Ho Chi Minh: Revisiting Vietnam’s History at Cu Chi

A trip to Vietnam, particularly Saigon, would not be complete without visiting and actually going inside one of the tunnels of Cu Chi. These historic tunnels are situated in the Cu Chi Rural District, some 70 kilometers northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. The Cu Chi tunnels is a system of more than 200 kilometers of underground tunnels consisting of branches connecting to underground hideouts, shelters, and entrances to other tunnels that took years of painstaking digging. This was mainly used by the Vietnamese revolutionary forces (Viet Cong) as underground bases during the Vietnam War.

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On our third day in HCM, we made bookings for the Cu Chi Day Tour. We were ferried with other tourists on board a mini-bus for an hour’s drive up north to the Cu Chi District. With us was another fun tour guide, Daniel. Upon arrival, we were oriented on the tunnel tour and were then led to the entrance to the complex which itself resembles a tunnel.

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Route map of the tunnel complex
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Entrance to the tunnel complex

Prior to the walking tour, there was an audio visual briefing featuring a documentary showing the actual tunnels during the war. A cross-section diorama of the tunnels was also shown so visitors could appreciate the extent of the diggings and life inside the tunnels. Vietnam’s revolutionary icon Ho Chi Minh or Uncle Ho and his iconic image is also visible in the complex.

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Uncle Ho, the revolutionary father of Viet Nam
Uncle Ho, the revolutionary father of Vietnam

Our first stop are quite common spots within the complex since these are actual craters of bombs dropped and detonated by US forces to neutralize Vietnamese fighters on the ground. It’s for this same reason why the tunnels were conceived and later expanded to gigantic proportions.

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One of the many B52 bomb craters

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Some of the bombs and ordinances used during the Vietnam war
Some of the bombs and ordinances used during the Vietnam war

Exactly how the country survived and eventually ended triumphant in defending their homeland could well be explained in part by how the art and science of guerilla warfare were employed by the Vietnamese. Scattered across the villages above the tunnels are booby traps and other improvised traps and tricks, which could prove fatal to unassuming enemies on foot patrol.

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Various kinds of traps developed and used by Vietnamese guerillas

We were then led to one of the many entry and exit points to the tunnels through a hole that could only fit a single person at any time. Edge tried fitting himself down and with the help of a flashlight, he did a quick scour of the tunnel which led to nowhere.

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So exactly how they survived several meters below the ground could well be explained also by how they adapted to the situation and through ingenious tactics. They capitalized on their familiarity of the surroundings to evade the enemies and to launch destructive and covert operations, which sustained their survival for decades.

In one of the spots beside an entrance to the tunnel are viewing holes and air vents which double as smoke exhausts for cooking, definitely not done when the sun is up.

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The Viet Cong also developed weapons out of scrap and recycled metals from destroyed tanks and detonated bomb shells for various improvised uses.

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They also have a dedicated tailoring unit that provides for the guerilla uniforms, including footwear.

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Our guide demonstrating the tactical purpose of their own designed “reverse slippers”, which is primarily used to mislead or divert the enemy.

Another stop in the complex are models of the Vietnamese guerillas in their uniforms.

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A common feature of the guerilla uniform is the scarf.

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Of course, the highlight of a Cu Chi tour is to actually scale the tunnel from end to end, which may not be favorable for claustrophobic visitors and those with breathing problems. Since it may entail some of squatting, duck walking and crawling, you may want to wear protective and colored clothing (preferably pants to protect your knees).

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Getting There.The most convenient and efficient way of visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels is to avail of a package Day Tour from almost all hotels in Ho Chi Minh. We got ours for VND 230,000 (Approx. PHP 300.00 or USD 7.00) inclusive of vehicle, knowledgeable and fund tour guide, entrance fees and water.

Other Attractions. An optional activity is an actual gun firing in a nearby firing range for quite a pricey rate.

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Reference: Vietnam Tourism

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