CU CHI TUNNELS - SOUTHERN VIETNAM
EMBLEMATIC RELIQUE OF WAR
There are many opportunities in Vietnam to remember history, both glorious and devastating. Among all the places that claim to depict the tenacious spirit of the Vietnamese, the tunnels of Cu Chi, in Southern Vietnam, really stand out. A trip through the underground tunnels can present the country's rich history and evoke scenes from the Vietnam War.
The history of the Cu Chi tunnels
Cu Chi District is a suburb located 33 km from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Known as the "historic area" or "steel region", the Cu Chi district is home to the famous Cu Chi tunnels built during the Vietnam War. The district is known nationally and globally as the base where the Vietnamese mounted the Tet Mau Than (Tet Offensive) operation in 1968.
The Cu Chi tunnels are a 200 km underground tunnel system, which was used as the headquarters of Viet Cong communist soldiers during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were built by the inhabitants and the Viet Cong during the First Indochina War (1946 - 1954) and the Vietnam War (1955 - 1975). Tunnels are approximately 0.5 m wide and 0.3 m high, and are sufficient for one person to lean into them.
The tunnels have three levels, the subsoil is more than 12 m below ground. The upper soil layer is 3 to 4 m thick and can support a 50-ton tank, survive light bombs and light guns. The multi-level system includes many branches that connect to shelters, hiding places and entrances to other tunnels.
The underground tunnel network also includes hospitals, dormitories, meeting rooms, kitchens, shops, work rooms, dining rooms, schools. There are also wells that provide water for all the tunnels and which remain surprisingly active to this day. Some tunnels are connected to rivers such as the Saigon River.
The entrances are usually hidden in mounds. A large number of gates linked different routes and many traps were set, raising fears among many American soldiers and soldiers from the Republic of Vietnam. Even American troops with more than 3,000 well-trained sniffer dogs could not navigate the courses. Vietnamese use American soap, pepper and cold sprays to deter dogs. The Americans tried to pump gas through the tunnel. However, the layered system, numerous corner tunnels with countless closed doors and the submerged tunnel neutralize all attempts by the American army.
It is impossible to draw a detailed map of the tunnels due to the complexity and difficulties associated with visiting all parts of the tunnels, some of which are narrow, dark, cold and wet. Today, some parts of the tunnels have been modified to be 0.8 to 1 m wide in order to accommodate visitors. Many tunnels are enlarged replicas, in order to avoid any claustrophobia they would induce in tourists.
What to do in the tunnels of Cu Chi?
There are two sites where tourists can come and explore the tunnels: Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. Compared to Ben Duoc, Ben Dinh is closer to Ho Chi Minh City, more populated and more touristic.
Opening hours: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Admission price: 110 000 VND / person
Ben Dinh is an ideal place for tunnel construction thanks to the large forest and hard ground. Most travel agencies take their customers to Ben Dinh because it is closer to the city centre and Ben Dinh's tunnels are easier to explore.
What to see in Ben Dinh?
- The map and simplified tunnel models.
- Short documentary film.
- The doors of the secret cellar hidden under the leaves.
- Death traps.
- Meeting area, bomb manufacturing area, bunker, operating room, weapons manufacturing area, rubber shoe manufacturing area.
- The crater of the bomb dropped in the Cu Chi jungle during the war and the body of the M41 tank, trapped in the woods and destroyed by the mine in 1970.
- A section of tunnels.
- The kitchen: This is a stove and chimney system, diffusing and dissipating cooking smoke that prevented aerial smoke detection. The cooks serve you boiled cassava with a mixture of salt, roasted sesame seeds, ground peanuts and tea on wooden tables. Steamed cassava is a popular food of the Cu Chi people and Viet Cong soldiers during the war because of the lack of food.
- Sports and games: Shooting, paintball, swan boat, kayaking, cycling.
Opening hours: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Admission price: 90 000 VND / person
What to see in Ben Duoc?
- Many helicopters, bombs and tanks used by the American army and Cu Chi guerrillas during the war.
- A documentary film and an explanation of the tunnels.
- Tunnels: workspace, operating room, meeting room, shelter, combat bunker, kitchen, weapons factory.
- Objects used by the Viet Cong to attack the enemy, shoes, food, clothing, weapons made by soldiers and inhabitants
- Ben Duoc Memorial Temple (built in 1993)
- Shooting ranges
Some tips during your stay in Cu Chi
The best time to travel in Cu Chi tunnels is the dry season from December to April. It is the ideal season to explore the tunnels of Cu Chi and do many outdoor activities. Don't worry about the sun because you can walk in the shade of the jungles.
Ideas for memories:
- Pretty objects in bullet shells such as lighter, helicopter, oil lamp, key chain.
- Checked scarves: Considered as a symbol of Vietnamese farmers and soldiers, the checkered scarf plays an important role in Vietnamese life and culture. Scarves were usually worn around the neck and were used to wipe away sweat when they worked hard in rice fields or fought with enemies.
- Traditional clothing: In the past, Cu Chi people used to wear a black Vietnamese silk (Ba ba) outfit on a daily basis.
- Soldiers' hat: The green hat that Cu Chi people wore during wartime is a popular souvenir to buy in the tunnels.
- Sandals made of used tyres: These little sandals made of used tires are so pretty that you would like to buy some to take home.