Teresa Curran recently returned from an eight-day Essence of Vietnam tour with Peregrine Adventures that she won in a competition we ran last year. This post describes one of the more sobering moments of her trip.
I’m wary of war museums and when we went to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, I sat outside among the tanks and helicopters and tried to not to think of the horrors contained within. It’s not that I don’t want to think about war, or suggest that we shouldn’t learn about it, it’s simply that I prefer to read about it, to hopefully see both sides of the story. Or maybe I am just a bit of a wuss.
I was not anticipating an exciting afternoon excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels but it was an interesting experience.
Before I visited Vietnam, I hadn’t thought about the fact that the country has only recently opened up to the west. They’re new to the tourism industry and they haven’t quite got the tourist banter down. Sometimes they can come off as intimidating as well as inviting which makes the horrors of the war even more real.
The Vietnam War ended just 38 years ago and the wounds on both the people and the country have not yet healed. It was fought there, above and below ground and the examples of traps and snares are still there.
We were given the opportunity to go into the tunnels where people spent years living and hiding from American soldiers. I knew that the tunnels had been expanded for tourists and I knew that I couldn’t get lost. I knew, of course, that the gunshots breaking the quietness were from the training field next door. But, I also knew of a little history, of the way these hills were riddled with traps and of the horror that the people above and below ground must have witnessed during the long years of war.
A historical war site must be a fine balance between museum and theme park. The Cu Chi tunnelsm just outside of Ho Chi Minh Citym are certainly historical. They weave under the ground for miles in an intricate web of warfare that is chilling in its ingenuity.
We went underground for a very short time into the widened tunnels. It was hot and claustrophobic and people were scared as we bent over in darkness. It was an exhilarating few minutes but in retrospect it was a reminder of how people lived during a terrible time.
We left sobered by the experience.
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If you’d like to visit Vietnam, take a look at Vietnam on a Shoestring now with 20% off until March 31 2013.