A Visit to Vietnam's Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai's Headquarters
Maybe I'm behind the times, but a little before heading off on my Asian adventure, I discovered Viator. Viator is an online booking agency for tourist activities across the globe. Various agencies and businesses post tourist activities on Viator, and you can book and pay, in your own currency upfront.
I don't have enough experience with the website to tell you if I love or hate it, at the moment. But it has its pros and cons.
After scouring the website for tourist activities that would be dad-friendly, I came upon a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels and a Cao Dai Temple.
The bus picked us up around 7 am for the full day tour. It was cramped and sweaty on the bus, but worth it!
Cao Dai Temple
We visited the headquarters of the Cao Dai religion in Tay Ninh, near the Cambodian border. The religion is less than 100 years old.
This religion mixes Taoism, Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism into one sect. While walking through the temple, you can clearly see the influences from each religion.
As you can see from the photos, the temple is artfully and vibrantly decorated. Ornate dragons and tiles adorn the floors and walls.
It is estimated that there are up to 6 million followers in Vietnam, as well as a smattering of followers around the globe.
Cu Chi Tunnels
After a relatively lacklustre lunch, we hopped back on the bus to head to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This experience was fascinating.
The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam war as hiding spots, means for the transportation of people and supplies and as homes for soldiers. My father was brave enough to go down inside them. But, uh, no thanks! They were very small and bug infested! As a matter of fact, it is said that at any given time about 50% of the soldiers had malaria.
The museum very fascinatingly displayed how with little resources, soldiers in this area quite successfully held back U.S. advances by using expertly crafted booby traps, camouflaging and scrounging discarded U.S. army shells and bombs to make their own weapons.
After the tunnels, participants had the option to pay to fire assault rifles, which I found a little disturbing. Instead I bought myself a Diet Coke and jumped half a foot every time I heard a gunshot go off, while I waited to leave.
It was an absolutely worthwhile trip. But, be prepared for the bus rides! The day can easily take about 12 hours from pick-up to drop off, depending on traffic. If you're interested in seeing the specific tour we did, you can find it here. The tour included hotel pick-up and drop-off, lunch and the entry fees to the day's activities.