Teachers’ Day at Bến Dược Củ Chi Tunnels
Just as we have Mothers’ Day in the UK there is Women’s’ Day and Teachers’ Day in Vietnam. Gifts are given and lunches eaten in celebration. Students from the UK take note. Teachers frequently receive cakes, flowers and even clothes. I was surprised and honoured to receive an áo dài traditionally worn by teachers in Vietnam.
By it coincidence I had booked the 20th November, Teachers’ day, to leave the city and see a little more.
Fish for sale
As much about the journey as the arrival. 56km by motorbike; destination Bến Dược village and Củ Chi Tunnels. An area of historical significance because of horrific bombing and guerrilla warfare during the Vietnam war.
With an area of over 2000km2 it takes some time to leave the hustle of Ho Chi Minh City. Google timings based on car travel in the west not bike travel in the east. One hour 15 minutes predicted, stretched to 3 hours when a slight deviation from route was incorporated into our plan. But I was merely a passenger and navigator (hence the deviation). So with hands free and a shutter speed set to ‘fast’ I was content to capture as much as I could at 25mph or when stationary at traffic lights.
Child ‘safety’ harness
Midmorning break for rattled bodies spent sat in front of a coconut seller’s home, making me count my blessing.
Road side home
City streets turned to broad highways with manicured hedges.
Eventually green paddy fields and plantations replaced high rise buildings and roads emptied of all but the occasional bike.
Rubber tree and mono culture
Some where en route we spotted and stopped at a war cemetery. Technology failed me when I tried to ‘drop a pin’ to record where it was.
Our late arrival at Bến Dược fortuitous good timing. Tour buses were leaving by the dozen as we turned in to park and bar the odd school party we had the place to ourselves with our own personal guide through the tunnel area.
A 1970s propaganda film glorifying the young fighters introduced the tour, along with displays of US arsenal and Viet Com man traps. Each equally barbaric.
Then a tight squeeze into and along restored tunnels gave a taste of the hardship of life underground. Claustrophobic enough when shared with bats and resident spiders prolonged periods not something to relish.
Inside the tunnels
This previously war wrecked area has a memorial temple to those killed. Thousands of names inscribed on the walls with Ho Chi Minh residing as the central point of ‘worship’.
Pose for the camera! But there is a tunnel underneath.
We declined the option to try out the shooting range using ‘live ammunition’ instead just a late lunch by the Saigon river. Afternoon sunlight caught the water as swallows picked off dragonflies, bird song the only noise, the perfect antidote to city streets.
Travel, clean air and history.
A fitting way to spend Vietnamese Teachers’ Day.