Day two in Ho Chi Minh City started bright and early as the group headed to the Cu Chi Tunnels, about two hours west of the city center. This destination was the base of the Cu Chi District Party Committee during the resistance to the U.S. military. This was also the place for dining, living, meeting, as well as a battle deployment.
To begin the tour, we watched a brief documentary and took a look at the map of the site (see picture below). We were shocked to find out that the Vietnamese refer to the war as the American War rather than the Vietnam War. We proceeded to explore the different “covers,” small spaces where refuge’s hid, traps set up by the Vietnamese, and crawl through a 60 meter underground tunnel. We also had the opportunity to shoot similar weapons that were used in the war such as AK47s and M16s. Hearing this side of the story from the Vietnamese perspective was very eye opening and gave us all a great picture of what life was like for these people. The tunnels, covers, and traps were all very well preserved and made the scene come to life. It was really interesting to learn about the military tactics and mental strategies used by the Vietnamese against U.S. forces. After a rewarding lunch at a beautiful authentic Vietnamese restaurant not too far from the tunnels, the group made there way back into the city before dusk.
The following day was the group’s first free day in Saigon, Vietnam. Many took the opportunity to rest up and recuperate in anticipation for a foodie tour taking place in the evening. Prior to the foodie tour, students explored around the city, took advantage of the amazing prices at the markets, and relaxed.
At 5:30pm, we all gathered at the hotel once again and were paired with a Xe Om (XO) motorbike driver who would proceed to guide us throughout Saigon’s districts to five exciting locations. Xe Om is a special motorbike company because it is the first all female motorbike tour company in Vietnam with drivers who are fluent English speakers. My driver explained how special this is considering the lack of equality between men in women in the country. Given the seemingly lawless driving style in Vietnam and the fact that this was many of our first times on the back of a motorbike, it was a little nerve racking at first however after a little while I was able to loosen up and relax. During the foodie tour, we tried a lot of traditional Vietnamese meals including soups, goat, beef, shrimp, frog, scallops, and clams, and after a bit of hesitation, a baby egg embryo. Being a fairly picky eater, I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty everything was! Even the baby egg embryo was good after getting over the fact that you could see the shape of the baby chicken. The foodie tour certainly exceeded our expectations and we couldn’t recommend it more to anyone looking for an authentic Vietnamese experience.