hIt’s a bit sad but we are getting closer and closer to the end of our holiday. Thankfully today was a bit highlight day, as we were visiting the Cu Chi tunnels outside the city of Ho Chi Minh. There are multiple places where you can access these tunnels that were dug during the American war (as the Vietnamese call it), and we drove about three hours from our location in Ho Chi Minh to access a place that was supposed to be less touristy and indeed, it was very nice and quiet.
But I am going to fast, because before that we stopped at the Cao Dai temple, which is a Vatican like mini-village of holiness and wisdom. It is a pretty glamorous temple, if I may say so, as it is very freshly painted, super colorful and it has thousands of silver stars in the ceiling. There was this ceremony/ritual going on for which all these elder ladies and gentlemen came to the temple to sing and mostly pray. It was very beautiful, but it was hard to get a good view as the middle of the temple is off limits for tourists. Of course I respect that, but during the ritual we had to stand on the balcony above which meant the view was blocked by the many, many dragon pillars in the temple.
It is okay though, the singing was very nice, I was very appreciative of the fact that they would let us walk around in the temple before the ritual started and that they opened up their temple for nosey tourists in general. It is not a temple everyone will appreciate, at it is very colorful, but I really loved it.
This place also marked the first and last place where we had actually seen some ‘wild’ animals in Vietnam, because we were graced with a visit from a few monkeys. They were fed some fruit outside the temple and they seemed to really enjoy it. Again, I do not understand why there are not more wild animals in the country, as it is tropical, full of juicy fruits and a lot of places for animals to make a home for themselves…
I liked the temple, but not everything about the visit was awesome. I made the stupid, stupid mistake of taking my shoes off near the man’s entrance. The tour guide forgot to mention that the street in front of the temple was going to be closed during the rituals, which meant that I had to walk from the woman’s entrance to the men’s entrance via the back of the temple. It is a huge temple, so I had to walk for 5-10 minutes on my bare feet. Which is normally not an issue, but it is when the asphalt around it has been in the sun all morning. I had to walk around with blisters on the soles of my feet for the rest of the day. 😦
And walking we did, because we went to the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnels are said to be about 250 kilometres, some are 3 metres below the ground, some ten metres, and they are connected by very narrow hallways. It is amazing to see and actually walk in them yourself, it really was a highlight for us during this holiday. It is, even when you are there, impossible to imagine how tough people must have been to survive down those tunnels.
It is not just the narrowness, but also the threat of war, the bombs, and most of all: the heat. I would think it was colder under ground, but that was not the case. Plus, their is not a lot of fresh air down there, which makes it hard to breath, even if you are there for a few minutes, your body starts to react to the lack of oxygen (not intensely, but you do notice you are out of breath way quicker).
The guide at the Co Chi tunnels showed us the horrible booby traps that were used during the war. Lots of them had spikes and they were all so sneaky and painful, brr! To imagine that there must still be a lot of those booby traps out there, is very scary. I even heard a story about an old man and his son that were found a few years ago, living in the woods, because they did not get the ‘memo’ that the war was actually over. Remarkable..
In the evening we went out to dinner at Propaganda, a really good restaurant with a fun mural. On moments like this I am so happy with TripAdvisor, as we got the advice of going to this lovely place from that website. I would really recommend you go there for lunch or dinner when you are visiting Ho Chi Minh city, it is pretty laid back, with good quality food.
To end this post, I’d like to share some pictures I have made during the many hours spent in the bus today. It is so much fun to look outside, as you see all these people on their motor scooters carrying the craziest things: 5 people on one motor scooter, three bags with tens of ducks, a small cow.. (alive!) Seriously, I have seen it all this holiday… The things with animals make me sad, but the scooters full of flowers, balloons and other excessive things that are not alive, are very fun to watch: