Monday, February 13, 2017


It's a few Kms drive (east nor east toward the coast) from the bridge over the Ban Hai river through lush and beautifully managed farm land to reach the incredible Vinh Moc tunnel complex.

It's gorgeous country - well sealed heavy clay roads criss-crossing their way through fields of corn, pepper trees, rubber tress, grazing stock - roadside houses with open street frontages doubling up for business - food, repairs, mechanics - children on bicycles, scooters loaded up or pulling wooden carts, a pagoda here, incense at a shrine there, yellow stars on red flags against the lush dense green, and very little tourist traffic. And brilliant telecommunications, as usual.



There's our car at the rear, silver, where we shared water and (pho) chicken noodle soup, add you own spices to taste, with a gentle Dutch couple. 

The tunnels are very well organised for visitors - a large visitor centre, a row of street sellers to run the gauntlet though but where buying a bottle of water gets you a loan of a torch, and not far past the ticket box we bump into a small tour group whose guide readily invites us to join.

Her father, she would later tell us, had been born in the tunnels and spent the first six years of his life there - in a tunnel complex dug by hand by a whole community desperate to survive the increasingly heavy American bombing - 9,000 tons of it - from raid after raid of B52s (a word they well know). 

Two kilometres of tunnels - living, sleeping, cooking (smoke was diffused through chimneys to not be a give away), maternity, meeting rooms ~ existence.

Above ground the whole ares is riddled with shallow trenches (are the Vietnamese the shortest people in the world) for moving about unseen, and dotted wth big bomb craters.

And bombs. No shortage of bombs.

                                                          (person for size reference)

And in a jolt back to normality, there's this charming house just a few metres away.

The entrances are well restored, well, over-restored, and there's occasional light globes along the way, but you still need that borrowed torch, or the light from your phone. I could only occasionally stand up, and it was a matter of just following the person in front, crouched, down steps, up steps, around corners, glancing sideways into a narrow room from time to time, the heat building up, and the claustrophobia getting a bit unpleasant. 

At last, eventually, thank god, there is a god, finally we emerged. At the South China Sea!

Relief was short-lived. Back up again, in we all went, sweating and stooped, till eventually, finally, at last, why didn't someone warn me, we climbed out of entrance 5, very near the complex entrance.

There were 140 networks in the region. They lived like this for six years. Six B52 years.

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