Vietnam Day 2: Cu Chi Tunnels, Cao Dai Temple and Saigon Sky Deck

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Our second day in Vietnam was filled with another set of fun adventures. This time, we availed the Cao Dai Temple and Cu Chi Tunnel Tour from the hotel. They referred us to Luxury Group Tours and our call time was 8:30 AM. As far as I can remember, we paid 750,000 VND per person for this tour. Package includes private van and Rio, our Vietnamese tour guide.

Handicapped Handicrafts - Before we head to the Cu Chi Tunnels, we first stopped at the handicrafts factory. This place was built to give jobs to handicapped people victimized by Agent Orange poisoning during Vietnam War. We saw sacks of egg shells which they pound and paint to create colorful lacquer paintings, vases and jewelry boxes. They display the finished products in their gallery, all the pieces are of good quality but as much as I'd like to buy one, they were pricey for me and I didn't have much baggage allowance.

Cu Chi Tunnels - located in the Cu Chi District and 70 kilometers North West of downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Entrance fee is 110,000 VND. We were welcomed by the collection of guns, rifles, and bomb shells.

These huts were actually entrance to the level 1 of the tunnels. The roofs are made of a special leaf that won't allow fire to spread to other leaves when burned.

When we entered the level 1 portion of the tunnel, a presentation was made by Rio to show us how the tunnel system works during the Vietnam War. Cu Chi Tunnels can be considered as an underground city. It has kitchen, weapon factories, storage, hospitals and command centers. About 10,000 people had lived underground for years. Beside Rio was an entrance to the tunnel but according to her, tourists are not allowed to enter it yet.

I was lucky to have a small frame, I was able to fit to this secret entrance to the tunnel (which is no longer a secret! :p). The cover must be topped with dry leaves for the enemies roaming the jungle not to recognize it. I didn't see anything when I went down inside, it was totally dark.

Heavy tanks were left here by the Americans. It was destroyed by Vietnamese soldiers by flushing water to its engine.

We've experienced to fire a Carbine rifle in the shooting range for 25,000 VND per person, I was hesitant to try it at first because of the recoil but our guide assured us that this type of gun is the best for beginners. We wore ear plugs as the gun shots were so loud and can be deafening. Out of the 5 bullets given, not even once I was able to hit the target. I heard they will give special prize to visitors who can hit at least 2 targets.

We explored 60 meters of the tunnel but there was an option given to explore up to 100 meters. The man in green uniform served as our guide. The passages of the tunnel were small so we had to walk while sitting inside. 
It was made that way during the war so that only Vietnamese people can pass since they have petite frames. Enemies like the Americans before have bigger frames and cannot fit inside the tunnels. The weather was warm when we were there which was perfect because the underground tunnels were made of clay and can be muddy during rainy days.

Here's an example of a huge bomb crater. The last time I saw a huge bomb crater was in Corregidor, Philippines made by World War II.

Cao Dai Temple - After the Cu Chi Tunnels, it took us almost 2 hours of travel to reach the Cao Dai Temple (a.k.a Holy See). Caodaoism is a religious movement founded in Vietnam. We were instructed to leave our shoes, hats and caps outside the temple. Upon entering, we were guided by a Caodaoist on where to step inside the temple. He cannot speak English and was only pointing on the sides, I believe, they won't allow us to walk in the middle because that's where they pray/meditate. We can take pictures inside the temple but make sure to exclude ourselves. We were prohibited from taking selfies inside the temple as they believe it will bring misfortune. This was the last itinerary of our guided tour, we went to a restaurant for a late lunch after this. Our lunch was not included in the tour so we paid for it separately at 120,000 VND (240 PHP).

Saigon Skydeck (Bitexco Financial Tower) - At around 6:00 PM, we were already at the hotel. We rested for a while and to cap off our night, we went straight to Bitexco Financial Tower to see the stunning 360°
 view of Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon Skydeck is located at 49th floor and we experienced the elevator ride with speed of 7 m/s. Admission fee for single entry is 200,000 VND (400 PHP). I've learned that the shape of the skyscraper is inspired by a lotus, Vietnam's national flower. It is the country's first and only International Class A building.

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