Having studied the Vietnam War at school and being a couple of geeks in general, we were extremely excited to see the Vietcong tunnels – though having been so disturbed by the Killing Fields in Cambodia, we were slightly more hesitant than we might otherwise have been to learn more about the aftermaths of war and the impact on the countries involved.
As the Vietcong were living in their enemy’s territory, they had to live underground and built an entire and extensive underground community – some people living down there for as long as 27 years. There were kitchens, bedrooms and even maternity wards.
Our tour guide (nicknamed ‘Jackie Chan’ years ago by the Americans) had been a translator for the Americans and so after the war, the opposing side winning with the Fall of Saigon, he was arrested and spent two years in prison, where he had to collect up and dispose of mines which the Americans had dropped but which had failed to detonate. Apparently Vietnam won’t be clear of all the mines for 100 years after the war ended.
It was shocking and gruesome but so interesting! The tour guide said that now the country is finally at peace after wars for 1000s of years and ‘now the north and the south love each other’.
The Vietcong were uneducated and didn’t know how to make weapons, but their tactics were so clever and ruthless; using vicious booby traps for the Americans to fall down onto great spears so they could steal weapons. They employed guerrilla warfare tactics, hiding in bushes and ambushing the Americans, staying so close to them that the Americans couldn’t fire without shooting their own.
It was for one of these reasons that the Americans dropped the agent orange chemical over the greenland to try and eliminate hiding places. It had that effect, but killed many innocent people, ecosystems and affected the food chain dramatically. The site that we visited is finally clear of chemicals – trees are growing and wildlife has returned. Jackie was extremely excited about this.
We got inside the tunnel and it was really hot and extremely claustrophobic, the entrance hole so small that we didn’t think we’d fit at first!
Enjoying the open air (even if clouded by motorbike fumes),
Charlotte & Sarah x