Cu Chi Tunnels from the Vietnam War

Chris touching an AK47 for the first time. In the distance you can make out the faint outline of trees and a dirt wall with sandbags on top. I was happy to see the shooting range had taken these precautions. They had four pictures of different animals you could try to aim for.Â

Chris and I have reached our new home, Grande Prairie. Today the sun was shining on the fluffy cumulus clouds and the air smelt of the end of summer as I looked upon the solid yellow trees. It was our first full day in Grande Prairie.

Chris and I visited the local TELUS store to find out the plans and information regarding purchasing an iPhone. My mind felt jumbled and confused. The over manicured, over made-up woman provided us with the worst customer service possible, but that was really no surprise since it was TELUS.

Chris and I then roamed many aisles in a nearby store looking for toothpaste, hairspray, razors and shaving cream. The prices made us both overwhelmed, depressed and stressed out. We had to stick together just help support one another through the aisles.

Canada is expensive compared to S.E. Asia. I knew that. I just didn’t know the technological dependence, outrageous prices and running out of money would make me feel this stressed out. I have faith that in one month I’ll be getting back into the rhythm of Canadian life. I also have no doubt northern life will continue to entertain and educate me for the next couple of years.

Laura inside part of the Cu Chi tunnel system.

We have both experienced both culture shock and extreme jet lag. The very first thing I noticed during our layover in L.A. and then back in Canada was, “Men are huge here.” Of course this is compared to the men of S.E. Asia. Until almost one week after getting back we were sleeping for only four hours a night or not falling asleep until 6:00 or 8:00 am! I have never flown across the Pacific Ocean before. It’s definitely a LOT harder to deal with jet lag coming from S.E. Asia than it is from Europe.

Cu Chi Tunnels

I know I will have many more stories about Grande Prairie but for now here’s a completely unrelated story about a place in Vietnam.

When we visited Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam we took a day tour to a place called, Cu Chi Tunnel Historic Vestige Site. It is a maze of underground tunnels located 70 kilometers from the city. The tunnels were carved by the north Vietnamese during the Vietnam War (1955-1975).

An American tank left over from the Vietnam War. Today tourists climb all over its rusty body.

From the surface the tunnels were completely camouflaged. The entrances were kept only large enough for the Vietnamese to fit in or out and were, of course, also camouflaged. Needless to say, American soldiers found their way in the tunnels but the vast majority of them probably never found their way out.

An entrance to the Cu Chi tunnel system. I would not be able to fit my hips through this. Just look at the size of it compared to my foot! As you can imagine, this was a great advantage for Vietnamese soldiers. If American soldiers did manage to get into the tunnels the Vietnamese has constructed smaller bottle-neck areas where they would get stuck.
Another entrance to the tunnel system. During the war all entrances were camouflaged with foliage.

The north Vietnamese also constructed many different types of booby-traps in the surrounding landscape as well as inside the tunnels.

This is just one style of booby-trap the Vietnamese soldiers used. To the left of Chris you can see some grass going up vertically. This grass is attached to a board which has one axis that allows the board to rotate like a revolving door. If someone steps on the grass covered door, the door swings down and the person falls onto multiple bamboo spikes. The spikes are 2 to 4 feet long.

When we walked along the modern-day paths of the Cu Chi Tunnels museum we were surrounded by lush forest.  It was peaceful, beautiful and quite hard to imagine the landscape and its people engulfed in war until I heard a loud “BANG!” I stopped immediately and squatted down a little.

“Gunfire?” I thought. Sure enough it was.  I’ve got to admit, the real, live gunfire from the on-site shooting range really added to the authenticity of the historical war area.

At the end of touring the tunnels we had the opportunity to pick a gun and shoot it. Without hesitation Chris said, “An AK47.”

“How many bullets should we get?” I asked.

“Um, 3 or 4 each might be okay.”

We asked one of the four men in military-like uniforms, behind the desk, for 8 bullets.

“They come in tens for the AK47,” he replied. And before we could fully answer, “Okay”, after handing over our $15 USD, we were rushed off with one of the men in uniform.  Only seconds later I found myself in a concrete hallway with two guns mounted at each shooting station. I looked out across a dirt field with high dirt walls on either side and a huge dirt wall at the end with sand bags on top. Four pictures of animals were evenly spaced in front of the dirt wall.

The man who showed us which gun to shoot and who instructed me how to shoot the gun by saying, "Aim at the cow", before he took 4 steps away from me.

Suddenly someone was firing down the hall. I thought Chris was about to shoot but I didn’t have my camera settings ready. I couldn’t hear him or the man well and before I knew it another person was shooting an automatic machine gun down the opposite direction of the shooting hall. Needless to say, I was flustered.  I barely managed to get my camera settings so I could film Chris and everytime a shot was fired the camera and I jumped a little.

Pathetic. I’d make a horrible soldier….well a horrible, untrained soldier.

This is me worried I won't be able to get my hips through the tiny entrance to the tunnel system.
Eeeekkkk. I'm I going to fit?
Now that I've got my hips through, I'm piling extra leaves on top of the lid to my entrance to ensure I'm camouflaged when I'm fully underground.
This entrance was enlarged so tourists could fit inside. It's true. Vietnamese men and women are a lot smaller than me, so imagine an American soldier with gear trying to fit down the entrance.
I must keep my arms and elbows straight in order to get into the very small entrance of the tunnel. The leaf covered lid provides camouflage.
I've almost got my camouflaged lid back on, and then there's nothing to do but wait and hope the enemy didn't see me going inside.
This special shoe was worn by the women who carried the dirt from the tunnels to the river. Their toes were slipped into the narrower part but the sole of the shoe made it look like they were walking the opposite direction. So smart.
Chris just about to exit the Cu Chi tunnel system. This part of the system has been enlarged for tourists to crawl through (optional of course).


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