Our arrival in Saigon has already proven to be significantly different than southwest Missouri. While recovering from jet lag, we were tired and adjusting to the different climate. The high today was 93 with high humidity. A significant difference between Missouri and Vietnam was the overcrowded streets. Whenever we arrived, the streets were filled with people gathering together. Each block in the city of Saigon was filled with street vendors selling from their doors. We were greeted by a luxurious breakfast that mixed Vietnamese and American culture. One section was the traditional Vietnamese breakfast of rice, noodles, and beans. Our hotel did offer a more traditional American breakfast as well. The Rex Hotel provides amenities, such as multiple pools, a fitness center, five restaurants, shopping centers, and one of the most famous dance halls in Southeast Asia. When we left the hotel for the day, we were overwhelmed by the number of motorbikes and traffic. One thing we learned from our guide Quan, was that once you leave the sidewalk, there is no turning back or stopping. You must hurry to the other side.
On our travels for the day, we first stopped by a rubber tree plantation. Quan showed us how the rubber was harvested from the trees. Then, we headed to lunch at a restaurant called Ben Nei. There the food was passed around the table instead of given to each person individually. Some of the items to eat included pork, beef, fish, and rice. After lunch, we arrived at the Cu Chi Tunnels. We were able to see the intricate tunnel design that the Vietcong used during the Vietnam War. Included in these tunnels were different rooms, such as a dining hall, an operating room, and a clinic. This amazing tunnel system was filled with many traps, crawl spaces, and living headquarters. As we walked through part of the dense jungle, we passed by the traps and tunnel entrances. Those who were able, crawled through one such tunnel that was open to the public. Five-hundred plus tunnels were located throughout the area. This experience had a large impact on us students because Don Browning recalled when he had to crawl through one of these spaces not knowing what was around the corner. This sense of the unknown hit home with the students, because the tunnels were not just pictures, but they were real. Some of the tunnels still have traps and as we got to explore a few we began to get a sense of the danger within the jungle. When we returned to our hotel, we enjoyed a quiet night of relaxing and exploring The Rex Hotel. This five-star hotel experience has made it easy for all of us to come back and recover with a good night of rest.
-Alex Weathermon and Cody Neal