It was an amazing trip. Filled with drama, relief, and wonder. The political turmoil in Bangkok gave my trip a rocky start, as my girlfriend could not fly out as protesters had set up blockades around both airports. I arrived in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) without any trouble or delay on Friday November 28. Going through the airport was easy enough, as I had already obtained a visa, so I got to skip the very long visa-on-arrival line. There was some initial confusion with the guide as to the whereabouts of my travel companion, and I patiently explained the situation. Nothing much I could do from where I was about her situation, other than call and get updates.
The next day I had a very interesting tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels just outside Saigon, which was interesting and sad too. I felt a little guilty about being interested and enjoying the tunnels that had defeated our GI’s. There I learned of the scary traps the Viet Cong (aka VC… aka Victor-Charlie… aka Charlie) had set up to ambush their enemies. I was also able to crawl through a small portion of the tunnels. These were dug out by hand with simple pick-axes and rattan shovels, and were quite elaborate and clever. The tunnels had three levels, the deepest being safe enough from bombardment. There were rooms that housed sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, armories, kitchens and more. Traps were set up in case the tunnels were discovered and broken into.
Afterwards we drove back into Saigon and had a city tour which included the Reunification Palace which was once the old presidential palace for South Vietnam. It is a very impressive building built in the 60’s, and is now a museum. I also got to see a war museum, the local cathedral colloquially known as Notre Dame, and the very impressive post office.
As Vietnam was once occupied by the french there are very strong design cues in the buildings. Also, the art of making baguettes also was passed to the Vietnamese. So every morning I was enjoying the fantastic bread. yum.. I spent a second night in Saigon, Sandy had started to make her way to Vietnam, and was to meet me in Danang the next day…