In it’s whole, today was spent learning how awful America (et. al.) were during the Vietnam War (or the American Agression as it’s called here).
In the morning we joined a tour group for the Cu Chi Tunnels, and started by seeing a workshop where people with deformaties from Agent Orange are given jobs to help make egg shell/mother-of-pearl inlay desks and things. Quite a way to begin. We then drove for 1.5 hours to the tunnels themselves and walked through a section of the actual tunnels. They’re impossibly small, with the littlest amount of room to walk on all fours thru (even as they’ve been expanded for tourists sake). We spent some time in the area also looking at various reproductions of the different types of stations/etc that the Viet Cong had mantained and setup to prevent detection as well getting nearly deafened by a non-sound-isolated live-fire AK-47 range. It was interesting (tragic?) to note that as we walked around, the remains of the war (defoliated jungles, bomb craters, etc) were everywhere to be seen.
After the bus came back to HCMC, we went to the War Reminants Musuem, which was incredibly enlightening yet horrifying. Seeing the things that happened on both sides of the war (and esp. getting the Vietnamese side of the story) was incredibly unique. Undoubtedly there was quite a bit of propaganda being thrown around but some of the images, stories and facts really make you question what we call our “American morals.” Even worse, a lot of the quotes and facts and situations are not unlike our America of today. From the war crimes that we’re committing in Iraq to the stories of the Vietnam past, they sound exactly the same. Some of the quotes they had listed you could just place them in today’s politicans (replace “Communism” with “Terrorism”) mouths and they’d fit.
Later in the evening, we tried to find the Jade Buddha Pagoda but were totally unable to, so we ended up grabbing dinner near our hotel and then went to the “fabled” Rex Hotel rooftop bar. For all it’s fabled-ness, it was a bit (okay, a lot) underwhelming, themed with a garden-green lights and a hanging potted plants mess. I much prefered the rooftop bar of the Majestic.
The tickets for the 8-hour bus ride to Phomn Penh are booked for tomorrow, departing here at 8:15am. From the best of my understanding we should be able to get Cambodian visas at the border crossing. The plan is to spend the rest of the day tomorrow in Phomn Penh and then head to Siem Reap the next day. If the visas don’t pan out, we’ll be stuck in the middle of Vietnam until it’s sorted out.