Seeing the Light at the end of Cu Chi Tunnel

After so much planning and thinking of every detail of our trip, at last the day of our departure has finally arrived. Our flight to Vietnam was last February 18, which was a Friday night, a week after my birthday. I took a half-day leave from work, and met up with Jamie and George at Mcdonalds at around half past seven. They already finished their dinner, so I decided to just eat in the airport. We waited for JE to arrive, and off we went looking for a cab going to the airport.

It was a Friday night, employees are rushing to get off work to meet up with friends in malls and bars to hang out and blow off some steam. As expected, all the cabs were taken. We wander through the busy streets of Makati, hoping to catch a cab for hire. I even tried calling different cab providers that I know, but end up with no luck. JE and Jamie were starting to get stressed finding a cab, but me and George remained calm and relaxed. "Itay" ,(father in Filipino) as I would call George, and I actually found it funny that they were stressed-out, while we remained calm and chilling, like walking in a park. Finally, after about an hour of walking, we ended up in Greenbelt, and were able to find a cab there.  It was a dilapidated and old cab, but we didn't have a choice. The driver was even making an excuse that he can't take us, he said he has a flat tire, but turns out he just wants an extra pay for our fare. He was asking us to pay him P250, and we were more than willing to give him more. And so,  we took our seats inside the cab, JE taking the passenger seat in front. Manong driver started interviewing us, and shooting some questions. I don't know why we lied, but we said we were going to Cebu. I guess it's for security purpose that we didn't want to disclose where we were going to a complete stranger. But our lie fired back to us, Manong driver was actually from Cebu. So he started to narrate his personal story and even gave us some peculiar warnings. He warned us not to eat the food in the streets as we might be poisoned. He said that there are many witches there, and they might put a curse on our food. He even told us that he himself knows witchcraft and he can put a curse on us, even by just staring at us. What the heck?? So freakin' creepy!!! I was sitting backseat between Jamie and Itay, and when he looks at his rearview mirror, he can see me directly. I didn't want to look at the mirror as he might catch a glance of me and curse me! He narrated that he once helped a friend who was cursed because of eating at the streets, and was poisoned. He healed him by giving him grated coconut and sugar, and it worked. His friend's family was very thankful to him, and he was welcome to his friend's house. He added that he fell in love with his friend's sister, but she didn’t love him back. He said he could a put a curse on her, but he decided not to, because he truly loves her. He said that he can also put a curse using the hair of the person, the usual voodoo stuff . All of us thinking freaking out in our minds, 'Did my hair fall off? I can't leave a single strand of hair inside this cab!' The only good thing coming out of the driver's mouth is when he noticed that JE has a 'malapad na noo' (wide forehead). For us Filipinos, that's a sign of being intelligent. He commented that JE looks like someone who's smart and knows a lot of this. This is partly true, since we all studied in UP, but ironic as well as JE flunked some of his subjects and got delayed. It was funny for us that the driver would comment that.

At last, after 30 minutes or less of that creepy cab drive, we finally reached the airport.  We checked in our bags, and got our boarding pass. When we got to the immigration,  itay got hold up for a bit, since he was carrying a Canadian passport, and he had some additional travel documents. The immigration officer laughed when she saw the picture on his documents. It was a picture of him when he was still a kid, and he was still fat and was just wearing a sando. Looking at it, we couldn't really decide if he was a cute kid or an ugly kid. Lol. He looks like he was hungry in his pic, and he was not in the mood.  Having finished checking in, we have time to kill before boarding. JE and I haven't eaten dinner yet, so we decided to eat first.  Almost all the restaurants were closed, so we ended up eating in Seattle's Best. While eating, Jamie whispered to me that the she heard the girl sitting beside our table telling her boyfriend, " Oh my god, I’m so full. I had like 3 potato wedges for lunch.”  WTF?? How big is that freaking potato?  To think that it was already 10pm that time, and her last meal was lunch.  From then on, we can’t help but talk about her throughout the whole trip. We call her the potato wedge gurl, and was considered the "black hole" of the trip. Black hole is a term we just coined ourselves, it usually refers to the person we can’t stop talking about throughout a trip, usually dishing that person. Hahaha. We can really be mean and nasty.

At 12:30am local time, we landed at Ho Chi Minh. After 10 years, I’m back in Ho Chi Minh again. In fairness, their airport is much newer now and less crazy. We decided to convert some of our dollars to their local currency Dong, 1USD=20000 VND. We are filthy rich here!  We saw the driver who would take us to Madam Cuc. Jamie commenting “ Paminsan kelangan mo na lang talagang magtiwala sa mga tao noh?” *Sometimes, you just have to trust a person, whether you like it or not* Hahaha. Come to think of it, that's really true. We don't have a choice but to trust that person and bring us to our hotel in the wee hours of the night.  Ho Chi Minh is very much like Manila, their streets are like the streets of Dapitan or Tondo, with thick electrical wires lining the streets, and small establishments with steel gates. And I quote Itay's Canadian cousin, " Why are you going there? It’s so ghetto” Hahaha.

So the driver stopped in front of an old building with steel gate, which is closed. Are we here?? Yes, it seems we have arrived in our cheap Vietnam hotel, Madam Cuc.  He rang the bell, and a lady in her pajamas opened the gate. She asked us to remove our shoes, as our room is on the 2nd floor. But we asked her if we could just walk barefoot and just bring our shoes with us in our room, which she let us. The lady asked for our passport, which at first we couldn't understand what she was saying. Of course we were hesitant to give it to her. She said that we could get it anytime we want, and so we agreed to give it to her and we'll just get in the morning. So it's now time for bed as we need to wake up early after a few hours for our Cu Chi Tunnel tour. The room was ok, it was spacious, with 2 large beds, a flat TV, air con and ref. The bathroom was clean, with bath tub and hot shower. Not bad for such a cheap hotel. Time for bed..

We woke up at 6am, that's 7am Manila time. We each took our turns taking a bath, then went downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast consists of bread, strawberry jam/margarine and their yummy coffee. The bread is like the French bread, but the outside is chewy and the inside was really airy. We called it Our Daily Bread. After which, I asked for directions from one of the reception ladies on how to get to the Sinh Tour office. Good thing she gave us a map, that would become very handy later on. After like a ten minute walk, we arrive at the Sinh tour office, the cheap travel agent where I booked our Cu Chi Tunnel tour and bus to Mui Ne.  We caught our bus going to Cu Chi tunnel, where Anh, our tour guide talked about Ho Chi Minh, both the city and the person.  He seems to be a fanatic of Ho Chi Minh. When we arrived, Anh discussed the story of war and the purpose of the  Cu Chi Tunnel, then watch a very ancient video way back 1960’s. Continue reading here.

Anh, our tour guide

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