Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bats in the Belfry- Saigon Part 2

About an hour and a half outside of Saigon you will find a unique and disturbing piece of war history, the Cu Chi Tunnels.  There's some irony in what these things become when tourism and spectacle overrun our sense of good taste.  That said, here is my description of things.

In traveling to the Cu Chi tunnels you leave the bustle of the city for the peace and calm of the flat countryside.  The time of day, the heat, and the lack of industry conspire to keep the sleepy country villages sleepy.  Hammocks and hazy cafes line the street, and I find myself tired from a long bus ride not really watching anything at all.  About an hour into the trip we stopped at a handicapped-crafts store.  This is a workshop for the handicapped to work with lacquer, paint, and wood carving.  They create beautiful and cheap works of art for tourists.  We arrive and observe the war zone turned tourist complex.  The first thing they ask you to do is watch their educational video on the tunnels and the war.  Afterwards you assemble into groups according to language and your tour-guide explains the intricacies of ambush jungle warfare.  They show you multiple types of traps and pitfalls, clever inventions of injury and death.  You can see 20ft craters, the leftovers of B-52 bombing missions.  The highlight of the park are the tunnels.  If you are brave enough and small enough you can crawl through the darkness.

Originally an Australian tourist had volunteered to go down in the tunnels, but after entering he quickly thought better of himself.  Myself and two of Tommy's friends then decided to crawl the thirty feet through this section of tunnel.  Before entering the tour guide mentioned casually that there might be bats in the tunnel.  For whatever reason, maybe it was the tone of his voice, maybe it was the casual manner in which said it, but none of us believed there would actually be bats down there.  I was in the rear, and in the dark.  Hayes had only a little flashlight at the front and I couldn't see a thing.  I could hear him shouting about the numerous bats that lined the ceiling walls and were apparently flying all around us now.  The tunnel itself was dark and damp, and barely tall enough for me to crawl through.  On the floor of the tunnel I could feel rotting leaves and bat droppings.  When we entered the tunnel we were told that there was only one way to go and as it turns out this was not true.  At the end of the tunnel there's a fork and in the pitch black of the tunnel it's creates inside of you a feeling of panic.  There are hundreds of feet of tunnels surrounding you, and only a few small exits hidden amongst the darkness, and you hope for daylight.  After exiting the tunnel I asked the tour guide how they keep the snakes out of the tunnels and he promptly told me that there are snakes in the tunnels all the time.  Awesome.

Oh yeah, and afterwards we took the opportunity to shoot off some Ak's.

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