.......and laughing Buddha
30.11.2015 - 02.12.2015 34 °C
A Great Visit to Cù Chi Tunnels
Just a quick little update on the past in Vietnam.
VIETNAM - MANY YEARS OF GUERRILLA WARFARE
The effects of World War II were felt in numerous countries outside of Europe. In 1940 the Germans defeated France. Japan decided to take advantage of French weakness and they forced the French government to allow Japanese troops to occupy French Indo-China. The Vietnamese Communists or Viet Minh fought the Japanese and by 1945 they controlled parts of North Vietnam. Meanwhile in March 1945 the Japanese took control of the administration of Vietnam and when Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945 they left a power vacuum. Ho Chi Minh moved quickly to fill the vacuum. He called for an uprising - the August Revolution and the Viet Minh took control of most of Vietnam. On 2 September 1945 Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam independent.
However the great powers ignored the Vietnamese demand for independence. In the north Ho Chi Minh introduced a Communist regime and Chinese troops moved in.
The French army soon arrived in the south to take control from the British ‘temporarily.’ It soon became clear the French had no intention of giving up power in Vietnam and fighting broke out between them and the Viet Minh.
Starting in 1946 and for the next eight years the Viet Minh fought a guerrilla war against the French. Finally in 1954 they surrounded the French army at Dien Bien Phu. After a siege lasting 57 days the French were forced to surrender.
Meanwhile in 1959 the North Vietnamese began a long guerrilla war to reunite Vietnam under Communist rule. The Northern Guerrillas were known as the Viet Cong.
The USA had gradually become involved in the Vietnam War. As early as 1950 the US sent military advisers to South Vietnam. Financially they supported the French and later the South Vietnamese government. The US, fearing the spread of Communism became mired in the Vietnam War from 1965 to the 1973.This was known as “The War of American Aggression” in Vietnam and by the Americans as ‘the only war they didn’t win.”
CÚ CHI TUNNELS - FROM WIKIPEDIA
The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968.
The tunnels were used by Vie Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.
Diagram of Củ Chi Tunnels
Going to the Củ Chii Tunnels was worth a two-hour drive from the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. We arrived at a wooded area, and out guide led us along a pathway as he explained. Entrances to tunnels were camouflaged and quite small. These ones required entering with arms over-head so that the shoulder area was not so wide. I hopped into one and then brought the small square top down, over my head. I was greeted with sudden darkness, a damp smell and almost complete silence.
Now there is darkness, and the hope you won't be found.
Once a few other people had tried out the hiding hole, we followed our guide deeper into the jungle.
We could hear the sound of artillery in the distance.
We continued farther into the bush. Our guide gave us an animated description of the methods of evasion.
Here there were tunnels where entrances allowed hidden attacks and escape through the small entrances – tight for the diminutive Vietnamese, and too small for the larger Americans.
There were smaller tunnel entrances, real breathing holes along the length of the tunnels, and many dummy breathing holes too.
We entered one tunnel on hands and knees and crawled along for 60 meters. It was claustrophobic, and I had to keep a space between me and the person ahead, or I’m sure I would panic.
Lights had been added for the tourists, of course, and I suppose the usual companions – snakes and rats and bugs had been removed for our viewing pleasure! Finally, we came a to rough platform where we could hoist ourselves up and climb out into some bushes at the end of this little tunnel. The “real” tunnels went on for much farther and often led to ammunition caches and sleeping areas.
For about 12 years the tunnels were used as a means of evading the enemy, but the North Vietnamese also had many camps deep in the jungle. We came upon a small clearing, deep in the bush. It was a hidden encampment, as would have been used by the Viet Cong.
We observed a low thatched roof, and mannequins in Viet Cong fatigues sitting in a camp.
I surprised this duo at the dummy camp, but I was still offered water. Notice the shoes, often strapped on backwards, to confuse the enemy.
As it says, American M41 tank. "destroyed by a deadly mine 1n 1970."
Our guide delighted in telling all the ways that the Viet Cong troops had tricked the Americans.
Now came the traps. He was in his element! Traps that swung forward when a door was opened – filled with metal barbs, each with a hook. Our man, the guide, was really beginning to enjoy himself. These two traps were the swinging type, released to swing down and hit an unprepared person full on.
"Oh, such lovely traps!"
Other traps consisted of a large hole in the ground, camouflaged with small branches, twigs and leaves on the top. Once the weight of a person collapsed the covering, the upright sharpened bamboo or barbs were revealed. This, we were told, was not primarily to injure or kill, but to spook the Americans, and to slow them down on the trails as they sought to detect the traps.
DON'T STEP HERE!
"Swinging up trap"
"Folding chair trap"
This one was called "Killing trap" You wonder what the other ones were intended to do.
The ambience gave flavor to his stories - silence, then bursts of gunfire, always it seemed, closer than before. All this time the sound of intermittent gunfire had been getting much louder. Of course, visitors were asked if they wanted to shoot AK-47s and various other guns that had been captured from the Americans or supplied by the Chinese.
The shooting range
Many of the guys paid for ammo and shot the hell out of the sand banks!!! ...as visions of ??? danced in their heads.
We had spent a very interesting day seeing how the other side, the Viet Cong, attempted to wage a war against superior weapons, using determination and innovation. To see this ‘other side’ of the war was very revealing.
The Vietnam War was one in a series of wars that ravaged this area for more than a thirty years.
• From 1946 to 1954, the Viet Minh fought a guerrilla war in the south against the French.
• In 1959 the North Vietnamese began a long guerrilla war to reunite Vietnam under Communist rule. The Northern Guerrillas were known as the Viet Cong.
• U.S aggression against Vietnam, “The Vietnam War” lasted from 1965 to 1973. In January 1973, the U.S. signed a ceasefire and the remaining American troops withdrew.
• The South Vietnamese continued to fight the Vietcong alone. However in the early months of 1975 South Vietnamese resistance collapsed and on 30 April 1975 the North Vietnamese captured Saigon. Vietnam was reunited under Communist rule.
• In the late 1970s the Khmer Rouge made attacks on Vietnam. We’ve all heard of “The Killing Fields” and the brutal guerrilla warfare that raged again, resulting in 1978 with the Vietnamese occupying Cambodia. They stayed until 1989.
Meanwhile in 1986 the Vietnamese government introduced market reforms. As a result the Vietnamese economy began to grow rapidly. In 1994 the USA lifted an economic embargo on Vietnam and in 1995 diplomatic relations were restored.
Today the Vietnamese economy is booming and Vietnam is being transformed into an industrial country. Tourism is an important industry in Vietnam. Furthermore a stock exchange opened in Vietnam in 2000.
At the present time, 2015, the population of Vietnam is 91.5 million.
Vinh Trang Temple. I prefer to think of it as THE THREE BUDDHAS
Like other states based upon Marxist–Leninist ideology, Vietnam's communists embraced a militantly atheistic stance against religion.
Three quarters of the people of Vietnam are non-religious or practice folk religion. Buddhism is next in number. Touring Southern Vietnam included our visit to the three Buddhas which occurred a day earlier, but I will recount it here. Vinh Trang Pagoda was built in 1849, has been restored many times and resembles an Indian Raj Palace - it's decorated with mosaics made from broken pottery.
Overlooked by a tall white Buddha with another huge sitting and laughing Buddha image alongside, Vinh Trang Pagoda
is set amongst lovely gardens packed with flowers and shrubs, lotus pools and tombs of the monks and has huge ornate triple arched gates.
Soon after leaving the Mekong River our bus pulled over for a short break in the city of My Tho, at a site known as Vinh Trang Temple. We stepped out of our bus into what felt like a pizza oven as we were struck with the heat and humidity. The temperature had crept up to 38 degrees in the shade, and I decided to hug the shadows of the buildings and trees though the bricks radiated heat. This place is really quite spectacular. As I walked into the park, bright fuschia coloured bougenvillia tumbled over the roof of the low buildings, obscuring the sitting Buddha from view until suddenly, he loomed 60 feet high.
The white stone gleamed brightly in the day’s sunshine. His face held a wonderful smile – so different from all those grim Catholic saints I had grown up with.
The gardens are quite dispersed, and as I walked around, I was surprised by quiet little corners where lotuses flourished, bonsai trees were trying to escape their small earthen pots and beautiful flowering trees burst with their tropical colours.
Wandering through the park, a large open area leads to a Buddha in repose with a serene face. Once again, the size is impressive as it stretches for over 100 feet from head to toe.
Though the temperature and humidity were very high, the walk through the grounds of the temple had been peaceful but also spectacular.
I stood in the shade of the bus, contemplating the third Buddha……
Too far to go in this heat. She ????? stood serenely across the space of the park. I just could not summon the energy to make the scorching walk across the 100 meters.
I decided to admire her at a distance. We piled back in our bus, thankfully cooled with air-conditioning, and started our relaxing and sleepy drive to the city.
..............not quite done, but I am out of the country and I have wifi problems. I will finish this blog and post the last of it in the next weeks : (
You can click on this same link in January. I will have finished writing about these travels by then.
Sorry about that! ..........Susan