Steeped deep in history and situated in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City, lies the intricate and extensive network of Cu Chi Tunnels. These tunnels provide a glimpse into the brutal yet tenacious past of this wonderful country and stand witness to the many atrocities that were committed during the Vietnam War. The 200 Kms of underground passageways transport you back to 1960’s when Viet Cong guerrillas created an entire pseudo-hamlet beneath the soils of Vietnam to deceive and ambush Americans. It took almost 25 years to complete the construction of Cu Chi tunnels which were originally dug with bare hands and simple tools in the late 1940’s after World War II to protect Vietnamese folk against French air strikes.
As magnificent as the story behind these tunnels may be, the tunnels in themselves weren’t. At the time of war, grave illnesses were rampant in the dark tunnels and it was a prime habitat of snakes and insects, thus forcing Vietnamese to choose their enemy every day. The fight wasn’t easy, taking as many as 10,000 lives during the time it lasted. Normality was an alien term in those dangerous years, but a hint of it can still be seen inside these tunnels in the form of classrooms, sleeping quarters, social rooms and kitchens.
Earlier a hiding place for the Viet Cong Guerrillas has now been transformed to a sort of war memorial by the Vietnam Government. Due to a constant fascination with the history of this place, tourists and locals frequent these tunnels to experience the warring times. Cu Chi Tunnels are a must visit for anyone travelling this country. Several tour operators and hotels provide personal as well as group tours to tourists. A typical tour begins with showing visitors footage of the video depicting camouflages and deception techniques adopted by Vietnamese during the war. Then they are taken through the jungle to show areas with booby traps and where old American tanks are on display. Then comes the much awaited part: going inside the tunnels and finally the tour ends with you choosing from a range of artillery (AK-47, M16, M60, Magnum 44) to shoot for a price. (20,000-25,000 VND for a round of 10 bullets)
Cu Chi Tunnels was not just a part of defensive strategy for this peasant army; it was, in fact, a way of life. A visit to these tunnels is nothing but a priority.
Tickets and Tours
There are many half day tours offered by a number of hotels and tour operators such as Sinh cafe and Luxury Travel co. Ltd. which are inexpensive, informative and a lot of fun. However, these tours usually don’t include the entrance/admission fee of about $ 6-8 USD or 75,000-80,000 VND. You can either avail a group tour or a personal tour as per your convenience, comfort and budget. If, however, you would rather do away with these tour operators, directly obtain the ticket from the ticket booth located right at the entrance of the Cu Chi Tunnels exhibit. Although, be ready to wait for a guide to escort you for the tour as it’s prohibited to explore these tunnels without the assistance of a guide.
How to Reach
Out of the extended network, only two sections of Cu Chi Tunnels (Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc) are open for the public to explore. Located 70 kms away from Ho Chi Minh City centre, it takes about 90-100 minutes(depending on the traffic) to reach these tunnels. To get to the destination, a hired taxi or a rental car works best, especially if you are travelling on your own. Other options include special tour buses or car services made available by tour operators and hotels. Public buses are not recommended as they don’t take you to these tunnels directly and a change of transport (which is relatively difficult to find) is required.
Cu Chi Tunnels have been brutalized by two wars: First Indochina War and the Vietnam War, but still came up a survivor.
You can’t help but admire the engineering and design of these tunnels when you witness the utility it served during the war. Entrances to these tunnels are only 0.5 to 1m wide, acting as the perfect hide out place for Vietnamese soldiers. The tunnels are divided into three sections or levels, which were used as hospitals, classrooms, meeting rooms, storage place for ordnance and food supply as well as communication and travelling routes.