Thursday, 31 July, 2008

Ho Chi Minh and Cu Chi

Vietnam was a big surprise. Clean, friendly, without much angst (have the tourist DoLLas helped overcome it?). Walked around for hours. Showed when I weighed myself back home, 2.5 kilos less in 5 days! My vegetarianism helped as I hardly ate anything. The typical SE Asian oil (palm oil?) is not something I will get used to in a hurry. I was busy absorbing everything - smells, food, people, poverty (in a respectable, clean and dignified sort of way) and surprising wealth. I had forgotten that the country was unified and it is communist. Well, except for the red flags with yellow stars waving about everywhere, one wouldn't notice.

We went to a few nightclubs, and I checked the vehicles parked on both sides of the road. There were Mercedes' and BMWs and nothing much else. Inside I was being my usual self and breathing 'aware' breaths to lessen the impact of ciggie smoke, otherwise my eyes start watering and I start sneezing, violently and continuously, anyway, I digress. So there were the Viet teenyboppers bopping in spiky haircuts, flashes of colour in their dark straight hair, tattoos and piercings galore, celebrating birthdays and beginning of weekends to black rap, DJed by a crew cut white guy. So I was smiling to myself, screwing my eyes shut to the strobe flash and had a what's happening here moment. Some far away black angst being celebrated here with so much enthusiasm! Have never understood it. Yes, they say music is universal but especially with regards to rap I disagree. What would nightclub goers in Lower Parel or Ho Chi Minh City and elsewhere have experienced that they swear by it so much?

The big surprise for me was that the Vietnam war was Vietcong Vs US and 5 other countries.

And I experienced the amazing Chi Tunnel system. 200+ kilometers of tunnels where, for close to 2 decades the resistance fighters lived (survived would be a better word) fought and made life hell for the US led 'liberation' forces. It was, to put it mildly, an extreme experience to crawl into a veritable foxhole for just 100 meters and imagine that 4000 odd men, women and children lived in the triple-storied tunnel structure 200 km long for 16 years and fought back with ingenious weapons, booby traps and lots of will power and not much else. Pointy hats off.

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