Repost from February 18, 2010
Since we got here in July last year, we haven’t really gotten around visiting the landmarks and historical places here in Ho Chi Minh — except this Tet Holiday. Also, hubby was in Malaysia for the past four months and traveling with Sam alone in a new city doesn’t sound like a good idea.
Our second Sinh Cafe trip is a one day tour of Cao Dai Temple and the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. Our first stop was the Cao Dai Temple which was a 2.5 hour ride from District 1. Oh maaaan, it was a long trip and it didn’t help that the bus was late. Good thing though that Sam fell asleep coz it would have been difficult to entertain a one year old for 3 hours in a closed space.
We left the city at 8:45 am and reached Cao Dai Temple at 11:20 am! The tour guide gave us an hour to freely roam around the temple grounds and feast our eyes on the intricate displays and handiwork. Cao Dai Temple took (according to our tour guide) 20 years to build. It’s the center of Caodaism religion which is a combination of 3 other religions, Confuicanism, Buddhism, and Taoism. The worship the Holy See which is represented by the left eye on a globe. The left eye was the chosen symbol (instead of the right) since it’s closer to the heart. The worshippers are garbed in all white while the religious leaders can be seen in blue (Taoism), red (Confucianism), and yellow (Buddhism). Prayers were scheduled at 6am, 12nn, and 6pm.
Upon entering the temple, we had to remove our shoes and only walk at the sides of the temple.
Tourists weren’t allowed in the worship area and I had a difficult time running after Sam every time he crossed the line. Of course, silence was the norm and Sam was in no mood to be silenced, so we had to step out of the temple for the remaining part of the hour — which was okay because it was almost 12 noon and the tourists had to get out before the 12nn prayer.
By 12:20 pm, we were back in our bus headed for lunch which was just 5 minutes away. The small restaurant (I don’t remember the name) served Vietnamese and American cuisine and was packed with tourists. It was a chaotic time to be in that place but since there was no other option, we sat beside an Indian working in HCMC as a software engineer. His was the only table available. I felt bad that his tourist buddies weren’t interacting with him (he was in some other bus). John got a conversation going throughout lunch and needless to say, our lunch was yummy.
By 1pm, we were back in our bus headed for the Cu Chi Tunnels. Had we known that Cao Dai was really far, we would have opted to just visit the Cu Chi Tunnels for the day. The trouble was there was no stopovers at all unlike in our Mekong Delta Trip. Truly difficult with a baby in tow. I know, I know we shouldn’t have brought Sam but that is a non-negotiable with Lolo Cesar around. He wants to spend time with his apo while on a tour and I didn’t want to be left behind either. Historical places still fascinates me.
Anyhoo, after an hour and a half, we were in the Cu Chi Tunnel facility. Would you believe that some 16,000 people lived in the tunnels during the war? The Vietnamese started building the tunnels during the French invasion and only used it when the Americans got involved in their civil war. From the video that was presented, Vietnamese rebels who get to kill Americans were awarded with “American Killer Award”. Now if you were an American in a tour group, you’d be cringing hearing this all throughout the video! It’s probably the same thing a Japanese would feel when visiting Manila and hearing about the various atrocities done by their ancestors to ours.
But I digress. You can’t help but be amazed by the narrowness of the tunnels. John tried going in one but got out quickly because he would have to crawl in the small space as opposed to us Asians who could still walk in a squatting position through the tunnels.
We were also shown the various booby traps that’ll make you go MAJOR OUCH and the artillery area where you can buy cartridges and try the old rifles. Sam was cheering hearing the shots but got scared when we got really near ‘em.
If you’re traveling to Ho Chi Minh, visiting the tunnels at the province of Cu Chi IS a must. More photos here.