Thu Thiem and Cu Chi


Both have tunnels, but Thu Thiem‘s has just been built and visited mostly by Viet natives.

Cu Chi tunnels however is a backpackers’ must-see.

Going through Thu Thiem Tunnel, you feel like you were in Louisiana or Baltimore.

It unveils the future of  Vietnam, where ferry workers now work as toll booth collectors.

District 2 is the place to watch.

Just as the old Las Vegas strip that gave ways to the Strip, or Sands imploded to hand over to Wynn.

(Maybe surviving “tunnel rats” can find work with companies specializing in collapsing old buildings.)

I am engrossed in “the Devil in the White City“, which recounts the masterminding and building of the Chicago World Fair.

“Landscape does tricks to the mind,” the proposal said (given its time frame of 1890, this was prescient enough).

Competing high rises are being erected along the main highway leading to Ho Chi Minh City.

Meanwhile, inside the alleys, people blast their karaoke systems to “torture” their neighbors.

When I grew up, only the weeks leading to Christmas that loud speakers were in full blast. Now the commoditization of music finds many outlets:  Bose speakers, mobile phones, computers and lap tops

The pull of glitzy city.

You have to have thick skin to survive daily commute and even thicker skin to survive your weeKENd (notice KEN, as in HEINEKEN). Beers are delivered in the back of scooters to the back doors of open-air pubs. Baby stools are placed onto the side walks: voila! open-air party. During the day, it’s the administrative Ho Chi Minh City, but at night, it’s Saigon side-walk.

The museum of wartime remnants now claims several prevalent locations.

The locals want to see new things like Thu Thiem Tunnel and Bana (bananas) Peak near China Beach.

Brad Pit and Angelina Jolie were here two weeks ago visiting the French equivalent of Alcatraz (Con Dao).

So foreign visitors want to see the esoteric, the locals exotic.

It’s a matter of taste.

Supply and demand.

The economics of travel and leisure.

Still hats off to those who were drafted to die as “tunnel rats”.

To both sides, what a way to die.

Not too long from now, the new Thu Thiem tunnel will be old hat.

By then, their children back from overseas with acquired new taste, will prefer  Cu Chi (the American part of being Vietnamese-American).

Thu Thiem or Cu Chi? It depends on how old and where you are born.

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