The Vietnam War is a dark period in Vietnamese history. From 1955-1975, the country was under attack, first from France, in an attempt at recolonization, and then the USA, in their war against communism.
The Vietnam War was taught to me at school, so I had some background knowledge of the conflict before I visited Vietnam. (Unlike in Cambodia, where I ashamedly knew very little about the Khmer Rouge regime until I got there.)
The War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants museum is a great place to learn about the tactics and weaponry used by the USA against the Viet Cong during the war. Much of the content is distressing so be prepared for that when you go into the museum. Particularly upsetting are the sections about the War Crimes committed by the Americans and the effects of Agent Orange.
I thought the museum was very one sided and did very little to explain the world political situation at the time.
The Cu Chi Tunnels
In the afternoon I went on a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. There, I learnt about the tactics used by the Viet Cong during the war against the USA, and also how villagers lived during the war.
It’s interesting to see how resourceful the Vietnamese people were against the USA’s powerful weaponry.
The details of the traps the Viet Cong set to catch Americans are gruesome and it’s easy to see why so many US veterans of this war went home with mental health issues.
There’s one part of the tour where you can pay extra to fire guns, such as AK-47s. The Americans left a large amount of weaponry and bullets behind when they left in 1975. The bullets fired are the same ones left behind by the Americans, and there’s still plenty more for tourists to fire in the future.
I hated how loud the guns were. If you’ve never heard a gun fire in real life, it’s actually really surprising how loud they are.
At the end of the day, we ate tapioca with peanut dip, which is what the people living in the tunnels would’ve eaten during the war. It didn’t taste too bad, but it was pretty bland.
Learning about the Vietnam War was interesting, and I honestly think all visitors to Vietnam should take the time to learn about the history of this country. I think it’s important to learn about the history of a country when visiting, as it gives some insight into a country’s current state. Neighbouring Cambodia has also had a bloody history from the rule of the Khmer Rouge.
If you’re short of time in Ho Chi Minh City, definitely visit the Cu Chi tunnels and War Remnants museum instead of doing a day tour of the Mekong Delta.