Imagine living years and years in an underground tunnel complex, which is at most points barely big enough to crawl through… It may sound impossible but it was reality for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war.
About 35km outside of Ho Chi Minh City, you can find the Cu Chi Tunnels; the biggest tunnel complex in Vietnam.
A place that held so much history I had to learn more about and see for myself.
To get to Cu Chi Tunnels, one can rent a car or you can just book a tour at one of the many tourist offices in Ho Chi Minh City. We chose the latter option and went on an afternoon trip to Cu Chi tunnels with Sinh Tourist. This is one of the most renowned tourist offices in all of Vietnam. Because of that many other offices copy the name in hopes of attracting tourists. So be aware of this. Make sure you have the address of the real Sinh Tourist so you don’t end up with a fraud.
At 1pm we were expected to depart at Sinh Tourist office and much to my surprise, they were really punctual. During the one hour drive to the tunnel complex, our guide already supplied us with much information on the Cu Chi tunnels.
The first part of the Cu Chi tunnels was dug in the late 1940s by the Viet Minh for their battle against the French colonists. Later, in the early 1960s, the Viet Cong expanded them to a complex of 250 km to stand a chance against the better-supplied American and South-Vietnamese troops. Within three layers of tunnels one could find living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, hospitals, etc etc. A city underground was born.
Now this complex is turned into a museum.
Upon arrival at Cu Chi, we were first shown a video with some authentic images from during the war. Quite striking.
Then our guide accompanied us through the museum. We were shown some hidden entrances to the tunnels, booby traps and command centers. Because our guide’s English wasn’t that good, it was often hard to follow all of his information and ended up being a bit too long at certains times. But still, it was very educational.
Towards the end of the tour, there is also a firing range where you can shoot a famous AK-47 riffle, MK16 or other gun. You have to buy the bullets per ten so because of that it ends up being quite expensive.
Unfortunately you can’t see a lot of the tunnels itself as most of them have collapsed. Near the end of the tour there is a small tunnel of about 50 meters where you can go through. For the sake of the tourists, these have already been enlarged. It was hard to imagine these people living in even smaller tunnels as these were already so narrow.
And then it was back on the bus to Ho Chi Minh City.
I had expected more of this visit – especially seeing more tunnels -, but still it’s just something you have to see. It’s such a big part of the Vietnamese history that you can’t skip it while travelling the country and trying to understand more about the Vietnamese culture.
Sinh Tourist offers both morning (7:45am) and afternoon (1pm) trips to Cu Chi Tunnels. The tour itself cost us 109.000 dong (=+/- 4,5 euro), but entrance to the complex of 11.000 (=+/- 0,45 euro) is not included yet.