I expected Saigon to be a small city, dusty and provincial, the impression I got from watching ?the Amazing Race?. However, when I arrived, it was totally not what I expected. The city was big and drenched in bright lights. Decorative lights were put on city streets for the Chinese New Year, but left for other holidays, if not for the rest of the year per our guide. We arrived late in the evening, so for dinner I settled for a Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) that was delivered to our hotel. That simple Vietnamese sandwich tasted so good, different from the Vietnamese sandwiches I had in California that it made me say, "I'm in Vietnam, indeed!"
The exit from the very narrow tunnelThe following morning, I joined the half-day tour of Cu Chi Tunnel, a war memorial park. It was about forty-five minutes drive from the city of Saigon. After watching the documentary about the 120 kilometers of a complex network of tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war, I sort of envisioned Cu Chi to be a not-so-pleasant place to visit. However, the War Memorial Park was a well-organized tourist attraction, complete with cottages used for informational talk before the actual tour. A park official showed us the different types of booby traps and demonstrated their mechanism. The gun fires from the firing range seemed to provide the sound effect to the display of weaponry (M16 rifle, AK-47 and M60). I thought we would be crawling a long tunnel so I came prepared with mosquito repellant and bottled water, but we were just shown the hidden entrances to the tunnels used by the Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots, communications and supply routes, food and weapon storage, and living quarters. Tourists were given the option to experience crawling a very small portion of the very narrow tunnel. The graphic display of how a soldier could be trapped in the tunnel with no escape and stare at a weapon being pointed at him/her, made m...