Day 2 (Chu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta)
Day 2 was booked with a tour operator from getyourguide. Cu Chi tunnels and mekong delta awaited us but that required waking up at 5 a.m and missing our free breakfast at DaBlend as well (which is served only after 7 a.m). We caught a ridiculously slow bus from the main bus stop to the pick up destination (courtesy google maps again) which cost only 10K VNDs per head; For reasons unknown, the driver was simply unwilling to hit the accelerator and even people walking causally overtook us. We expected to miss our ride but thank god we didn’t. From the operator’s location, we were transferred to a very nice van with almost limousine like interiors. We were totally 10 people in the bus; germans, swiss, canadians, sri lankans, Singaporeans and of course Indians. A bottle of water was provided when we boarded the bus. Our very knowledgeable bus guide gave us a long talk on why the Vietnamese like bikes and not cars; there about 45 million bikes in vietnam. He also started on the long history of Cu chi tunnels & the war against the americans ; we dozed in and out of the talk in the van. Our guide was a lot of fun and highly knowledgeable ; it was fun listening to him while we were awake. He addressed all of us as his “family” with a very funny slang.
Soon enough we reached our first destination on the way in 45 minutes; a store selling panting and other souvenirs made by people disabled by the vietnam war. Many of the artworks are made live ; so authenticity can be vouched for. While we intended to purchase some, they were highly expensive. A part of the proceeds go the rehabilitation of the folks disabled by the war. It was truly saddening to see that even after decades after war, the after effects linger on.
15 minutes was spent here and another 1. 5 hours to the Cu chi tunnels.
The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters.
The entry fee to Cu chi tunnels was 90k VND at the time of the visit; this was obviously taken care of by the operator. The Cu chi tunnels were amazing; we saw the ventilation shafts, the tunnels through which the combatants ambushed their enemies and the best part was that some of got to crawl 100 meters inside the tunnels.
I must say it was extremely difficult with it being very hot and cramped inside with the tunnel not even a meter in diameter. But me and karthik managed it and it was totally worth it. We were treated to some tapioca and sugar at the end of our accomplishment. There is shooting range inside the cu chi tunnels complex and one can fulfill their real life call of duty fantasies if any. Each bullet costed 10K VNDs. Some of the group members tried their hand at shooting, we didn’t.
Cu chi tunnels was a wonderful experience and we were treated to another half hour of video in the van depicting actual footage from the Vietnam war. The experience was made better with a can of chilled Vietnamese beer. We dozed off as usual and took another 1.5 hours to Mekong delta wharf. Somewhere midway we stopped for lunch as well and it was one the wierdest food I had seen & tasted in a long time. It was obvious that the group was still uncomfortable with each other and the unusual food did not improve the comfort factor. The servings were especially interesting for the non-veg group. Another 10 minutes on the bus and we reached the wharf.
A 20 minutes boat ride helped us cross the river to one of the islands. In the boat , our guide explained the importance of Mekong Delta to Vietnam while we sipped on sweet coconut water. The island trip was very interesting and we were treated to the process of making coconut candies and banana wine.
The wine was very strong and not to my taste but the candy sure was. I purchased a few boxes for home. Along the way held a bee hive in my hand, put a python around my neck and the entire group was treated to a Vietnamese song sequence as well. At every point, one is expected to tip; so I would suggest having enough change in pocket. We ended up tipping another 20k VNDs here but we were disappointed to see others tipping only 1 or 2k VNDs.
I ended up losing my sum glasses while entering one of the boats for the Vietnamese Mekong Delta boat rides. The boat ride was quite a bit of fun and lasted almost half an hour; the stream meanders through the small villages on the island and serves as a market as well for selling groceries.
At the end of the ride,we were treated again to coconut wine and some local savories at a local restaurant; the expectation being that we would purchase some. I did take a packet of sweet sesame banana chips for home. This marked the end of the experience in Vietnam Day 1. The boat took us back to the wharf and it was another 3 hours back to the city.
It was a very fruitful first day in Vietnam and we were quite pleased with our tour operator and tipped him and the driver 50k VNDs each after being dropped off at the city center which was amazing to see.
A quick bus ride back to hostel and we were tired as hell!
After reaching the hostel though, it was time for a quick dinner; we had another early morning flight to catch. A Domino’s located very close to dablend seemed like a good option since we weren’t too delighted with the lunch; it was not !. There was only 1 veg option available and it too was quite expensive costing almost 200k VNDs for a barely medium size pizza with 6 slices. Dinner wasn’t great but the day was.
There was an early morning flight to Hoi An the next day.