Day 20: The Tunnels and the War

We only have two days here in Ho Chi Minh City so we jumped right into the experience.

In the morning, we drove north of the city to visit the tunnels in Cu Chi. Here, resistance fighters fought and lived underground. Our guide, Mr. Binh, talked about the brutal manner in which the guerilla war was waged, how he fought with the Americans, and after the south lost, he shared how he was “re-educated” for five years before returning to life in Saigon -now renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

In the afternoon, our class was hit hard by the images in the War Remnants Museum. The exhibits document the war crimes like prisons, abuses, and use of chemical weapons during the war. Our students had been prepared to understand this horror because they had read a The Sorrow of War, a north Vietnamese soldier’s memoir about his post traumatic stress disorder.

In the evening, we walked across the city and saw a piece of the city’s traffic problem: picking up your kid. Once the local public schools let out, the roads AND sidewalks clog with motorbikes parked to find and pick up their children from school. We then continued to the Saigon Post Office which was built in the old, grand French colonial style. There we talked about storytelling and preparing to write our short films for an upcoming project.

On our walk home for dinner, we stopped at Ben Thanh Market to see the major souvenir hub for tourists. Finally, as we walked through the boulevard park we were swarmed by friendly, young Vietnamese who stroll through the parks at night hoping to find tourists to practice their English. A foreign language offers a way up in the job world and most of these young Vietnamese are in the big city for the first time, starting University at eighteen, and taking it upon themselves to learn English, Chinese, and Japanese in their own time to improve their business relations.

It was a big day exploring Vietnam and we definitely earned a restful night. We had dinner in our local neighbourhood and got to bed because tomorrow is our last day in HCMC and we’ve got a busy day in the world of cafes.

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