people were that served in the war, being together in a group having fun and playing games when they were not fighting. It left the impression that the war was something great for the people whereas I believe it’s more like they made the best out of a horrible situation.
After the video we went to see the tunnel entries and some tried if they fitted through the hole. The guide first let us search for the entry and when one guy found and opened it there was a loud bang. During the war, if an American was lucky enough to find an entry to the tunnel system, he would never be able to tell anyone as a bomb would have gone off the moment he tried to open it.
The guide showed us many of the traps that the Vietnamese had installed in the country side for the Americans before we actually went down in the tunnel system itself. I expected it to be very tight and small from friends telling me about it but I didn’t even have to crawl. It does come in handy to be small some times! 🙂
Once everyone had the chance to go through the tunnel, the guide showed us the chimney used when the Vietnamese were cooking in their tunnels which they could not do just anytime to not bring any attention to the smoke. We tried some of the food they cooked at the time, it tasted a little bit like potato and seemed to well serve its only purpose: fill people’s stomaches.
During the whole tour there was one small break where the tourists could buy souvenirs, drinks and BBQ corn while others got the chance to fire weapons in a separated area. I found this to be quite ironical to offer weapon firing which is a typical American thing in a place that is totally against the Americans and war. They even allowed to climb a tank. I don’t know, I may be alone with that opinion, but in my eyes war materials are not for fun and playing around with. They cause so much harm and it just feels wrong, especially in a place like that, educating about war history.
When we got back to Ho Chi Minh I went to the War Remmant Museum which was a very shocking experience. I knew that the war was bad but I didn’t know it was this bad. Agent Orange is one of the worst weapons causing so much pain, even still today with children being born handicapped and malformed etc. since it damaged the DNA which is being handed down generations.
I had to skip some photos of the victims because it was just too much to take.
It was also very scary to see the many photo journalists’ photos that documented the war with captions like “the soldiers attempted to kill that Vietnamese family so I asked them to hold it, shot this photo, and turned around to leave when I heard them fire their guns.”
War is such a senseless instrument of politics and one might think that the world learns from wars like this but it seems like they will never learn their lesson… There will always be war and there will always be pain…
Having learned both sides to the Vietnam war now I believe that it must be something in between as both views are very one-sided. The Americans try to justify their going to Vietnam, helping the South, and the Vietnams only show the side of freeing Vietnam from the Americans and liberating the South. The fact that many Vietnamese fought against one another is not shown or mentioned anywhere – or I may have not noticed it due to the focus on killing Americans and Americans torturing Vietnamese…
After the museum there was still a little time left to go to the Chua Xa Loi temple and the memorial nearby for the monk that burned himself in protest against the buddhist prosecution.
After the Mekong Delta tour I will have to take another day to see all those other things left to see in Ho Chi Minh. I’m looking forward to it!