Cu Chi Tunnels

The second half of my day tour consisted of an optional visit to the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnels were built as a network of hiding and war strategy by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. During the war they would live and hide in the tunnel system.

As part of our visit we are given a demonstration on how the various booby traps would work to deter the opposing soldiers from finding the hidden Viet Cong.

We are also given a demonstration of a smaller underground hideout.

Various other tunnel entrances.

More examples of traps used.

During a short break there is an optional shooting range. Not really my thing so I sat this activity out. The gun shots coming from the range are loud and consistent.

We get to try out one tunnel. This one isn’t so bad with only just hunching over a bit. There is another longer tunnel to try but it looks way too narrow. I am afraid I’ll be trapped in that one.

Our tour guide shows us different plants in the wild and their medicinal uses. Living in the tunnel system away from hospitals was quite dangerous for the soldiers so they had to learn how to use mother nature.

Tunnel diagram

After my tour I am dropped back off at my hotel.

I spend the evening wandering around Bui Vien street. It gets pretty lively.

I try Bún Bò Huế across the street from my hotel. It is pretty decent and it is a good end to a long day of sightseeing.

Ho Chi Minh City Day tour

I book a couple of day tours in Saigon. Logistically it just seemed easier to do so then plan my own transportation to all the different sites. There is a travel agency in the lobby of my hotel’s sister hotel. I book my tours through them. The first tour I book is a Ho Chi Minh City day tour. It is a 1/2 day tour with an optional Cu Chi tunnels afternoon tour (another post about that).

Not loving my tour companions for today’s day tour. They show up 30 min late because their breakfast is more important than the rest of the tour and now we are still waiting to leave for them to finish their cigarettes. Eventually they get in the van and we head to our first destination.

Independence Palace, or Reunification Palace

First stop is the Independence Palace. This headquarters of the South Vietnamese almost seems frozen in time.

We are given a tour of the underground bunker. The original maps and charts are still in place from the war. You can see how they kept track of troops and casualties.

After the reunification palace we stopped by an old temple Taoist temple

Jade Emperor Pagoda (Ngoc Hoang Pagoda)

Temple for a Taoist god built in early 1900’s.

War Remnants museum

Next we stop at the very powerful War Remnants Museum.

A thorough museum on the vietnam war but from a south vietnamese perspective.

*TRIGGER WARNING* There is a very hard to see photo exhibit on the affects of agent orange on the population. One would have to be a monster to come out of there without tears in their eyes. Out of respect I did not take photos of that section. Only the piece of art below.

We complete the morning tour with a visit to the historic post office and the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Notre Dame Cathedral

Historic Central Post Office

Part two of my day tour includes a visit to the Cu chi tunnels. I’ll post about that later.

My Son is me sun

Today I am taking a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site My Son Sanctuary from my hotel in Hoi An (Vietnam).

The name ‘My Son’ looks like you are saying “my son” but it is actually pounced “me sun”.

These Hindu temples were built between the 4th and 14th century by the Champa Kingdom. My tour guide referred to it as little Angkor Wat. These temples are smaller and less impressive than the temples in Cambodia but are dated earlier and look similar, thus the nickname. My Son is impressive but I agree with the criticism that maybe it is not as impressive if you have seen Angkor Wat first. Luckily my first visit to Angkor Wat is later in my travels.

This UNESCO site had lots of destruction in the war (B52 bombing in 1969 and 1972) as the south Vietnamese were using the temples to hide out.

Researchers are still discovering how they were originally constructed in order to try to repair them. During my visit I saw temples in various states of repair.

Bomb site

There is a heritage dance show. It is standing room only in the very back for me. I only catch a short glimpse of it.

When our tour of My Son is complete we visit a lady who makes rice paper. We get a demonstration on how they are made.

We are taken to a local house where we are served a delicious meal family style. We are instructed on how to wet the dry rice sheets and make wraps filled with delicious toppings.

Our day is finished with a short boat ride.

Da Nang is a bust

I asked for downtime and I got it. My time in Da Nang is basically a bust.

I am able to arrange to van ride to Da Nang from Hue. The van ride I book includes a couple stops along the way.

Thanh Toan Bridge

First stop on our ride is in a small village that is famous for its Thanh Toan Bridge. little bridge Thanh Toan Bridge, a Japanese bridge built in the 1700’s. It is a quaint wooden bridge in a quiet town. Note: At the time of this post I discovered the bridge has been disassembled for possible renovations.

Lang Co Beach 

Our second stop is at Lang Co Beach. We stop at what looks likes a once great beach resort but now appears to be fallen into disrepair. There is a place to buy jewelry on this stop (there is always is). I don’t bother going in so not sure if it was gold or whatever. We walk through the resort to get a view of the beach. If it isn’t for all of the trash on the beach it seems like it could be a wonderful place during season. I see some medical waste.

Hai Van Quan

Last stop is the Hai Van Quan along the Van Hai pass. Van Hai Pass is the curvy scenic road that you take into Da Nang. It is quite overcast today but it does still look pretty out the window. We stop at the Hai Van Quan. Built in 1826 by King Minh Mang the gate overlooks Da Nang and also contains an old French fort and Vietnam War bunker.

Da Nang

Finally I am in DaNang. I think I am the only passenger stopping here, the rest are onto Hoi An.

I had high hopes for Da Nang. I am going to visit that famous hand bridge, the marble mountain, and more…. but of course I am visiting during rainy season. I knew there is a risk of rainy days but pretty much my whole time in Da Nang consisted of thunderstorms, not unlike the tropical storms we get in Florida. I felt at home, sort of.

My room is on an upper floor and I have a great view of the ocean.

Storms start. I head upstairs to get a look at the pool. It is closed of course. I’ll try for a visit later.

As the storm progresses the wind gets stronger. The weather proofing from the windows does not hold and water slowly puddles in. I use towels from the bathroom to soak up the water so it doesn’t further flood the room. I later call to tell them repair is needed but they don’t seem too concerned so I just make sure to ask for more towels since mine are all on water duty.

It is later before the storms end. I am not in the mood to explore town in the evening. Instead I take pictures of Lady Buddha off in the distance.

I send an email to my family to check in and let them know I am safe. It is soon after I get a reply from one aunt who remembers my uncle getting stationed in Da Nang during the Vietnam war. I had no clue, war stories don’t seem to be widely discussed. It is odd for my aunts to imagine it being a vacation resort town now when my uncle had a vastly different experience here many years ago. It makes me appreciate how far things have come since then.

Day 2

It is supposed to storm once again all day. I decide not to arrange a ride to sights and just take more downtime since I am not in the mood to be out in the rain.

Buffet breakfast is interesting at the hotel. This is the first place I’ve been at in a while that doesn’t offer a western style breakfast.

During breakfast the storm comes again.

Got a little rooftop pool time during one the brief times the sun comes out. I almost have the entire pool to myself. It is a nice and relaxing view but doesn’t last long because the storms start again.

My hotel offers afternoon tea. I decide to take advantage of it today.

A couple hours pass and I am sick of wasting time watching movies and such. I am in the mood for pizza and luckily the rain stops again. I find a European style pizza place run by an Italian ex-pat near by.

L’Italiano Da Nang

After all that food I need a walk, luckily the rain still hasn’t begun again. I walk down to My Khe Beach.

My Khe Beach

On the way to the beach I walk by some seafood markets. The different types of crustaceans and clams fascinate me.

It is a little challenging to walk across to the beach. There is a steady stream of traffic and they are going much faster than Hanoi. I am scared to try the Hanoi cross here. Luckily traffic lightens up enough for me to cross.

The beach is nice and quiet with only a few people relaxing in the sand; it is off season so it is normal for the beach to be empty.

The rain starts again so I head back to my hotel. This evening is Halloween and rain does stop briefly in the evening for me to go out for a beer. There is a not so crowded bar and food area about 5 blocks away I don’t stay long because I am sure the rain will start again soon.

My stay in Da Nang is short and I pretty much miss all the main attractions but I am well rested. I’ll have to return to Da Nang sometime when it is not rainy season!