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Cu-chi cu-chi coo

My last couple of days in Vietnam, doing some touristy stuffs.

sunny 30 °C

I'm up to the final day of my short stay in Vietnam, and I'm sad to leave but excited to see what Cambodia has waiting.
I'm currently sitting outside of the Floating Hotel in Chau Doc, which is just that - a hotel that floats. I'm stopping here on my way over to Phnom Penh, but I'll go into a bit more detail about that journey a bit later on.

Firstly, I'll start off with updating what I did yesterday - the Cu Chi tunnels! These are a series of tunnels that were built by the Vietcong in the early 20th century, initially in defence from the French, which I actually didn't know as I'd only known it for its use in the Vietnam/American War. I booked a tour from Miss Long which cost about $4 or so, and left bright and early on Thursday morning. Our tour guide was awesome, I think his name was Nam, and kept making silly jokes about us ending up in Cambodia etc etc.

Before actually getting to the Cu Chi tunnels we visited a handicapped handicrafts factory a little bit out of Saigon. It's basically a factory where those who have been born with defects from Agent Orange can work to make unique Vietnamese handicrafts. They were quite beautiful, and it was pretty amazing what they could do with egg shells and a paint brush. However, it was clearly just a ploy to spend money and wasn't all that fascinating, with tour buses being shipped through every two minutes. Anyway, it was over quickly and we were shipped back onto the bus. I made friends with an English girl named Elena on my tour too and we stuck together a fair bit.

Soon enough we were at the Cu Chi tunnels and started walking around. Nam started by showing us one of the small holes that the soldiers would climb into and hide in, pulling a lid on top which you cover with leaves for ultimate sneakiness. He offered for us all to have a turn, and though I was sceptical that my ghetto booty would fit in the tiny hole I gave it a try. I got in fine, but getting out gave me a bit of a fright cos the angle I was at made it a bit tight. Anyway, I'm out. It was dark and pretty uneventful down there as I'm sure you can imagine.

Next we went to look at booby traps which, considering the time period, was pretty amazing technology. I've got a video showing the mechanisms of the various booby traps. We also went to look at these mounds which had small holes in them - they were actually air holes that provided air to the three levels of tunnel below. The Americans were often so frustrated by the fact that they couldn't find the Vietcong underground that they came with trained dogs, but the Vietcong would put chilli flakes and the uniforms of dead American soldiers near the holes to disguise the scent of the Vietnamese.

All the while, there was a constant sound of gunshots in the background which somewhat added a sense of authenticity to the scene of once vicious attacks (depsite the flocks of tourists). These sounds came from the shooting range on-site, and by the time we got to the range Elena and I decided to split a set of bullets. Elena wanted to try the AK-47 so I gave it a try. Not that amazing, but hey, at least now I can say I've done it!

We had a look at a few more underground sites that were set up like the rooms they had initially been (nurses station,conference rooms, some areas with tanks etc) as well as a mechanically operated model of the Vietcong creating land mines. Kind of creepy but whatever, good effort I suppose. We then headed to the 'main event' - crawling through the tunnels themselves! I think the tunnel was about 17 metres all up, and was kind of fun and reminded me of the notorious wombat hole from year 9 camp, though you were basically just squat-walking ass-to-face the whole time.

We ended the tour with a look at the kitchen and dining areas and tried tapioca, which is what the soldiers typically ate. My previous experience with tapioca had been quite pleasant, as I thought it was the sweet rice pudding-style dessert that Clancy once gave me, but rather what we were given was the actually vegetable itself with some peanut dipping mixture. It basically just tasted like a strange potato and wasn't very nice.

After we left Nam took us to a tea house in Saigon (just another stop where they wanted us to buy stuff - this time a bit annoyingly obvious). They had heaps of random stuff and gave us some nice lotus tea, but what really interested me was the weasel poop coffee. I assume that's not it's scientific name, but I forget what it's called. Basically, there are these special type of weasels (often found in Indonesia too I believe) who are good at deciphering the best type of coffee beans. They eat them, poop them, and then the coffee farmers clean them (I assume and hope dearly) and use them like normal coffee. I got an iced coffee with milk made from these beans, and it was DELICIOUS. Another note, when you get coffee with milk here in Vietnam they use sweetened condensed milk, and it is super yummo. Sinh To, which I think I mentioned in my last post, it like a smoothie made with the sweetened condensed milk which is super yum, the best one I've had was last night at a street stall where I got a mixture of pineapple and strawberry which is then blended with sugar, ice and condensed milk. Nom nom nom.

Elena and I decided to get dropped off at the War Remnants Museum and walked down to the Reunification Palace as neither of us had been. We got a free guide to show us around, which definitely helped, but regardless it was still pretty boring. The architecture and design was wonderful - just gorgeous 60s art deco with some Eastern influence. There were some nice artworks too, and a great view from the roof terrace, but I didn't find it all that enlightening. Regardless, it was one of those 'must-sees' of Saigon and I don't regret going.

Elena and I then walked to find some food, and I got my delicious clay pot pork! Also, we had Banh Mi for breakfast - though I still want it from a street stall. We also shared some rice paper rolls, though they weren't great. At least they're off the list. And I had delectable pho for dinner! So I'll probably get Banh Mi for breakfast tomorrow if I can. But yeah last night I didn't do much at all, just got some pho and sinh to with Alicia and sit and watch the night go by. Got some new roomies and packed and yeah that was it.
I'm up to the final day of my short stay in Vietnam, and I'm sad to leave but excited to see what Cambodia has waiting.
I'm currently sitting outside of the Floating Hotel in Chau Doc, which is just that - a hotel that floats. I'm stopping here on my way over to Phnom Penh, but I'll go into a bit more detail about that journey a bit later on.

Firstly, I'll start off with updating what I did yesterday - the Cu Chi tunnels! These are a series of tunnels that were built by the Vietcong in the early 20th century, initially in defence from the French, which I actually didn't know as I'd only known it for its use in the Vietnam/American War. I booked a tour from Miss Long which cost about $4 or so (plus $4 for entry), and left bright and early on Thursday morning. Our tour guide was awesome, I think his name was Nam, and kept making silly jokes about us ending up in Cambodia etc etc. But at the same time, he was full of useful information and clearly enjoyed his job.

Before actually getting to the Cu Chi tunnels we visited a handicapped handicrafts factory a little bit out of Saigon. It's basically a factory where those who have been born with defects from Agent Orange can work to make unique Vietnamese handicrafts. They were quite beautiful, and it was pretty amazing what they could do with egg shells and a paint brush. However, it was clearly just a ploy to spend money and wasn't all that fascinating, with tour buses being shipped through every two minutes. Anyway, it was over quickly and we were shipped back onto the bus. I made friends with an English girl named Elena on my tour too and we stuck together a fair bit.

Soon enough we were at the Cu Chi tunnels and started walking around. Nam started by showing us one of the small holes that the soldiers would climb into and hide in, pulling a lid on top which you cover with leaves for ultimate sneakiness. He offered for us all to have a turn, and though I was sceptical that my ghetto booty would fit in the tiny hole I gave it a try. I got in fine, but getting out gave me a bit of a fright cos the angle I was at made it a bit tight. Anyway, I'm out. It was dark and pretty uneventful down there as I'm sure you can imagine.

Next we went to look at booby traps which, considering the time period, was pretty amazing technology. I've got a video showing the mechanisms of the various booby traps. We also went to look at these mounds which had small holes in them - they were actually air holes that provided air to the three levels of tunnel below. The Americans were often so frustrated by the fact that they couldn't find the Vietcong underground that they came with trained dogs, but the Vietcong would put chilli flakes and the uniforms of dead American soldiers near the holes to disguise the scent of the Vietnamese.

All the while, there was a constant sound of gunshots in the background which somewhat added a sense of authenticity to the scene of once vicious attacks (depsite the flocks of tourists). These sounds came from the shooting range on-site, and by the time we got to the range Elena and I decided to split a set of bullets. Elena wanted to try the AK-47 so I gave it a try. Not that amazing, but hey, at least now I can say I've done it!

We had a look at a few more underground sites that were set up like the rooms they had initially been (nurses station,conference rooms, some areas with tanks etc) as well as a mechanically operated model of the Vietcong creating land mines. Kind of creepy but whatever, good effort I suppose. We then headed to the 'main event' - crawling through the tunnels themselves! I think the tunnel was about 17 metres all up, and was kind of fun and reminded me of the notorious wombat hole from year 9 camp, though you were basically just squat-walking ass-to-face the whole time.

We ended the tour with a look at the kitchen and dining areas and tried tapioca, which is what the soldiers typically ate. My previous experience with tapioca had been quite pleasant, as I thought it was the sweet rice pudding-style dessert that Clancy once gave me, but rather what we were given was the actually vegetable itself with some peanut dipping mixture. It basically just tasted like a strange potato and wasn't very nice.

After we left Nam took us to a tea house in Saigon (just another stop where they wanted us to buy stuff - this time a bit annoyingly obvious). They had heaps of random stuff and gave us some nice lotus tea, but what really interested me was the weasel poop coffee. I assume that's not it's scientific name, but I forget what it's called. Basically, there are these special type of weasels (often found in Indonesia too I believe) who are good at deciphering the best type of coffee beans. They eat them, poop them, and then the coffee farmers clean them (I assume and hope dearly) and use them like normal coffee. I got an iced coffee with milk made from these beans, and it was DELICIOUS. Another note, when you get coffee with milk here in Vietnam they use sweetened condensed milk, and it is super yummo. Sinh To, which I think I mentioned in my last post, it like a smoothie made with the sweetened condensed milk which is super yum, the best one I've had was last night at a street stall where I got a mixture of pineapple and strawberry which is then blended with sugar, ice and condensed milk. Nom nom nom.

Elena and I decided to get dropped off at the War Remnants Museum and walked down to the Reunification Palace as neither of us had been. We got a free guide to show us around, which definitely helped, but regardless it was still pretty boring. The architecture and design was wonderful - just gorgeous 60s art deco with some Eastern influence. There were some nice artworks too, and a great view from the roof terrace, but I didn't find it all that enlightening. Regardless, it was one of those 'must-sees' of Saigon and I don't regret going.

Elena and I then walked to find some food, and I got my delicious clay pot pork! Also, we had Banh Mi for breakfast - though I still want it from a street stall. We also shared some rice paper rolls, though they weren't great. At least they're off the list. And I had delectable pho for dinner! So I'll probably get Banh Mi for breakfast tomorrow if I can. But yeah last night I didn't do much at all, just got some pho and sinh to with Alicia and sit and watch the night go by. Got some new roomies and packed and yeah that was it.

This morning I was up early, had chicken pho for breakfast this time. I signed up for a boat ticket to take me to Phnom Penh along the Mekong but the brochure didn't have too much information so I didn't know what to expect. So far, I've been super impressed. We were on the bus for a while but it went pretty quickly and arrived in ..actually I better look the name up cos I forget. We went through the floating markets, however the markets on the Mekong are nothing like the Thailand floating markets. Rather, these are for bulk buying commercial purchases, and not small tourist souvenirs. It was really beautiful, though the water is of a questionable shade of brown, but it was so interesting to see how people live their lives on the river.

We stopped off at a riverside rice wine factory and saw a number of things being produced. Firstly, we saw rice paper being made, and got to try a type that had been mixed with coconut before it dried and crispened, then fried like bread - very unique but delicious. We then saw pop-rice being made, which is like popcorn but with rice husks. It is fried with sand so it doesn't get too hot which was cool, and then they put this peanut/caramel mixture on it which was pretty yum…think organic LCM. Next, we had rice wine which is made by fermenting steamed rice. Now, I’m not sure if anyone knows, but I tend to have a pretty decent tolerance for ‘disgusting’ liquor (goon, kraznov, absynth, moonshine etc), but this was really something else. It didn’t make me puke or anything, but it wasn’t very pleasant, and I can’t really think of any mixers that could possibly save it. Lastly, we saw coconut candy being made. Alicia had seen the same thing a few days earlier and given me some of her peanut-coconut lollies which were yummo, so this time I tried the dried banana things, which were also great. Something which is particularly cool is that these lollies, which are like a soft-toffee style, are wrapped in rice paper rather than plastic (and then in a wrapper). This is because in Vietnamese heat, the sticky lollies are difficult to separate from the paper – so they use edible paper!

We got back on the boat and sailed through the river for a while longer which was really nice, and got to get a few pictures of life on the Mekong (of course more of children that I am obsessed with!). After a fair bit of pleasant sailing we stopped off at one of the jetties of one of the river side houses and arrived in a small rural-looking area, which was basically just a long, narrow quiet road surrounded by greenery and houses…of course with lots of motorbikes on the road too. We got some bikes and rode along the road for a while, which I was a bit concerned about considering quality of the bike and the length of time it’s been since I was last on one, but hey whaddaya know, it’s just like riding a bike... After a short ride around we stopped off at a local restaurant/guesthouse and had some pork, rice and beans for lunch, and I tried a 333 beer (not great), and I spoke a bit with two Aussie girls I met, Em and Kat (from Sydney!) and an English guy I’ve been speaking to quite a bit named Matt. They’re all lovely and I’m sharing a room with the girls tonight.

After lunch we rode back and hopped back on the boat for a final cruise along the Mekong Delta before getting back on the bus. The next time we stopped was to get on the ferry across to the next province, were we had to get off the bus and meet it on the other side. When I was sitting three older Vietnamese ladies were looking at me and as I smiled they point at their noses saying things in Vietnamese. I was a bit confused, but a boy near them translated that as them telling me I have a beautiful nose and eyes. I’ve found that a lot of the older Vietnamese ladies tend to love telling you you’re beautiful as soon as you smile at them.

We drove a bit more before stopping briefly at a crocodile farm, which I wasn’t all that excited about from what I’ve heard about the treatment of animals in other parts of Asia. It was pretty much what you’d expect…a ridiculous amount of crocodiles in proportion to the tiny amount of space there was. But soon I noticed the pile of small live yellow chickies in one of the pens… I got a video of it, but my phone died and it didn’t save. But hey, that was probably for the best to be honest.

Thankfully we didn’t stay too long, and then we piled in the bus once again for our hour and a half journey to Chau Doc. The city itself is much bigger and more bustling than I’d expected, but I guess given that this small amount of land contains 86 million people, even the more remote areas are likely to be heavily populated. As I mentioned, the place we are staying at tonight is a floating hotel, and as I am here in bed typing I can hear the large industrial boats directing themselves in and out along the bank. It’s really quite a nice hotel, and we had dinner at the restaurant here. Though it was pricey, we’d had trouble finding anywhere decent to eat on the main street. Although interestingly, while we were walking along the road I witnessed a motorbike crash, and also saw a small prang somewhere earlier today – yet I didn’t see a single one in Saigon where the traffic is absolutely bonkers. Em did tell me that 13,000 people die from motorbike accidents in Hanoi per year though, so it is pretty scary.

Anyway, I think that’s it. I’m up early again tomorrow as we’ve got to leave at 7 and the girls and I want to see the sunset from the upstairs balcony and get some banh mi thit! Pretty excited to be able to actually access Facebook tomorrow in Cambodia…woo. Then I’ll add some more Vietnam photos!

x

Posted by georgiaellen 15:44 Archived in Vietnam

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Well this trip certainly has you trying some new things - like getting up before 7am! We are loving reading your posts and looking at your pics. Love ya xo

by Deb n Micko

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