Friday, June 26, 2009

War Day

Today was our first Vietnam War day. It started with eggs and bread. I am already sick of eggs and bread.

Then we got on a large van with some Swiss, French, Brits, Maylasians, and our Vietnamese driver and tour guide. Off to the Cu Chi tunnels we go.

But this tour included a stop we were unaware of. We stopped at a factory that employed the disabled to make various arts and crafts. Many of the workers were disabled as a result of the war- either Agent Orange's lingering affects, or unexploded landmines/ordinance, etc. While that is sad, the products they made were spectacular. They were designed using either mother of pearl, egg shell, or paint. We were able to watch them break pieces of the egg shell off and lay each one individually to create a design. Really top notch stuff. In fact, you can see 2 items from there if you ever come to Boston to visit us.

The Cu Chi tunnels were the tunnels used by the North Vietnamese when they operated right outside of Saigon. There were over 250 km of tunnels. They started building them when they were fighting the French right after WWII, and expanded during the Vietnam War. One of the most interesting notes from the day was that they actually call it The Vietnam War. Strange right? You'd think most of the wars they've ever
had would be the Vietnam War.

So we saw lots of
interesting things- a tunnel entrance the original size, one expanded a bit for 'larger Western people.' See the picture of Carrie in the small tunnel entrance? If you can believe it, this is the expanded entrance. Imagine how smallt he actual ones were! We saw how they made weapons (from unexploded US ordinance), and tasted the tapioca that they survived on. We also both went thru the tunnels. Now, these tunnels were expanded for us larger folks, but I have no idea how they survived down there. Hot and dark. And bugs and bats (thank goodness we didn't find out there was a scorpion in the first tunnel until we were finished!). The first tunnel I led, and got a bit claustrophobic. The second time I was last, and when Carrie was in certain positions I couldn't see anything- pitch black. 17 years in the tunnels. No, Thank You.

Perhaps the most fun part was the AK-47 that I got to shoot. Real live bullets ($15 for 10). I split with the Malaysian guy and we each fired 5. I haven't shot a gun since the .22 rifle at Camp Airy long ago. I didn't hit anything (I was actually ok back in the day), but Carrie said "But Dave, you got close." She'll certainly be a good mother someday with encouragement like that. Of course, I was too scared to really aim, since I didn't feel like getting an AK-47 black eye to carry around for the next two weeks.

We also saw a US tank that was exploded on a landmine (sad since you realize that our US soliders most likely died in that tank), and several booby trap type devices. It was weird to hear the video say that "The bombs were dropped by the devils in Washington DC."

Back on the bus for 1 hour, and we were dropped off outside the War Remnants Museum. But first, you know our priorities- lunchtime! With no idea where we were, and no restaurants close by, we took out the Lonely Planet and aimed for a place that was no longer there. So we settled on the closest thing, didn't look at the menu, and had what would be considered an expensive lunch in Vietnam- $15 + tip. Carrie had water, and I had Diet Coke- but first the waitress somehow thought I said Tiger beer (even though I pointed on the menu) and then when I corrected her, she brought a Corona. Shrimp Spring rolls (gourmet style), Crab Vermicelli for Carrie, and Yellow Noodles with Seafood for me. Carrie's flavor was not what she was expecting there wasn't much crab), and mine had octopus (have tried but don't like) and other unidentified sea creatures in it. But at least mine tasted great! A little splitting definitely occurred!
The War Remnants museum was a great museum. As we've mentioned, it is so interesting to see how the other side views the war. The first part of the exhibit is outside- captured US war machines. Tanks, planes, Hueys and more. Then inside, it was mostly photographs of the war. The first thing we saw a sign that had part of the US Declaration of Independence on it. Then we saw lots of moving photographs. There were lots of sad ones of the affects of Agent Orange- it is terrible how that chemical affected not just those in the war, but their offspring as well. We saw two photos that I posted here- one of US soldiers waterboarding a prisoner, and another of a US soldier holding up part of a Vietnamese corpse. Not fun for this blog- but stuff people should see. I will note that this was obviously a Vietnamese museum. I believe that we do a good job remembering out own atrocities. Here, it was very clear. USA = bad. NV = good. We were shown a video at the Cu Chi tunnels that celebrated a young girl as a soldier, and at the museum we were blamed for the killing of women and children. Obviously awful things happened, but that example illustrates the attitude of the museum. What is really amazing is how many Vietnamese have told us that that is history now. No problem- friends. They are just interested in making money and having a good life.
After the WRM, we grabbed a taxi (van, not bike) and headed here to get an earlier flight to Hoi An. It cost $35, but we hear there are beaches. Should be nice to get tailored clothes and sit for a few days. Hopefully there won't be much to blog about, but I'm sure Carrie will find something for us to do do...


  1. This blog was amazing - so interesting! David is very jealous Dave that you got to shoot an AK47. So, thanks guys, I don't think shooting an AK47 in Vietnam is an anniversary gift that I can actually get him. :) Oh . . . the disappointment.

    It must be hard, but worthwhile seeing the other side's take on the war. No country is void of mistakes . . . you just have to remind yourself of that sometimes.

    So glad to hear you guys are doing well and experiencing such great things! Have fun kids!

  2. No, Dave I will not buy you an AK47 for your next birthday. I hope you got the shooting out of your system. The pictures you took are very interesting. Yes, you are right we do have to see them. Thankfully the people seem to be able to move on in regard to their opinions of us. We can not even begin to imagine what went on over there.
    I am glad you are both going to a place where you can relax for a few days. I can not wait to hear about your clothes. Don't get too carried away.
    Have a safe flight and hopefully we will connect tomorrow.

  3. It sounds as if your day was very interesting and very educational and certainly worth the time you spent there! I really enjoyed reading about your dayand seeing the photos! I am sure you will enjoy relaxing tomorrow and will enjoy a break from having to be here or there by a certain time! Keep in touch - we love your blogging!!! Have fun and RELAX!!!!!
    Love mom