d Today we went on a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Cao Dao Temple, an incongruous pairing.
The Cu Chi tunnels are a massive network of incredibly narrow tunnels (think small heating duct) that the Vietnamese army used extensively during the Vietnam war (they refer to it as the American war). As Jason demonstrates, entrances were miniscule.
The tunnel probably has hundreds of entrances; we saw many within the small area we walked. Our guide Hue showed us air ducts disguised as termite mounds. All aspects of the tunnel were incredibly subtle, considering its size; it remained undetected for a long time. Many of the troops lived in the tunnels, and they connected to the barracks from which they fought. The Americans built a large base on top of the tunnel at one point, oblivious to its existence, and couldn’t explain the Vietnamese firing at them from within their own base in the middle of the night.
Three of Hue’s uncles were in the South Vietnamese army, and were killed by the North. We hear this kind of story from many of the Southern Vietnamese we meet. He showed us some of the medeival-looking traps laid for the Americans like this frightening spiked gate. Villagers suspended it from behind their front door after going to bed, so anyone raiding their home would be impaled. Holes were also dug in the ground and camoflaged so soldiers would fall in, spearing themselves on spikes pointing upward, and being trapped by other spikes pointing downward. Horrific stuff.
We learned some new things about the Vietnamese war experience. Exhibits pointed out that tens of thousands of Vietnamese women also fought and died in the war. Another interesting aspect was Vietnamese sawing open live US warheads for to use the powder for their own weapons.
And for stealth, they developed the "Slow Kill" oven, for discreetly cooking in the tunnels. Steam goes through a series of chimney filters and is reduced with each filter, till the amount released from the ground is very little. It makes the oven much less detectable by the enemy. We saw the oven being operated, and tasted some steamed manioc (perhaps cooked in the oven?), which we dipped in a dry peanut/sugar/salt condiment. Tasty.
An aside — we notice lots of sweet/salty combinations here, as we did in Mexico. A tropical climate phenomenon?
Jason also got in touch with his, er, macho side today