Ramble on Rose (with the usual Dick) travel blog

Commuting into town.

t'old lady.

Smoky back streets.

rush hour, just before a massive storm.

Waiting patiently (Cao Dai temple)

Looking down from the balcony (Cao Dai temple)

Cao Dai temple

the ceremony (Cao Dai temple)

Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels

The pictures in this entry were all taken on a day off about a week ago. We had a day trip that took us to a Cao Dai temple, and to the Cu Chi Tunnels (Used during the Vietnam-America war for Viet Cong Soldiers to hide in)

From the lonely planet website:

"At first sight, HCMC may seem to be populated with a million bandana-bedecked female bandits on the verge of a giant traffic accident."

The first four Photographs show our journey into town. The main road was blocked for some reason, so the Xe Om (motorbike taxi) drivers had to take us on a shortcut through the backstreets. The Backstreets of Ho Chi Minh City are very interesting places, where the real heart of the city lies. The majotity of the city is made up of these little streets and alleys and is where 10,000,000 people live their lives. The alleys are full of shops, bars, street side coffee shops (usually just some plastic chairs) and lot's of little tin roof houses packed with plants. In a ten meter stretch of alley, there was two butchers, two fruit shops, electrical shops, bike fixing garages, several food and coffee shops, a house with a bright pink and gold shrine in it, about fifty motorbikes and 100 people, all crammed into two meter wide shop fronts and a street big enough for three motorbikes side by side. The steets smell strongly of smoke, exhaust, incense and bbq'd meat (pork, chicken, beef, dog, gecko, rat, anything that moves i think) and always have an atmospheric hazy look to them. Of course we stand out like two big lumps of putty, so were always getting stared and laughed at, i feel like i'm on a carnival float sometimes, i should have some music and a tiara and wave slowly like the queen.

The first stop for our tour was a Cao Dai Temple. A very interesting and garish building that supposidly was based on the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (?!). The Cao Dai Monks and nuns perform a ceremony at midnight and midday every day, a ceremony that we were fortunate enough to see. The religion is based on a mix of Catholicism, Buddhism and Christianity, each represented with a different colour (red, blue, yellow). The god of this religion is a left eye (our your own left eye) which is nearest to you heart, so the temple was richly decorated with eyes of all shapes and sizes. The ceremony involved a lot of singing, banging of drums and monks of varying importance walking into the main hall in their choice of colour. When everyone was in, it looked very impressive, and as all the sweaty tourists were piled up onto a seperate balcony, we had a great view of the whole event.

So after half an hour of watching the proceedings we had to head off to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Tunnels are situated about two hours north of Ho Chi Minh City, near the border with Cambodia. They were used during the war as a stronghold against American forces, and comprise of a system of very tight tunnels that crisscross underneath the district of Cu Chi. The tunnels were used for viet Cong Soldiers to hide and live in, and were dug on three levels. When a VC soldier saw an American he could quickly hide in the tunnels, run through them, popping up in front of the American 20 meters away,and dispose of him. The scariest tunnel was a long one about 5km long, that lead straight into the heart of an American camp. The VC used this to pop up in the night, take out as many American soldiers as possible then run back through the tunnel into the jungle, it kept the Americans confused and scared for years. As well as the tunnels for living and fighting in, the VC set many deadly traps, and had lot's of tricks to confuse and dissorientate American troops, like putting their flip flops on the wrong way round, sending trackers the wrong way. You can easily see why American troops had such difficulty fighting here, it just wasn't their turf, and the Vietnamese ran circles round them. Visiting the tunnels was scary, and being in them even scarier, especially when you remember that people lived in them for 30 years.

Right, thats enough from me, i've gone on a bit this time. Hope whoever reads this is well and good. Rich x x

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