Built between 1877 to 1883, the cathedral is an iconic structure standing in the middle of Paris Square. The red-bricked facade has two towers rising 40 meters. The Catholic cathedral is named after Virgin Mary, whose statue stands in the grassed-square holding an orb. The interiors are decorated with devotional tablets and some original stained glasses. The church has a warm and distinct neo-Romanesque feel to it. Sundays are packed with the devotees at the mass, and newly-wed couples with their photographers. During the night, the cathedral's walls provide shelter to several homeless.
The Vietnam War was fought over 21 years, between the North Vietnamese and the Americans - resulting in victory for Vietnam. It always fascinated me, how the local Vietnamese defeated the sophisticated Americans. To understand this, my first stop is - Cu Chi Tunnels.
These tunnels run 250 kms long, hand-dug without any tools or electricity, over 28 years. They stretch from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Combodian border. A jungle-guide points me to a camouflaged patch of land, approaches it and gently moves the top - opening a 30 cm x 50 cm entrance.
He slips into it effortlessly, like a hand in a glove.
And disappears.. A tourist-couple who missed the 2 seconds of action ask me, "where did he go?"
This was the Viet Cong tactic for jungle-warfare, to counter the well-equipped Americans. They used tunnels to hide and attack. Typically they would surface in the middle of night to mount attacks and then disappear into nowhere. It perplexed the Americans till the very end.