Sunday, September 20, 2009

Chronicles of the Nolen's in Vietnam '08 - Part 3

We ventured Northwest of Ho Chi Minh to see the Cu Chi Tunnels & the Cau Dai Temple...very interesting...but fun fun! Food at a VERY local restaurant...saw lots of waterbuffalo and big loads of anything and everything you can think of on the back of motorcycles.
Pictures from Monday:

Picture taken at the Cu Chi Tunnels

"Ben Duoc Tunnel (part of the Cu Chi Tunnel System) is a well-known revelutionary historic relic, 70 km to the NW of Ho Chi Minh City....a system of tunnels deeply underground, with several floors, a labyrinth of intricate ways & windings over 200 km long, wherein are sections for accommodations, meeting, and preparing for battle."

Can you find the hidden tunnel passageway? Clay did....

...and then Carrie got down in it...I couldn't believe my hips would actually fit through that opening, but Hurray! they did! I didn't exactly plop down in there quite as swiftly as the Vietnamese worker did though! I have to was as black as black could get down there! Also, I was surprised at how cool & damp it felt when just above the surface it was hot & muggy. Ventilation holes made to look like termite mounds..we saw many different forms of ventilation & smoke holes while we were on the tour...very ingenious... This guy was making sandals out of rubber tires & selling them...look at the itty bitty baby ones! And no, we didn't get a pair for Parker. I wouldn't pay out the price..those were expensive little suckers! :)

Clay coming out of his tour of the tunnels...tourists could actually go down into the passageways led by a guide & go down for miles before having to come out, but we chose to only go about 2 links of the tunnel. The starting point was an easy entry, fairly wide opening for tourists to try & then each section got smaller, darker & harder to maneuver in...I truly will never understand how the "tunnel rats" did it. My knees were killing me after about 50 feet!!!

Stopping to take a picture next to the HUGE bamboo!

In touring the Cu Chi Tunnels we were able to actually go down into several of the meeting rooms, waddle through the tunnels, see the tricks of the Vietnamese in their development of hidden spots for ventilation holes, trapdoors, & tunnel entryways, & view some of the bomb craters & machinery. The guides showed us many of the different traps used to capture & maim American soldiers. The men also explained to us about the Cu Chi Tunnels & the many different rooms established & what they were used for. I'm glad we had the opportunity to learn about this by tour; it's totally different when you're reading about it in books! It also makes you think about family (if you have some relatives who were in the Vietnam War) & what they had to endure during that time. Wow.

These were some of the sights we saw while driving through the countryside:

Water Buffalo everywhere on the sides of the roads!

Rice patties & beautiful, simple fields

More rice patties & countryside

We stopped on the side of the road on the way to the Cau Dai Temple to see all the rubber trees...want to know how to latex gloves are made? My husband would love to tell you the process! ha ha!

A view of one of the houses we drove by in the Vietnam countryside
The Great Holy See Temple, built in 1926, is considered one of the most striking structures in all of south-east Asia. It is the centre of Caodaism, a religion that blends Buddhism, Christianity and Confucianism. Tourists can explore this site and attend the colorful noon-day mass held by the Cao Dai followers. I was astonished to hear that over one million people in this region follow this belief.
Inside the Cau Dai Temple: The elders in bright color robes were considered "having more wisdom" & "holier" than everyone else in white, so they had a special place at the front of the group

Orchestra playing in the back balcony of the temple

A view from the back of the temple as we walked in

Outside the temple
Before heading home, we stopped at a local restaurant in the countryside...and boy was it local! I was so excited when they offered me a Coca-Cola though that I took a picture of the ice cold drink next to the bright red can & almost cried! :) The food was good; the atmosphere was such a fun sight...normal to them...very different to what we are used to in the States. Parker had some rice that they brought out & then we gave him a little baby food as well. The fresh pineapple was delicious for a dessert! We were the only ones there with a child (small or older period...Parker was the only one) so he got extra attention from the locals!
While driving home, we saw many other sights! It was amazing to me what all the Vietnamese carry with them on their bikes!

A man balancing a mattress

A view of one of the parts of Ho Chi Minh City

Many many baskets!

This was neat for me to see... on the way home, we passed many little buildings like this where there would be a few benches, tables & hammocks. Our guide told us that people (especially businessmen) would stop to rest & take naps in these little places (kind of like rest stops in the U.S. except there would be like 12 in a row & all looking about the same). I didn't get a great picture of a good example of this because you can't see the tables, chairs & such in this photograph. However, many of the buildings we saw would show a couple of ladies bringing food to the men at the tables & then a line of about 10-15 hammocks with men reading the newspaper or napping.
The ride back to the Nolen's was complete & total entertainment; I think just seeing the locals at their everyday activity was enough to make me feel as if I had seen it all on this trip!
Seeing the countryside of Vietnam like this was an experience of a lifetime.
(I think Clay & I were both really excited to arrive to a home-cooked meal lovingly prepared by Mrs. Nga though!)

2 hour spa time for me...oh so relaxing...foot and back massage, lunch and then to see Nana's kids at school. They adored Parker and thought he was the coolest thing! Shopping after that...then home for dinner.
Pictures from Tuesday:
Nana showing off Parker to her children at school
The Vietnamese children were enthralled with Parker's blonde hair, blue eyes, fair complexion & the fact that he was "such a big baby!" :)
Group picture!

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