Monday, 23 September 2013

All about the War

After feeling the strain of our lack of culture-orientedness (new word?), last week Lee and I signed up for a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. The Viet Cong dug thousands of miles of tunnels during the war, including a vast network in the area of Cu Chi, which is just north west of Ho Chi Minh city. Apologies for my immaturity but I couldn't help giggling to myself every time the tour guide said 'coochie' tunnels. Haha.
We were first taken into a big room to watch a film- somewhat of a tradition in these kinds of places I find. The film began by telling of how tranquil and beautiful the area was before the war happened. Now, I didn't mean to be inappropriate, but the video was so unashamedly anti-American that it was just funny. It told the story of one man who did well in the war, and was subsequently named an "American killer hero." I know that any hero in a war is deemed so because of killing the enemy, but usually we dress it up a little. After about the tenth time the film said "American killer hero," or "this small girl was a hero, she killed many Americans!" #insert slightly squeaky and ever so enthusiastic Vietnamese voice-over here# I was about ready to collapse off my seat. Why do I have to find things funny at times like these? Although seriously, how could anyone keep a straight face?
After the video we looked at some Viet Cong booby traps. Not so funny. The tour guide was very keen to show us exactly how the American soldiers were impaled and left to die slowly in the traps. He used a big stick to demonstrate the gruesome snapping mechanisms, whilst telling us in great detail what this would do to the person caught. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the USA didn't win this unnecessary war, but I also don't relish the idea of nineteen year old Americans dying in such horrific circumstances either. There was a slightly weird sense of pride about the whole thing- like "look how we beat their tanks and bombs with our stealth and bamboo traps." But then again I can't blame them.

We walked through the beautiful trees to the sounds of gunshots from the firing range- see what it's like to fire an AK-47!- which helped to create a rather scary simulated war experience.

We then headed to the tunnels, which we were assured had been made bigger for tourists. 'Never fear Westeners, your fat asses will fit through!' I began to have visions of my bum getting stuck much like Winnie the Pooh when he visits Rabbit's house and eats too much honey, then can't get out.
I started to freak out a bit when I realised (I don't know why I didn't think this through when we signed up for the trip) that we were actually going in the tunnels. Recently I've been suffering a bit from claustrophobia, so I was not at all excited about the prospect of the tunnel.

Putting on a happy face as we head in
But I took a deep breath and went for it. And I can now report that, just as I had expected, it was terrifying. On my hands and knees in a convoy behind Lee, the stone walls a few inches away, I tried hard not to panic. Especially when the sheer mass of bodies blocked out all light and then the convoy came to a standstill as someone in front took a picture. Now is not the time, asshole, get a frickin move on!
Needless to say, I came out at the first exit and can now cross 'crawl through an underground tunnel' off my list of things to do but have no intention of ever doing again. Yey me!

One of the exits- now if that's not scary, I don't know what is
 In keeping with our learning about history vibe, the next day we went to the War Remnants Museum (actually the right one this time!). I really liked the museum- if you can use the word 'like' with regards to graphic information about war and death.
The 'highlights' included:
Pictures of opposition to the war- it's amazing how many countries marched to protest the war, and even more amazing that America refused to listen.
War crimes- this part nearly had me in tears. Out of three million Vietnamese killed in the war,
two million were civilians. The US army were taught to hate all Vietnamese, and trained to 'kill anything that moves.' There were graphic pictures and stories documenting massacres that took place as a result of this attitude. Most famously in the village of My Lai where hundreds of unarmed men, women and children were brutally murdered.
Photographers who died for the cause- Photos showing pictures from both sides, all from people who died whilst documenting the war. 
Affects of Agent Orange- this was perhaps the most sickening part of the whole thing. The chemical weapons that were used by the U.S to deforest whole areas of the country caused many casualties through first hand exposure and through it being passed down through genes. There were some horrific pictures of children born with no legs, no arms, oversized heads, siamese twins, blind... the list is endless. And to this day Agent Orange is causing deformity in newborns. You can see the effects in Ho Chi Minh every time you leave the house here.
The USA has offered its own war veterans compensation for damage caused by Agent Orange. In the museum was a letter from a Vietnamese victim to President Obama, asking that he consider sending aid to help those here that continue to be affected. The letter was humble, forgiving, compassionate, and as far as we know, unanswered.

In case you felt like reading it

And on a further shocking note, the company that brought you Agent Orange is none other than Monsanto- the biggest provider of crops and GM food products in the USA today.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading yet another post of horror and misery from me. I like to think of it as a public service. Hopefully next time I'll have something slightly more amusing to say!



  1. So interesting! Thanks for linking up for Wanderlust Wednesday!

  2. Thanks! Yes I thought it fit the bill, even if its not a particularly happy post!


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