Cu Chi Tunnels and District 7

On our third day in Saigon, we took a half day tour of Cu Chi Tunnels. By the looks of it,  the Viet Congs definitely gave a tough time to the American soldiers. Like I mentioned in my previous post, these guys have mastered the art of tunnel warfare. The American soldiers had no idea how they were operating. They would move underground in these tiny tunnels thanks to their smaller framed bodies as well which was allowed them to fit under these holes and make way to the American base, ambush them and come back with much ease as it baffled the Americans what was happening under ground.

These tunnels looked tiny but a few of these were made available for tourists who wanted to experience the same.

Overall, it is not just the tunnels but traps and their whole machinery of how they would partake in tunnel warfare.

 

District 7
In the evening, our local friends suggested we go to District 7 -the up and coming swanky township in Ho Chi Minh City. While District 7 reminds me of Hunger Games, it was nothing like the districts of Hunger Games. There were malls, new apartments and a lake. One of the things about Vietnam is, they hardly build high-rise apartments as we see in newer cities etc. Also, they decided not to ruin the lake and built their city around the lake. It was pretty.

Mekong Delta River Run

The Mekong river begins in China and runs through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. So an opportunity to ride down the Mekong on a boat for one full day was definitely on my mind. (I don’t know why we didn’t do this last time because I think my father would’ve loved it). But yes, there are many tours that take you down the Mekong; our local friends advised us to go to The Sinh Tourist -apparently the oldest tour operators in town and we were set.

We started from their office at Ho Chi Minh City around 8am and looked like a whole lot of people had signed up for the same. There were four buses and we drove out of the city to a place called My Tho where we were transferred to a boat as we rode down the river…

We stopped at the Coconut farm where they make coconut candy, paper, cookies and even make-up products. They had maximised their usage of coconut raw materials to their advantage and was even known as coconut village.

Lunch time in coconut village was equally interesting as they prepared spring rolls wrapped in coconut paper and served vegetables, fish, pork and rice. It was a pretty good lunch. This island village also farms honey so they gave us honey tea after some hike around the village.

Then we went for a buggy ride in the village followed by a cultural program with local artists singing Vietnamese folk songs where they also served us the different tropical fruits.

But they saved the best for the last as we got on smaller boats whose captains were mainly the women folk as they paddled through the green palms and river alleys as if we were in some spy movie. The river run was long for her perhaps to row the entire stretch so she turned the engine and the sights and the sounds made it seem like we were in the scene of some James Bond movie.

One of the things to be appreciated is how they are doing tourism in this country. Giving a peek of their lives to tourists who wants to go to Mekong delta, they have promoted their coconuts products, their local villagers who prepared lunch and the folk singers who sang for us. And these women who now gave rides to tourists in their boats. The best part again is how when we ran across women who had already completed their trip in the river, they would flash some cash suggesting “don’t forget to tip”.

It was the women helping women because I have noticed the Vietnamese people don’t necessarily ask for tip directly. So to have your friends aide you in coaxing your customers to give you some pocket change is brilliant. And who would not want to give a few thousand dong after that surreal Mekong delta river run…

p o s s i m p i b l e

boabookstore

a tiny sign in a crowded place caught our attention as we entered an almost abandoned building and climbed two flights of stairs to see more signs leading to another closed door;
but with instructions to open the door softly.
we obeyed the orders and entered this cozy book store in the middle of ho chi minh city.

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we took off our shoes and looked around to find fiction, nonfiction, biographies, fashion, self help and the latest from across the world.
their best selling list included lang leav and “we are liars”.
the place was a book lover’s haven and if you like petting a cat as you read your book, there was one softly treading through piles of books in that room.
i looked around and asked if they had any books on vietnam and the response was a negative.

while i should’ve been disappointed i couldn’t find a book on vietnam in vietnam,
i loved that they didn’t have what i asked for because it shattered my expectations.
often times we are in a certain place or with a certain group of people,
and have certain expectations of them.
because they are from the city, we expect them to behave in an urban way.
or if they are from a certain country, we expect them to speak that language only.
but we forget that today’s world is every place -every person;
anybody could be from anywhere and speak any language they can.
therefore, this place became a good reminder that this bookshop could be anywhere in the world too.

while i didn’t buy any books that day,
i did come out of that place with a new word in my vocabulary.
“p-o-s-s-i-m-p-i-b-l-e: the place where the possible and the impossible meet”
rightly defining boa bookstore in saigon.
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