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Full Circle

Day 85: Saigon to Tay Ninh

Mekong River, Vietnam 
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Floating currency. Market on the Mekong at Cao Be.
Michael Palin - Full CircleOn the way back to Saigon we stop at the Cu-Chi tunnels, a system of passageways and chambers dug from the hard red earth during the guerrilla wars against the French, and later by the American and South Vietnamese forces. Despite being close to enemy bases, their cover being stripped by dioxin defoliants and carpet-bombed by B-52s, they were never destroyed in thirty-five years of warfare. I crawl down the tunnels to see preserved hospitals, war-rooms, and the kitchens with their special system of underground ducts which funnelled cooking smoke two miles away before letting it out above the surface. The tunnels are hot and tight, and without carrying anything I still found my back scratching and scraping at the mud wall.

The Cu-Chi underground system could accommodate five thousand people for up to two weeks. My guide, Le Di Phuoc, has shown high-ranking American generals round the tunnels they could never find in the war. I ask him what their reaction is. 'Well,' he says, with a trace of a smile, 'they understand why they lost.'
Mekong Delta, Vietnam 
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Mekong Delta. As elsewhere in Asia, rice planting is done by the women.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 85
  • Country/sea: Vietnam
  • Place: Tay Ninh
  • Book page no: 126

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