One of the most iconic attractions of the city, Cu Chi Tunnels were a part of the extensive underground network in Vietnam that was used by the Vietnamese Congress as a hideaway during the war. Visitors can now go through some of the safer parts of the tunnel, which have been widened and lighted up for ease.
A day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels is an enriching and an exciting experience. It is advisable to take a guide along with you as it not only gives you the opportunity to learn more but also ensures that you do not miss out on anything. The tour generally starts off with a short black and white movie from the 1950s about the 'Evil nature of the American Invaders'. After the movie, you can walk around the war memorial park and experience everything the Vietnamese had experienced.
Some of the most interesting things to do include trying out a metal-spiked booby trap, buying flip flops made from old rubber tires, just like the Viet Cong used, stepping into a medical tent, eating rice congee, a favorite meal of the 43rd sapper battalion. One of the most enticing things to do is to lower yourself into the tunnels and explore certain tourist tunnels. There is also an old, American tanker that was abandoned after a bombing. By paying a few bucks, you can also shoot an AK-47 at a target, in a real gun range! Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels is definitely an experience not worth missing.
Cu Chi Tunnels History and Wars
The Cu Chi Tunnels were initially dug in the 1940s during the liberation struggle against the French colonial rule. These tunnels were dug by hand or by elementary tools and were very narrow, allowing only Vietnamese people to be comfortable within. During the time of increased military support of America to non-communist South Vietnam, the tunnels reached their peak in both expanse and usage. Northern Vietnamese Communists expanded the tunnels stretching it from Ho Chi Minh City, nearly up to the Vietnamese border, for a distance of about 250 km. The tunnels provided the Viet Congress a dangerous edge over the Americans as the Americans primarily relied on aerial bombing and the Vietnamese went underground. The Americans also found it very difficult to enter and navigate the tunnels as in addition to their narrowness, the Vietnamese would lay booby traps and scorpion pits in unexpected places.
Life in the Cu Chi Tunnels
Living conditions inside the tunnels were appalling and life was bleak. The people lived in absolute darkness and permanent inhabitants often suffered from blindness after stepping into the light. Temperatures in the afternoon would rise to such an extent that they would have to lie on the floor in order to breathe. Dangerous creatures such as bats, rats, snakes, scorpions, centipedes and fire ants would lurk in the dark. The tunnels were multi leveled, with latrines, meeting rooms, wells, dorms, kitchens and even hospitals. Food was hard to come by, as the rice and fruit crops had been bombed and destroyed by the American troops, and they lived mostly on a diet consisting of tapioca, roots and leaves. The lives they led was hard and it is something we can only marvel at.
How to Reach Cu Chi Tunnels
Ho Chi Minh City to Cu Chi Tunnels: The Cu Chi tunnels are well connected to Ho Chi Minh City by road. However, there are no modes of transport by air, water or rail. The Cu Chi Tunnel area is just a short hour-and-half drive from Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh has buses to Cu Chi once every two hours. If you choose to use buses, take route 13 from Ho Chi Minh main bus stand to the Cu Chi Town (VND 7,000), then take 79 to the tunnels (VND 6,000). You may also choose to travel by Xe Om or conventional taxis. Taxis cost around VND 2,00,000 - VND 3,00,000.
Tay Ninh to Cu Chi Tunnels: Cu Chi is a short half-hour drive from Tay Ninh. There are generally not many taxis available and absolutely no bus routes. You can, however, choose to rent out a car through a private agency and enjoy the short drive.
Tips on Visiting Cu Chi Tunnels
The ticket charge to enter the Cu Chi Tunnel area is VND 90,000 and incase you wish to try out the gun range or buy some souvenirs, you will spend more. So keep some cash in hand.
Carry around plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat. The sun beats down in the tropical regions!
Do not forget your mosquito repellant.
For the full experience, it is best to dedicate a day for the Cu Chi Tunnels. However if you are short of time, it can be clubbed with Tay Ninh City tour.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a stark example of excellent Vietnamese engineering. An extensive 250 km labyrinth of tunnels containing entire cities inside, they were constructed purely by hand or by simple tools. Initially used during the French colonial rule, but was expanded and used more than ever during the Vietnamese War against America.
Photos of Cu Chi Tunnels
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