|Tuc Dup, the 'Tora Bora' of Vietnam's Mekong Delta |
I’m approaching some kind of freak of geology. The Mekong Delta is generally flat, but I’m staring at one enormous, gargantuan mountain of rocks. As our 4X4 drives closer, I see that this isn’t a pile of just rocks, it’s a pile of massive boulders. Somehow, nature piled all of these massive boulders here onto one place, forming a towering hill that rises high above the flat expanse of the surrounding landscape.
This is Tuc Dup, one of the few high vantage points in the Mekong Delta. It’s not tall enough to be classified as a mountain. But its higher altitude gives it not only a great view of the delta beneath, it also made it easily defended. The solid rock boulders that form the hill made superior natural defenses. This made Tuc Dup an ideal location for a rebel stronghold; the Viet Cong's 'Tora Bora' in the delta.
From the bottom, I look up at this jagged, intimidating hill. I know that climbing this will be a good workout. As I start up, I can see a large flag of old painted on a boulder, the former yellow and red striped flag of the Republic of Vietnam. This is a rare sight in today’s Vietnam. The former South Vietnamese flag is rarely seen anywhere in public. But the flag now has a black 'X' painted across it, to remind visitors that the south didn’t win the war.
|View of the surrounding countryside from upper cave opening|
|Captured US made weapons on display|
There are some small restaurants and cafes, most of which have hammocks hanging in them for their patrons to relax. There is a pond with pedal boats, and an enclosure with live alligators.
|Old bomb crater outside museum at base of the hill|
Nga is one of my more interesting translators I’ve had in Vietnam. Besides guiding me around the delta, she also occasionally works as an actress. On the way here as we passed a village, she told me, “I was in movie here, days ago.” The film was a love story, and she had a supporting role in the film.
|Hammocks where Tuc Dup's visitors relax|
As we are on our way out and heading for the 4X4, we spy a shooting range, and stop in for a look. This is much like the firing range I saw in Cu Chi, except that the prices are lower. Whether firing an AK-47 or a semi-automatic AR-15, the price per bullet is only 10,000 Dong (about 55 cents.) I’m not surprised its cheaper here, since Tuc Dup is remote and gets far fewer visitors than Cu Chi. I look toward the targets, and I’m amused to see that between the firing line and the backstop, there are neat rows of green plants. They are growing some kind of crop out in the middle of the firing range.
|The Tuc Dup firing range, where crops grow??|
She buys some bullets, and takes her place at the firing line. The muzzle of the AK is bolted to a post, in order to keep wayward shooters from firing high and out of the range. With the assault rifle loaded, Nga takes aim at a target of a tiger.
POW! Her first shot rings out, and she giggles nervously. Then she takes her second shot. POW! She stops, lets go of the weapon, then walks to a bench and sits down. “I’m scared,” she says.