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Exploring the Cu Chi tunnels

Remains of an American tank at Cu Chi Remains of an American tank at Cu Chi

If you go to Vietnam, lots of the places of interest are about the war. You know which war I’m talking about of course. Usually called the Vietnam War, but since we are in Vietnam it would be silly to call it the Vietnam war, so in Vietnam they call it the American war, which makes sense.

And Cu Chi tunnels is as good place to start your tour about the American War (the Vietnam war, following?) as any. Cu Chi tunnels were the base of operations for the Viet Cong guerrillas near Saigon that the Americans controlled (or Ho Chi Minh as it is these days officially called).

Viet Cong sandals they used during the war, made from truck tires, very practical Viet Cong sandals they used during the war, made from truck tires, very practical

Once you arrive to the Cu Chi tunnels, the thing that will catch your attention is the constant gunfire you hear all the time. It definitely adds to the atmosphere. Here you are, at a sight about the American war (The Vietnam War, pay attention ok?), and you hear the constant rattle of the AK-47s and M16s. And mind you, it’s not out of speakers the gunfire is coming from, no it is actual AK-47s you are hearing. There is shooting range where for a price you can shoot a clip with one of the guns used during the war.

Now if I had never shot an assault rifle, I would have been the first to jump at the chance, but having spent the mandatory six months in the Finnish military, I’m familiar enough with the Finnish assault rifle, which is basically just an improved version of the AK-47, called RK-62.

But if you haven’t shot an AK-47, maybe you should give it a go. You will see that it a lot more accurate than is always portrayed in the movies, where you can’t hit a van with it if you are standing ten meters from it.

There are a lot of bombs left by the Americans There are a lot of bombs left by the Americans

Cu Chi is a complex and wide network of tunnels that allowed the guerrillas to move from one place to another during the war. It was also where they lived, cooked, slept and made weapons. So basically they did everything in tunnels.

The entrances to the tunnels were camouflaged, and to say that the entrances are tiny could be considered an understatement. The idea was that a Viet Cong guerrilla could slip in in a few seconds, which was demonstrated to us. However an American soldier carrying the standard battle gear wouldn’t fit in.

And it’s not difficult to imagine, anybody who is not fairly fit, would not be able to fit thru the small hole in the ground.

Entrance to the Viet Kong tunnels in Cu Chi, it's not very big Entrance to the Viet Kong tunnels in Cu Chi, it's not very big

But apparently you can fit in, as demonstrated But apparently you can fit in, as demonstrated

And there is the camouflaged trap door And there is the camouflaged trap door

Which when closed fully, makes the hole invisible Which when closed fully, makes the hole invisible

There are over hundred kilometres of tunnels connecting the various bases, rooms and other tunnels to each other. It’s a system that the Americans were never quite able to conquer despite superior numbers.

After the demonstration we were allowed to have a go at going into the tunnel After the demonstration we were allowed to have a go at going into the tunnel

And of course you get to go thru the tunnels yourself, and you better not be afraid of dark or small places, as it gets dark down there and the tunnels get really narrow. Again, the idea was that a guerrilla would be able to move forward but at some point the pursuing American soldier would get stuck. Which is not hard to imagine.

Those guerrillas were quite clever you have to give them that, no wonder the war went how it went.

But the cleverness of the guerrillas wasn’t restricted to tunnel designs, they were also very resourceful in creating traps, some which the Americans provided the materials for, namely bombs.

There were plenty of nasty surprises in the tunnels for the Americans There were plenty of nasty surprises in the tunnels for the Americans

Our guide demonstrating some of the traps used by the guerillas Our guide demonstrating some of the traps used by the guerillas

It was an interesting tour. It’s good to see the war from the other side, as often documentaries tend to focus on the American side. And I’d definitely recommend it for anybody in the area.

At least our tour guide was also really good; funny old man, who had worked as a translator for the Americans during the war and spoke really good English.

You can go into some of the tunnels, and they can get quite narrow You can go into some of the tunnels, and they can get quite narrow

 

Tips for going to see the Cu Chi tunnels:

  • Easiest way to do it, is to go for an organized tour from Saigon (costs less than $10), which you can book anywhere in Saigon, but you can also go by yourself
  • Bring extra money if you want to try out the AK-47
  • Take clothes you don’t mind getting maybe a little dirty (but then again, when traveling, you really shouldn’t have clothes you would mind getting dirty anyways)

 

Have you been to Cu Chi tunnels? Would you go?

18 Comments

  1. Really interesting photos. I like the sepia tone.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Foto of the Week from … Cafayate: SerenityMy Profile

    • Thanks, yeah I thought the sepia tone would fit the post better.

  2. Wow, that tunnel is tiny. I don’t think many average Westerners would manage that!

    • Yeah, the tunnels were narrow! Keeps things interesting :)

  3. Wow! It must have been such a great experience! Only the tiny ones could hide through those holes, I would be too fat for that:)

  4. I ended up having to cut my time in Vietnam short, so I didn’t make it down there, but I know there’s no way I could handle going in the tunnels. The few times I’ve been in small caves freaked me out, I’m not a fan of the small enclosed places with no light. It really sounds interesting though.
    Ali recently posted..Queenstown at ChristmasMy Profile

    • Yeah, the tunnels were tiny, but even if you didn’t go into the tunnels, the place was really interesting, learned a lot.

  5. We had planned to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels when we were in HCMC last month, but then a stupid work issue came up and we spent three days holed up in our hotel room on our laptops! I was super bummed, as I’d heard great things about this place. Bah humbug.
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..The Markets of Chiang Mai: A Photo EssayMy Profile

    • Yeah, that damn work thing always interfering with out plans! Annoying when that happens, but I’m sure you’ll get another chance.

  6. Oh my goodness – the entrance to the underground tunnel practically has me hyperventilating at the thought. Talk about claustrophobia-inducing!!!!
    Wanderplex recently posted..Photo of the weekMy Profile

    • It was a pretty impressive entrance to the tunnel, and a pretty cool tunnel anyways!

  7. Great pics! I didn’t visit the Cu Chi tunnels when I was in Vietnam but now I wish I did.
    Simon P recently posted..For the best view of the Petronas Towers…My Profile

    • Cheers, it was quite an interesting experience; definitely worth the visit

  8. Great Post! would love to check this out but im not sure if i’ll fit in hahaha!
    Riz recently posted..Mini CruisesMy Profile

    • You’d be fine I’m sure, it’s definitely worth the visit! :)

  9. Please do not visit these. A teenager who joined my son’s party to explore these tunnels was killed – yes killed by a scorpion sting after the guide said the tunnel was safe to go down. The guide did not call a doctor immediately and my son was left to do CPR –too late. No warning signs…no publicity. Embassy was not helpful.

    • I am so sorry to hear what happened Liz! That’s horrible. There is a certain risk of danger in these countries always with scorpions, a risk which we can never quite get rid off. But the situation was clearly very badly handled by guide, doctor should’ve been called immediately when there is a scorpion sting!

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