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Unforgettable Experience at Cu Chi tunnels

10/04/2019 951 Views
The Cu Chi tunnels of Vietnam are one of those horrible remnants of a horrible war that most folks would probably rather forget.  So, of course, they've become a tourist attraction. The Cu Chi Tunnels lie 75 km northwest of Saigon ... which nobody these days but the government and maps call Ho Chi Minh City.  At the height of the Vietnam war, the tunnel system stretched from the outskirts of Saigon all the way to the Cambodian border ... something like 250 kilometers of tunnels.

The Cu Chi tunnels of Vietnam are one of those horrible remnants of a horrible war that most folks would probably rather forget.  So, of course, they've become a tourist attraction. It was one of the weirdest tourism experiences we've ever had.  As though Fellini and Disney had teamed up to do 'Nam....At the beginning of the tunnel complex, there's a wall draped with clothing ... vests, cone shaped peasant hats, capes in camouflage colors. Oh yes, and rifles.  Real rifles, but thankfully without the ammo. You can rent these things.  And wear them while crawling through the tunnels.  So much the better to feel like a guerilla.

Exploration of Cu Chi tunnel
Exploration of Cu Chi tunnel


The Cu Chi Tunnels lie 75 km northwest of Saigon ... which nobody these days but the government and maps call Ho Chi Minh City.  At the height of the Vietnam war, the tunnel system stretched from the outskirts of Saigon all the way to the Cambodian border ... something like 250 kilometers of tunnels. The tunnel system, built over 25 years starting in the 1940s, let the Viet Minh and, later, the Viet Cong, control a huge rural area.  It was an underground city with living areas, kitchens, storage, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centers.  In places, it was several stories deep and housed up to 10,000 people who virtually lived underground for years.... getting married, giving birth, going to school. They only came out at night to furtively tend their crops.The ground here is hard clay, which made this whole thing possible.  But even so, the planning and construction was incredible.  People dug all this with hand tools, filling reed baskets and dumping the dirt into bomb craters.

Inside Cu Chi tunnels
Inside Cu Chi tunnels


They installed large vents so they could hear approaching helicopters, smaller vents for air and baffled vents to dissipate cooking smoke.  There were also hidden trap doors and gruesomely effective bamboo-stake booby traps. Of course, the U.S. military knew about the tunnels.  The tunnels not only allowed guerilla communication, they allowed surprise attacks, even within the perimeters of U.S. military bases.  The U.S. retaliated with bombs, eventually turning the region into what writers Tom Mangold and John Penycate called "the most bombed, shelled, gassed, defoliated and generally devastated area in the history of warfare."
That was then.

Visiting Cu Chi tunnel is a way for you to learn more about the history of Vietnam during the war
Visiting Cu Chi tunnel is a way for you to learn more about the history of Vietnam during the war


Today, the trees and bushes have grown back.  And since 1988, two sections of tunnels have been open for tourism.  There are what some guidebooks call the "real" tunnels at Ben Binh.  They remain unlit and mostly unreconstructed, which means chunky Westerners shouldn't even try. Re-creation of underground conference room from which Tet offensive was planned. The "fake" tunnels at Ben Duoc aren't fake at all. They're merely renovated, widened for tourists and come complete with lights and displays underground.
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