Today was a bit bittersweet. We were to meet downstairs at 8 a.m. We were leaving Vietnam today. I almost felt like a nomad. I didn’t feel like we had a real home anywhere or we fit in anywhere. We just kept getting up and leaving. Three days in Bangkok, 3 days in Hanoi, 3 days in Saigon. It seemed like every few days we just got up and left. Never really had enough time to take anything in, to really enjoy or immerse ourselves.
We started the day at the Cu Chi Tunnels, tunnels that were used during the Vietnam War to hide from the enemy and strategically fight back. We were in a jungle. It was hot. Ton of bugs and centipedes everywhere. Mosquitoes (they deserved their own sentence because they were unbearable). It seems like every time I wear bug spray, we are no where near bugs and when we are in the vicinity of them, I go outside with no sort of protection.
Our tour guide guided us through underground clinics, meeting rooms, sleeping rooms, old war relics like tanks and undercover traps, what each did and what they looked like. As you walked through you heard gunshots both near and far, really gave the impression that you were there. Difference was, none of our lives were at risk.
There was one tank that was being displayed and several realistic statues told stories of the soldiers during that time, tourists felt the need to take pictures with them, smiling. It’s what tourists do but at a site, where thousands of people died, it was just uncalled for.
We got the chance to walk through the tunnels like the “tunnel rats” did way back when. Everyone else seemed excited. But I, being claustrophobic, dreaded the idea of walking underground in a miniscule tunnel. I walked down the steps to another opening that required one to crouch down. I freaked out and decided to go back outside. The tour guide said you either go in or you go out. I wanted to go out. My friend Paola looked at me and said “come on, you can do this!”
It was just what I needed. She held my hand and together we walked through the tunnel where we crouched and then were led to another tunnel where I almost had to crawl. These things were tiny! I remember thinking to myself: “It’s okay, everything is going to be alright. Tons of people walk through this and they’re okay. Just a little while longer.” This might have only been a few seconds but being in that tight, hot space, I felt like I was stuck for hours and no one could hear me yelling for help. Finally, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to cry. I did it! I didn’t let my fear take over and keep me from doing something I may never get to do again. It was an experience, not one I would jump to do again but one I can say I did.
My group mates clapped as I walked up the stairs and into fresh air. Andrea hugged me and said she was proud of me. She’s always so supportive!
After spending some time here, we jumped back on the very spacious bus that Harry ordered for us. It was so big each of us could have two rows of seats to ourselves. We were traveling in style. There was a seat for me and one for each of my luggage lol.
Next up, Cambodia.
Reaching the border between both countries was nerve wrecking. There was a lot of waiting involved. We’d get off the bus, wait in a line, hand in our passports, go out another door, back on the bus and then drive to another building to do the exact same thing. At the Vietnam office, they just kept staring us and then at our passports; it made me feel quite uncomfortable. My worst nightmare is being held somewhere and asked my intentions for entering a country like you see in the movies. I think I should lay off of those movies.
In the Cambodia office, same thing but this time, they needed our fingerprints.
When they gave me my passport back, I just looked through it. Having become a U.S. citizen about five months ago, I never would’ve thought I would be here. Looking at all the visas, I had acquired in such a short time told stories of where I had been and the empty pages asked where I was going next. I was excited to keep filling the pages.
We got back on the bus. We were in Cambodia. Phnom Pengh to be exact. In a few days, we’d be in Siem Reap, a place to call home for the rest of our adventure.