Monday, April 04, 2011

Mission Saigon: Day 3 : 28/03/11

Ah rise and shine! Today we had an early start as we have a full day CuChi (pronounced Ku Chi) tunnel and City tour which starts at 8am local time. After breakfast, we took the taxi to Sinh Cafe tour agent as we were a bit late to walk there. When we arrived, the bus was already there, so we immediately took our seats. We were given drinking water and wet tissue which is included in the package, no lunch provided. (The first trip in 2008, I was given water and peanuts). Luckily we had packed the delicious karipap from the kakak last night :) Entrance fee is not included in the package, so we had to pay another USD4 (VND 80,000). This is my second trip to CuChi actually. View my previous trip here

The journey to CuChi tunnel took almost 2 hours. When we arrived,it was scorching hot. But nevertheless, we braved the sun (actually we took shelter hehe) at the video viewing hall - where they showed an old footage from circa 1969 when the Vietnamese Civil War between the US and the Viet Cong (the communist from North Vietnam) took place.

The tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerillas as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. Air, food and water were scarce and the tunnels were infested with ants, poisonous centipedes, spiders and mosquitoes. The tunnels were often rigged with explosive booby traps or punji stake pits. The clever design of the tunnels along with the strategic use of trap doors and air filtration systems rendered American technology ineffective. (taken from Wiki).

We were given the chance to enter the tunnels and had to crawl as it is very narrow. We were told that the tunnel for visitors had been widen to accommodate us. We were also shown how the guerillas could quickly disappear by hiding in a camouflaged trap door.

The tunnel layout with hall, kitchen, water well, hiding place

One of the hiding you see me

Now you don't

Happy nak masuk terowong...

Trap door

One of the booby traps

Before leaving, we were served some ubi kayu (tapioca) and tea to sample the food the guerrillas had eaten while at war. We then made our journey back to the city to continue with our city tour, which would commence at 2.15pm. We still had 45 minutes when we reached back at the tour premise, so we proceeded to the nearby Highlands Coffee Cafe to have some (more) smoothies. Again, their smoothies are lean and healthy

We got back to Sinh Cafe by 2.15pm and then whisked away to the Vietnamese War Museum. Entrance fee is VND 15,000 (RM 2.25). It was very disturbing to see the images of victims of the Vietnamese Civilian War between the US and Viet Cong (communist). Even civilians were targeted, worse, children were tortured and killed. Villages were burnt down.

During the Bertrand Russell Tribunal 1967, it was concluded that the US government is guilty of genocide of the Vietnamese people. Here is the statement:

"The United States bears responsibility for the use of force in Viet Nam, and has, therefore, committed against that country a crime of aggression, a crime against peace... In subjecting the civilian populations and civilian targets of the DRVN (republic of Viet Nam) to an intense and systematic bombardment , the USA has committed a crime of war. These is on the part of the US armed forces utilization or testing of weapons prohibited by the laws of war (CBU's, napalm, phosphorus bombs, combat gases, toxic chemicals) The prisoners of war captured by the US armed forces are subjected to treatments prohibited by the laws of war. The US armed forces subject the civilian populations to inhuman treatments prohibited by international law. The US government is guilty of genocide vis-a-vis the Vietnamese people"

The Vietnamese War lasted for almost 20 years from 1955 to 1975. Read more here

War museum

Oour very patriotic guide

Image of a girl calling for revenge after her village is burnt down

Victims of Agent Orange: Dioxin were used

Victims of phosphorous bombs

Massacre: Children were not spared

Villages burnt down

Next, we went to the Reunification Palace. Entrance fee is VND 30,000 (RM4.50)

It is formerly known as Independence Palace , built on the site of the former Norodom Palace. The palace was named Norodom Palace after the then king of Cambodia - Noronom (1834–1904). During World War 2, Norodom Palace became the headquarters of Japanese colonial officials in Vietnam.

After WW2, in 1954, Norodom Palace was handed over to the prime minister of the State of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem by a representative of the French presence in Vietnam, General Paul Ely. In 1955, he defeated former Emperor Bao Dai, the chief of state of the State of Vietnam, and declared himself president of the newly proclaimed Republic of Vietnam and renamed the building the Independence Palace.

It was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during theon April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates. In November 1975, after the negotiation convention between the communist North Vietnam and their colleagues in South Vietnam was completed, the Provisional Revolutionary Government renamed the palace Reunification Hall. Excerpted from Wiki. Read more here

the corridor

First lady reception room

one of the halls

President's office

Movie theathre

Next we brought to the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica Cathedral. Established by French colonists, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. In 1959, Bishop Joseph Pham Van Thien ordered a Peaceful Notre Dame statue made with granite in Rome. When the statue arrived in Saigon on 16 February 1959, Bishop Pham Van Thien held a ceremony to install the statue on the empty base and presented the title of "Regina Pacis". Read more here

Notre Dame cathedral outside & inside

Lastly, we went to the Saigon central post office which is just across the cathedral. The building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century. It has a Gothic architectural style. It was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel

Post office: Inside & outside

When we finally finished our city tour, it was already 5.30pm. Since our van dropped a fellow passenger nearby Ben Thant market, we got down there too and walked back to our hotel to freshen up.

Later, we had dinner at VN @ Halal, then we went for a refreshing foot massage at Miu Miu, a Japanese spa. The massage lasted for 70 minutes and costs USD 12 (RM36). It also includes back and hand massages. Interestingly, after finishing our massage, we chatted up with a fellow customer - I think I heard his name as Pierre, asking us where we were from - and that he knew a friend of ours - Aida Othman! Woah, she's so famous, she is also known in Vietnam! Feeling refreshed, we finally went back to our hotel and had a nice sleep

Miu Miu spa



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