I need to be honest with you.
I have been so scared of writing this.
I’ve been scared of sounding ignorant. Scared of offending someone. Scared I won’t get it right. Writing this now, I still don’t know if the right words will come but I want to try piece together my thoughts.
One focuses on how informative and eye-opening the visit was. The other worryingly fidgets with how uncomfortable it made me, and not for the intended reasons.
Focusing on the former, it’s easy to highly commend the tunnels.
I learnt so much about this part of history and was so impressed by the ingenuity of the Vietnamese people. Not just for creating the tunnels, but how they lived in and out of them – like how they wore sandals, made out of recycled tyres, backwards to confuse American soldiers.
We were shown an entrance to one of the tunnels, which was absolutely tiny. When entering, you had be careful to place the lid down exactly right so the entrance wouldn’t be spotted.
We were given the chance to explore a model tunnel, it was made bigger for tourists. Even so you still had to hunch and the walls brushed against your side. The smell of earth was everywhere. It was still hard to imagine what living in these tunnels was actually like. I was in awe of the people that did it.
But there were moments on the site, I felt like the history was being exploited.
The prime example for me was the shooting range, where you can pay money and experience firing a gun (I stayed clear of this) or the tank where you can get a group photo. My insides squirmed. I just didn’t feel respectful.
I know that tourism is the main sources of income for Vietnam and I can understand why they would want to make something good out of something so terrible. Personally, there were just parts that made me uncomfortable.
This being said, visiting the Cu Chi tunnels is an important experience as it makes for a one of a kind history lesson.
But for me personally, I gained a better insight of the war during our Hue motorbike tour
We were being shown a Buddhist tomb and our guide took us around the back of it. It had been bombed during the war and there were huge craters in the distant hills.
Far away a lone grey, wall, looked towards us.
The guide crouched on the wall nearest us, his eyes surveying the devastating landscape in front of him. For most of the tour he had been constantly smiling and we got constant flashes of what he bad been like as a little boy. Whereas now his mouth was just a thin, serious line.
“War really, really bad,” he said, his tone soft.
I looked at his face full of grief and the empty landscape and felt my insides shudder.