|squeeze thru this|
|Soldiers make tire sandals|
Since the Vietnam War was the bullet for these issues, I had always wanted one day to see truths of what broke our hearts and spirits. I think all over the world, most people wanted the same thing: peace and ability to leave a normal, hard working life. After many wars and many endings, we still seem to have no control over being in the wrong place at the wrong time and having to react to danger and drama. At night here in Vietnam, when it is your day, I watch on CNN the stories that still trash all that we hope we can be.
Yesterday, a two hour weaving between motorcycles and mo-peds to Cu Chi Tunnels, called the “holy revolutionary base of Military Region Committee Saigon-Gia Dinh High Command of Cu Chi District Party Committee and its people”, was a learning experience. Located in the Mango Forest are remnants of more than 200 kilometers of underground tunnels large enough to be a safe city for hundreds of military and Viet Cong. It is said to have been “the most bombed, shelled, gassed, defoliated and generally devastated area in the history of warfare.” It took 30,000 bombs to destroy it.
|Long Ways down|
The Cu Chi Tunnels had access to the Saigon River where people could cross to Binh Duong Province. There were up to four layers or levels - like something ants build in miniature - and block points to obstruct an enemy or stop toxic chemicals. It was a city and women, children, old people also were able to survive attacks inside the hard dirt walls. But it was Napalm and Agent Orange defoliant that turned the jungle into a moonscape. Today, trees have returned but the feel of those moments of escape and reclusiveness is still there. I would not go down under, not liking caves or tunnels.
Our guide explained the US “GI” force was able to destroy the tunnels in five ways: by water to flood it, by underground “army rats” who crawled into the small holes - had to be small people - to plant bombs; German Shepherd dogs - over 2000 - who would be given a piece of Viet Cong uniform, and then would take off in a sniff; (the VC would respond with chili peppers, which would ruin the dogs, who would sneeze, but then the GIs would know the VC were present; by using a bulldozer; and finally fresh grass: if grass grows, and someone walks through it, he leaves a track. Viet Cong also made rubber sandals (rubber is the 2nd largest export in Vietnam) the bottoms of which were made backwards so the GIs wouldn’t know which way the soldiers trekked in the grass or dirt. In the scorched earth policy, the jungle outside and along the Ho Chi Minh trail was destroyed by napalm, flame throwers, water, smoke bombs and gas, as poisonous cobras were stuffed through bamboo pipes to poison the VC (though the VC ate cobra to get stronger.) Today a “park” preserves the community through which tourist walk to see and experience various examples of booby traps, hidden entrances, and the enormity of the place. Then at a way station, brave tourists have a chance to fire some of the enormous weapons used in the war, while the gun-shy can have pandana leaf tea and cassava to dip in a peanut,salt,sugar blend.
|Cao Dai Temple|
|Jesus is in the middle|
m` And the religion is structured around priests, bishops, cardinals and a pope (“the leader”), all with Vietnamese names. It stresses three hierarchal positions: Buddha (the highest attainment of teaching and faith), Sage and Saint. It is supposed to believe in equality of sexes - but in the services, women are on one side and men on the other. Also burials are preformed on the balcony while services are underway. And there are guards outside who won’t let people or cars pass in front of the while the service happens. All must remove shoes on the street and walk on a thin “carpet.” Hey, Ben - it’s colorful!!! I do believe we should all be on the same page. Maybe Cao Dai is the beginning. It is growing by leaps and bounds in this country, but seems Cultish to me. I didn’t feel comfortable within its walls. I’m one hundred per cent for Jesus.
If you don’t have a queasy stomach, you must visit the War Remnants Museum. It takes your breath away in the horror displayed for all to view through photographs, and also giving homage to the photographers who recorded the Vietnam War in all its disasters. Two Japanese photographers, Bunyo Ishikawa and Nakamura Goro, are also featured and the unbearable “Requiem” room is a collection of war documentary photos taken by 134 journalists who were killed during the Indochina wars.
|Scorched earth - once jungle|
|Mother with Napalm Baby|
The whole experience is very anti--American, so much so, my guide didn’t think I could stomach it. Pictures of mothers and babies and distorted children are major and so atrocious it seems an invention by some artist, not truth. Did we know these things would result from the uses of napalm and Agent Orange?
|Entrance to Tiger Cage jail|
|Famous Tiger cages for VC|
|Jade with questionable coffee beans|
|Healthy Tea Snacks|