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Cu Chi, Củ Chi

5.0 stars


Cu Chi Tunnels

Originally built during the Vietnamese resistance, these tunnels were greatly extended during the Vietnam war with the United States. Because the Vietnamese didn't have the military strength to directly stand up to these invading countries, they had to develop alternative tactics. The Cu Chi tunnels are an amazing engineering feat, especially considering the tools and methods used in their construction. The tunnels were built in three layers, with the deepest able to withstand all bombing by the US Air Force. Each entrance to the tunnels was cunningly hidden, and often booby-trapped, making them difficult to find and enter for any enemies. The Vietnamese people of this region lived, ate, cooked and fought from these tunnels. Only a small portion of these tunnels are open to the public, but they are an amazing experience (as long as you're not claustrophobic. The tunnels get very small and dark at times). If you're ever in Ho Chi Minh City and looking for an afternoon adventure, book a tour to the tunnels. [more ]

Taking a Guide to the Tunnels

We got to visit a section of the tunnels which had been widened for visitors, although it was still pretty small. We expected the temperature to drop once we got underground, but the air in the tunnels was hotter and more humid than the jungle above, which is saying something, considering the stifling weather outside! It was like an oven! Our guide offered to take us into a section of the tunnels that had been preserved in its original state. I declined, but my travelling companion followed him in and had to crab-walk through, squatting low and shuffling along. The whole thing was very impressive, and I highly recommend a visit. It’s best to take an English-speaking guide with you, as the guides at the tunnels generally don’t speak any English. On the way back to the city, we drove through small villages where elderly people sat on the porches of their houses and watched us go by, and we wondered what it must be like to have survived the war and then watch the battlefield turned into a tourist attraction. On the way back, we also stopped at several shops where we learned about rice-paper and lacquerware making, and were escorted through various gift shops. Of course the goal of these stops is to get you to buy something, because then the tour guide gets a kick-back. Our guide was disappointed by our frugality; there are a lot of nice things to buy at these shops, but the prices are expensive, and we were on a budget! Be prepared for this as a necessary part of the tour, and don’t feel obligated to buy if you are pressured to do so. A trip to Cu Chi is well worth an hour spent in these tourist traps. [more ]

The Make Up of the Tunnels

Our guide showed us the air holes drilled through tree stumps and the areas above the underground kitchens where the smoke was allowed to escape after being slowed by tanks of water so that it couldn’t be seen from the air. We learned that there were 3 levels of tunnels, that the third was indestructible even by large bombs dropped from B-52s. This was especially impressive after we saw some of the crater scattered through the jungle, left by bombs dropped from war planes. The tunnels also had underwater access to the river, both as an emergency escape route and as a defense against enemy attempt to flood the tunnels; the water simply ran into the lowest levels of the tunnels and out into the river, while the people hit in the upper levels. Our guide also showed us a series of nasty-looking traps designed to fight an enemy with superior firepower. We were constantly impressed by the ingenuity and tenacity of these farmers. They started building these tunnels under the French occupation and it became an inheritance passed down from generation to generation, a matter of national pride and self-determination. [more ]

Guided Tours of the Tunnels

Our guided tour to the Cu Chi tunnels took us about an hour outside Ho Chi Minh City. Our tour guide spoke excellent English and procured a private taxi to take us to the tunnels. These were the secret tunnels that the Viet Cong used to hide from American troops during the Vietnam War. The local people also too refuge in these tunnels when American bombers destroyed the countryside. The detail and ingenuity of the tunnels was incredible. Our on-site guide, who spoke no English, was a military recruit who began by challenging us to find the secret entrance buried under the ground cover of the forest floor and then demonstrating to us how to fit into the entrance, which was a tiny rectangle, 14 by 11 inches! The only way in is to hold the wooden cover over your head with both arms straight up and drop in feet first, wriggling your shoulders in and squatting down until you disappear. This is not a tour for the claustrophobic! Our guide told us (through the translator) how American soldiers during the war rarely discovered these secret entrances and, when they did, could rarely fit into the tiny hole, especially carrying all their gear. The guide challenged my travelling companion to try to get in and I think he was a little disappointed when my companion had no trouble imitating his technique and disappearing into the tunnel. The rest of the tour became a sort of macho challenge! [more ]

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