African Perspective in Vietnam: I Can Only Imagine

Solo travel to Vietnam was the amazing fulfillment of a childhood dream. The backdrop of my childhood was the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. So I traveled from San Francisco to Ho Chi Minh City(formerly Saigon) and visited three key places I was curious about: The Saigon River; the Mekong Delta and the underground village at Ben Dinh.

The trip was amazing. I lodged at the Queen Ann Hotel and it was very nice, centrally located and offered an incredible breakfast buffet daily. My return air trip was on Cathay Pacific Airlines.

Five key things I can recommend:

  1. Grab a motorbike and do a fast city tour. I visited the Saigon River, Museum of the Revolution, Museum of Reconciliation, Notre Dame, the Ben Thanh Market , Union Square luxury mall and the Opera House. It was great fun and I learned a lot. The old post office has been transformed into a tourist venue.
  2. Try the Pho restaurant for the best noodle bar in the city. The food is incredible and costs less than 6 dollars for a large bowl where you add in all the greens and herbs you desire. Delicious!
  3. The Cu Chi Tunnels at Ben Dinh is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. It involved bending, jumping down 4 feet, crawling and scurrying up, holding the walls and pushing to get through the Tunnels that the people of the area built to avoid the bitter battleground of the Vietnam War (called the American War there). They lived underground in tunnels they dug by hand. You can visit a hospital, meeting rooms, training rooms, workshops, living quarters, and etc. After this visit, you learn about the ingenuity of the people and how they won the war, even with limited resources. I felt drained, sad and it had the eerie feel of the slave castle dungeons.
  4. The Mekong Delta was unforgettable . It involves beautiful boat rides through a dense rainforest as you visit four or five islands, see farms and try honey, tea or snake wine, as well as a local buffet of Vietnamese food on the island of My Tho. You can grab a bike and ride through the village or rest in a hammock.
  5. Street food, lively clubs and karaoke fill the nights. Enjoy the Nightlife. It is fun and hip hop is popular. My locks got a lot of attention and free drinks.

I felt safe as a single African woman traveling alone and meeting people easily in Vietnam. I booked two day trips via Realistic Asia. I booked everything else upon arrival and arranged my own air tickets. The food was incredible and there were hundreds of choices.

I finally got some rest and took time for writing, reflection, photography, and walking. Below please find my written reflection on the Tunnels in Vietnam entitled, I Can Only Imagine

I Can Only Imagine

Over 250 kilometers long, built over 20 years ago 
for ten thousand people to live underground
All crafted by a hoe and hard work, as men
Dug and women carried away dirt in baskets
To blend in with the surrounding jungle
This maze of tunnels
Dark, barely 44 inches wide and 48 inches 
Tighter and shorter in some places
Places where you descend small steep steps,
Climb crooked paths, jump four feet down,
Only to squeeze through a space that almost
Has you crawling on your belly
Of course it was not built for people who
Were my size, age, or nationality
I was part of the group they saw as their
Enemies just a few decades ago
In the Cu Chi tunnels at Ben Dinh, they had a 
Kitchen where they cooked only in the morning
So the smoke from the fire blended with the jungle mist
Where termite hills above were pierced with 
bamboo poles to improve ventilation below 
And all wells were dug inside to avoid
Sophisticated tunnels that led to meeting
Rooms, hospitals, workshops to manufacture
Clothes, sandals from old tires that had
Unique threads to disguise your trail and 
Make one impossible to track
Workshops to make weapons from recycled
Bombs and indigenous knowledge on 
Trapping animals was improved to create
Homemade traps and landmines for humans 
Training space was above ground to teach 
Children the art of spying, shoot, and
Sabotage, while maintaining a look of
Awards were given for the most kills and
Destruction of the enemy
What can people do when they truly long to be free and fight to keep their only home?
And INGENUITY can slay the powerful who
Are well endowed, when you manage in
All you need to win is carried on your back
And in your heart, while your mind sings the
Song of victory in your ears
When you know how to survive in your own
Nothing stops you: not tanks, bombs, or agent orange