We’re met by our guide Dominic at the hostel and he takes us down to the Mekong to a surprisingly luxurious speedboat. Today’s tour is going to the Cu Chi tunnels, this is where the Vietnamese resistance hid during the days while the Americans were bombing. It actually was an entire community under ground, complete with kitchen and all! We booked with a tour company that guaranteed a group size no larger than 10 people and to our satisfaction we discover that we’re actually the only people on the tour. Dominic is a very nice guy with excellent English and an interest in current events, so we end up talking about anything from military service to religion and politics with him. The boat ride is really nice and the breeze really helps making the intense heat bearable.
The Cu Chi area is more than just the tunnels, you get to see a video with footage from the war, there is a parade of all the nasty traps they were setting. There is examples of how they harvested dud grenades and made them into booby traps. Other handicraft as well, like making sandals out of old tires (with the interesting side effect that they could easily fake that vehicles had passed through an area) and sewing clothes. There’s one spot where you get to see how the entrance to the tunnels would look, it’s simply a metal frame some 45×20 cm (which is about 10 cm wider than they used to be to accommodate tourists). Dominic invites us to try and fit down into the hole and Jen manages quite easily while I have a much harder time even with my arms straight up. Some jiggling and scuffing is required for me to get down properly and it’s a bit claustrophobic for sure.
You also get to go through some, appropriately widened, tunnels. You don’t even have to crawl actually, it’s sufficient to just hunch over and you have a guy in front of you showing the way so you feel quite safe. There’s also a shooting range here and even though I’m not all that into guns I can’t resist the chance of shooting some AK-47. We split a ten shot package between us, Jen goes first and really gets the complete AK experience with misfires and all! The guy assisting us just pulls the bolt back, sending the misfired cartridge soaring in a parabola into his waiting hand and motions Jen to go on. Three misfires later he pulls out the magazine and tops it back up with the misfired cartridges before I get to go. Overall Cu Chi is a great tourist location and I would highly recommend it if you’re in the area.
The tour isn’t over though, on the way back we have a stop at a cricket farm. The place isn’t all that big, but the owners are probably well off by Vietnamese standards. The crickets live in open top boxes but seem to be content staying there. We get to dig around the crickets while they explain the rearing process and how the crickets are then shipped off to restaurants that actually serve them. The also have another kind of bug that they grow, but that one’s only used as food at fish farms, probably much better than the fish pellets that the salmon farms are using! We also get to snack on the little buggers, a plate filled with deep fried crickets is accompanied by another plate of greens and some rice paper. You wet the rice paper and put greens and crickets on it like a tiny tortilla, or spring roll I guess and roll it up. It’s fun to see the limbs and heads sticking out and it really is quite tasty. A bit crunchy, but not too much. We actually finish the entire plate and the family who owns the farm seem very pleased.
Our last stop is back in town, where we’re served a very nice lunch at a very nice restaurant that we’d never found if it weren’t for this tour. It wasn’t the cheapest company out there, but easily worth the extra money. Dominic is an excellent guide and we got exactly what we wanted out of the tour, so I have nothing but praise for Buffalo Tours that set it up! The remainder of the day is spent wandering around, like we are wont to do. We make sure to make it back to have time to go for the blind people massage that is more or less next door to our hostel. I have all sorts of preconceived notions about how great it will be but maybe my high expectations end up being the problem. It’s not that special actually, as usual the masseur doesn’t have any training, he only does the usual poking and prodding that you get anywhere. His English is rather limited too, but at least it’s a relaxing hour for a measly 60 000 vnd (less than 20 sek!), so I’d call it a win.