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Archive for March, 2015

The Legacy of the Cu Chi Tunnels.

The Legacy of the Cu Chi Tunnels..

The Legacy of the Cu Chi Tunnels.

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In 1948, the people in the Cu Chi district -the Viet Minh, start to build a vast network of interconnecting tunnels to help the poorly equipped peasant army against French imperialism.

These tunnels keep gorilla resistance fighters safe and hidden under the ground.

In 1968 the tunnels – competed by the Viet Cong (V.C), consists of thousands underground pathways link meeting rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and field hospitals to one another.

Like an underground village, all needs are met,  including and manufacturing black durable cotton uniforms and sandals made from rubber.

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Photos: black durable cotton uniforms and scarf and  sandals being  made from rubber. 

Each tunnel is several stories deep with deep ventilation units hidden from view.

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Photos: Air vents into tunnels

The tunnels and the people in them, are protected, by countess trapdoors.

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Photos: trapdoors around tunnels

These trapdoors of ingenious designs capture and kill those who step upon them.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s  the war – known locally as the American war, is at its peak.

The tunnels allow the Viet Cong, (V.C) to control the rural area less than 50 km from the capital of The Republic of Vietnam- Saigon, in the south and the Cambodian border, on the east.

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Photo: Figures representing V.C  gorilla fighters, during 1960- 1975  American War.

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 Note to self

Paul bless him, almost got stuck in one of the tunnels. I know because it was me who took the photo!

Guess he is a lot bigger than typical The Viet Cong!

While I hate war, I do admire the brave Viet Minh and VC people who lived, worked and fought here. The designs of the tunnels, built on many levels, are ingenious. Take the kitchens for example, the smoke from the cooking stoves, travels by a series of vents opening into a clearing, several feet away from the tunnel, thus making it impossible to locate the source of the fire from the air.

 

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Photo : Cooking underground in Cu Chi tunnels. The location of smoke from cooking is several feet away from the tunnel. It is bearly visable under the leaves

 Is that clever or what!!

A Sad note to self

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when the American War was raging in throughout Vietnam, Northern Ireland is experiencing what is known locally as ‘The Troubles’.

At that time, I am a child living with my family in Limavady Road, just outside the city of Derry/ Londonderry in Northern Ireland. The British base is right behind our house and the American Base is just across the road. It is dangerous. We are Catholics living in a Protestant area. I know nothing of this danger. My parents can afford to send me and my brother to boarding schools in Sligo. My older brothers and sisters are in University in Dublin.

But what if in the 1970’s I am not Irish but American? My brother and I will still go  school. But, University is very expensive in America. Perhaps, my father cannot afford to send both my two brothers and sister. My older brothers are 19 and 22 years old. I wonder what fate awaits them  if they  choose not to go to college. Will their names be put in a lottery? Will one or both of them  be sent against their will, to a foreign, hot, humid country? Will they  fight in a war that they  do not understand? Who will they  kill? A mother? A Father? A child? Will they  stand on a trap door and be skewered alive in a shallow grave or worse? 

Words fail me as I climb out of these Cu Chi tunnels.

I force myself back into the present.

 It is 2015.

I am a tourist again.

We are traveling towards the next leg of our journey the magnificently beautiful  Mekong Delta.

In Ho Chi Minh City, we also visited the Reunification Palace and War Remnants museum

In Ho Chi Minh City, we visit the Old Saigon Post Office and The Norte Dame Cathedral. It is fantastic. We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

We are on holidays.

We are tourists.

Then we visit Reunification palace with its fabulous luxury, recent past and its role in the American /Vietnam War.

It is still Ok. Life goes on.

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Then God helps us, we spend many hours in the war memorial museum.

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It is one the most harrowing experience I ever felt.

All I can say is that Auschwitz paled in comparison in demonstrating the capacity we have as humans, to be cruel.

A poem I wrote several years ago and Blogged earlier in the year comes to mind.

I call it war and it goes like this:

WAR

Peace be with you.

My peace I give you and all around the bombs abound.

Scattered bodies lie everywhere,

Broken, their spirits spent.

Mother’s son’s squandered youth, lies wasting in earth’s weed.

And what of life?

This gift pawned for another’s mans greed.

We sit like zombies, eyes fixed on synthetic screen.

Like maggots, we play with decay.

Barren ground splattered with oil and blood.

O peace where is Your army?

Help us in our time of need.

 

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Next, we are traveling to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

I dare not complain.

I will share my experiences with you in the next post.

 

Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City..

Ho Chi Minh City.

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Photos: 1. Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon: 2. Reunification Palace :3 Opera house in District 1. : 4. Saigon Brightly restored Old Saigon Post Office in District 1  

Ho Chi Minh City, is known as Siagon.

In the late 17th century it is part of the kingdom of Cambodia and is only a small port known as Prey Nokor.

In the 16th until 18th Century the Nguyen Lords rulers in Hue moved south and reabsorbed the port of Prey Nokor into South Vietnam and along with neighbouring Chinese, build a Citadel there.

In 1859 the French entered the citadel and destroyed it

In 1956 and until 1975 Saigon is the capital of the Republic of Vietnam.

In 1975 Saigon fell to the advancing North Vietnamese forces who rename it Ho Chi Minh City.

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Today

Ho Chi Minh City( HCMC) is a high octane dazzling city of commerce and culture, consists of 19 urban Districts. Its population is rapidly expanding. In 2010 it is at 7.396 million and it is estimated to reach 22 million by 2020!

This dynamic dazzling sparkling and  pulsating city, with its high end boutique shops, lavish hotels, decadent restaurants, trendy nightspots and elegantly clad, status oriented youth make it the undisputed commercial capital of Vietnam.

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Photo: Paul looking at the walking map for important sights in  District 1. Siagon

Our Hotel is in of District 1.

This area is still known as Saigon.

With the Tree lined boulevards, brightly restored Post Office, Opera house and Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon It retains some of the French colonial charm of bygone days which neatly into the ever expanding  throbbing newly emerging commercial metropolis.

Note to self.

I arrived in this city wearing sensible walking shoes. I stumble into the Louis Vuitton store. Bad idea. I feel like the older, smaller, fatter Julia Roberts in the movie Pretty Woman. The shop attendant is not amused. Neither am I.I leave without saying a word. I’m a woman after all and I do not like feeling insignificant

 

Definitely put Hoi An on your bucket list!!! And if you have the time, travel to My Son, the capital and religious center of the Champa kingdom in the middle ages,

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If like me, you are interested in finding similarities, rather than differences in religious practices through the ages, My Son will not disappoint.

More of that later, just for now let’s look at some dates so as to put The Champa kingdom into perspective.

The kingdom of Champa emerges around 2nd century AD.  It is strongly influenced by India. Sanskrit is used as a form of written communication.

The Champa people are strongly influenced Hinduism. They believe in the Trinity Gods. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

In the 4th Century, Simhapura or Lions Citadel becomes the Capital of Champa and remains a city of prominence until the 8th Century.

Between the 7th to the 13th century My Son is the capital and religious center of the Champa kingdom.

 

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Photo: Cham sculpture using Sanskrit

Some of the finest collections of Cham sculptures in the world originate from Simphaura and are now shown in the Cham museum in Danang.

Note to self

We went to the museum in Danang.

Many of the sculptures are made from sandstone.

As far as I can make out they depict a story of creation which involves and interaction between 3 Gods. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. All things apparently come from Brahma which is at the bottom of the Nang Luc Sang Tao sculpture. Then Vishnu or Visnu, is involved with the preservation of life on Earth. And Shiva, well Shiva is very busy helping us to deal with troubles and distractions in life.

This is only my understanding of what appears to be a very complex interaction between the Gods.

In My Son we watch a show which demonstrates this spiritual phenomenon.

 

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Photo: A dance show which demonstrates the God Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

Yup, there it is again; The Trinity. It’s everywhere. The Father- Brahma, Son – Shiva and Holy spirit- Vishnu, perhaps?  Who knows? I certainly don’t.

And yet the thought that there can be similarities between the core concepts underlying Hinduism and Christianity is delightful.

I know Br Martin eluded to this when we visited the ashram of the Holy Trinity in Shantivanam in Central India. I am just delighted to get it so unexpectedly reinforced here

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Photo: The  museum in Danang displaying Champa sculptures

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Photo: Nang Luc Sang Tao depicting the story of creation of the Trinity. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

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Photo:  The God Shiva

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Photo:The God Vishnu

A final note to self

The night before we leave for Saigon I experience a night terror. I am running through colourful streets lined with red and gold. I am lost. In the distance I see Paul. He is sitting on a stone slab talking to a tall man and a woman. They see me and stare with black dull eyes. I feel afraid. They are forcing Paul to drink something. Overhead two large prehistoric mythical birds with feathers of gold and blue fly towards me. Like the people they have eyes like coal. Before me I see Paul. His body is disappearing, fading. He becoming invisible. A hologram of his former self. I beg him to come away. He does not listen.  Danger and Death feels eminent. Fighting sleep I force myself to wake up and pray. I am not alone. Paul sleeps soundly obvious to what I have seen in my mind. In reality I am sitting up in bed. I am just a tourist experiencing a trip of a lifetime. I wash shower and prepare for my trip. Today we head away from Hoi An towards Ho Chi Minh City. My inner quest in search of the miraculous continues

In Hoi An you can shop day and night and if you get tired there is always Tai Chi

In Hoi An you can shop day and night and if you get tired there is always Tai Chi.

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