Ho Chi Minh city.
Fasten your seatbelts as Ho Chi Minh City is a metropolis on the move – and we’re not just talking about the motorbikes that throng the streets. Saigon, as it’s known to all but city officials, is Viet Nam at its most dizzying: a high-octane city of commerce and culture that has driven the whole country forward with its limitless energy. It is a living organism that breathes life and vitality into all who settle here, and visitors cannot help but be hauled along for the ride.
Saigon is a name so evocative that it conjures up a thousand jumbled images. Wander through timeless alleys to ancient pagodas or teeming markets, past ramshackle wooden shops selling silk, spices and baskets, before fast-forwarding into the future beneath sleek skyscrapers or at designer malls, gourmet restaurants and minimalist bar
The ghosts of the past live on in the churches, temples, former GI hotels and government buildings that one generation ago witnessed a city in turmoil, but the real beauty of Saigon’s urban collage is that these two worlds blend so seamlessly into one.
Whether you want the finest hotels or the cheapest guesthouses, the classiest restaurants or the most humble street stalls, the designer boutiques or the scrum of the markets, Saigon has it all. The Saigon experience is about so many things – memorable conversations, tantalising tastes and moments of frustration – yet it will not evoke apathy. Stick around this conundrum of a city long enough and you may just unravel its mysteries.
The Mekong Delta is the bottom half of Vietnam’s two rice baskets ( the other being the Red River Delta in the North).This vast delta is formed by the deposition of the multiple tentacles and tributaries of the might Mekong River which has its origin in the Tibetan highland plateau 2,800 miles away.From its source, the river makes its way through China, Myamar( Burma),Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam before flowing out into the South China Sea.The Mekong’s Vietnamese name, Cuu Long, means Nine Dragons for the nine mouths that terminate the flow of this great river as it is absorbed by the sea.The people of south Vietnam are often very pround of the richness and vastness of this land.When referring to the rice fields in this area, they often say “ co bay thang canh” meaning the land is so large that the cranes can stretch their wings as they fly.Today, the region is one of Vietnam’s highest producer of rice crops,vegetables and fruits.
Cu chi tunnel
Cu Chi istrict is well-known nationwide as the base where the Vietnamese mounted their operations of the Tet.offensive in 1968.The tunnels are between o,4 to 1 m wide, just enough for a person to walk along by bending or dragging.However, parts of the tunnels have been modified to accommodate visitors.The upper soil layer is between 3 to 5m thick and can support the weight of a 60-ton tank and the damage of light cannons and bombs.The underground network provide meeting rooms, sleeping quarters, commanding rooms, hospitals, and other social rooms.By visiting the Cu Chi tunnels provides a better understanding of the prolonged resistance war of the Vietnamese people and also of the persistent and clever character of the Vietnamese nation.
A place that’s physically invisible, the Cu Chi tunnels have sure carved themselves a celebrated niche in the history of guerilla warfare.Its celebrated and unseen geography straddles-all of it underground-something which the Ameriacan War, in the late 1940s, as a peasant-army respose to a more mobile and ruthless French occupation.The pland was simple take the resistance briefly to the enemy and then literally vanish.
Firstly, the French then the Americans were baffled as to where they melted to presuming, that it was somewhere under cover of the night in the Mekong delta.But the answer lay in the sprawling city under their feet-miles and miles of tunnels.In the gap between French occupation and the arrival of the Americans the tunnels fell largely into disrepair but the area’s thick natural earth kept them intact and maintained by nature.In turn it became not just a place of hasty retreat or of refuge but in the words of one military historian “ an underground land of steel, home to the depth of hatred and the incommutability of the peole :” It became, against the Americans and under their noses, a resistance base and the headquarters of the southern Vietnam Liberation Forces.The linked threat from the Viet Cong-the armed forces of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam-Against the southern city forced the unwitting Americans to seclect Cu Chi as the best site for a massive supply base-smack on top of the then 25-year old tunnels network.Even sporadic and American’s grudgingly had to late admit, daring attacks on the new base, failed for months to indicate where the attackers were coming from-and importantly, where they were retreating to.It was only when captives and defectors talked that it became slightly more clear.But sill the entries, exits, and even the sheer scale of the tunnels weren’t even guessed at Chemicals, smoke outs, razing by fire and bulldoxing of whole areas, pinpointed only a few of the well hidden tunnels and their entrances.The emergence of the Tunnel Rats, a detachment of southern Vietnamese working with Amerians small enough to fit in the tunnels, could only guess at the sheer scale of Cu Chi.By the time peace had come, little of the complex, and its infrastructure of schools, dormitories, hospitals, and miles of tunnels, had been uncovered.Now, in peace, only some of it is uncovered.as a much visited part of the southern tourist train.Many of the tunnels are expanded replicas to avoid any claustrophobia they would induce in tourists.The wells that provided the vital drinking water are still active, producing clear and clean water to the three-tiered system of tunnels that sustained life.A detailed map is almost impossible, for security reasons if nothing else, and innate sense of direction guided the tunnellers and those who lived in them.
Many routes linked to local rivers, including the Sai Gon River, their top soil firm enough to take construction and the movement of heavy machinery by American tanks, the middle tier from mortar attacks, and the lower 8-10 down was impregnable.A series of hidden and sometimes booby trapped doors connected the routes, down through a system of narrow, often unlit and invented tunnels.At one point American troops brought in a well trained squad of 3000 sniffer dogs, but the German Shepherds were too bulky to navigate the courses.One legend has it that the dogs were deterred by Vietnamese using American soap to throw them off their scent, but more usually pepper and chilly spray was laid at entrances, oftern hidden in mounds disguised as molehills to throuw them off.But the Ameriacans were never passive about the tunnels, despite being unaware of thir sheer complexity.Large scale raiding operation used tanks, artillery and air raids, water was pumped thorough know tunnels, and engineers laid toxic gas.
But one American commander’s report at the time said:” It’s impossible to destroy the tunnels because they are too deep and extremely tortuous.”