An easy daytrip from HCMC is Cu Chi tunnels, scene of the underground resistance to American occupation during the war. You can crawl through the tunnels, learn about life inside and even fire an AK47.
The Cu Chi tunnels are located a little outside Saigon and they are one of the most interesting things you can visit in Vietnam i think.
It´s really facinating to see how the Viet Cong digged their way under the enemy and for most of the war sat right under their butts just to come out at night and shoot at them.
They have enlarged some of the tunnels so that even a westerner can fit in them and you can go down there to get a feel of what it was like to live there like the Vietnamese soldiers did during the war.
You can visit the tunnels on a day tour from Saigon and you have plenty of operators offering the trip for a very decent price.
Saigon River Express offers VIP speedboat tours to the Cu Chi Tunnels - the Mekong Delta - and jungle canal tours around Saigon. This is the service that was recommended as part of "Three Perfect Days: Saigon" in United Airlines inflight magazine and has been recommended in many other international publications. With a fleet of brand new speedboats and providing five star service - Saigon River express offers the most exciting way to see the best attractions around Ho Chi Minh City. Even a sunset tour around Saigon involves exploring narrow jungle canals with a village made of bamboo and thatch as well as visiting a spectacular floating Temple. This is definitely a must for any visitor to Saigon. http://www.saigonriverexpress.com
Set around 35km from central Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels earned legendary status during the American War. A massive network of underground tunnels and chambers, Cu Chi, in its entirety, stretched for over 250km from Saigon all the way to the Cambodian border. Few sites bear stronger testament to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong's will to defeat the Americans (and the French) than these tunnels.
It's a little realised fact that the Cu Chi tunnels predated US involvement in Vietnam, with the first tunnels being dug after the end of World War II in the late 1940s. In the following decades the system became more comprehensive and the tunnels and chambers more elaborate. The US tried first to attack the tunnels from within by sending soldiers down into the tunnels to fight their way through. These brave soldiers, operating under dual disadvantages of their size and not knowing the territory, endured a horrific fatality rate. When that was shelved, the generals decided to attack the tunnels from the air, first defoliating land then bombarding it with heavy bombs, including weaponry specifically designed to collapse the tunnels. Through all of this the tunnel networks survived. It wasn't until the late 1960s when American B52s carpet-bombed the area that substantial sections of the tunnels were finally destroyed.
Despite all the bombings in their town, the Cu Chi people were able to continue their lives beneath the soil, where they slept, ate, planned attacks, healed their sick, and taught their young. Some even wed and gave birth underground, but over 10,000 lost their lives here. I went on a tour with the Sinh Cafe whose offices are in the Pham Ngu Lao backpackers area of Ho Chi Minh City and it cost me 136,000 VND (about $8 including lunch) which also included a trip to the Cao Dai Great Temple at Tay Ninh but you still have to entrance fee of 80,000 VND. When we arrived we were shown a black & white propaganda film and then our guide showed us the hidden entrances to the tunnels and various traps and home-made weapons that were used. The tunnels are extremely small with an average height of between 1m and 1m 30 so, being as I'm 6ft 2" (185cm), there was no way I was going down! You can also fire various weapons such as an AK-47, M16, M60 or Magnum 44 where each bullet costs between 20-25,000 VND but for a minimum of 10 bullets. For more information and pictures of Cu Chi why not visit my Cu Chi page below:
THE FAMOUS TUNNELS AT CU CHI WERE FIRST BUILT IN THE LATE 1940'S AND USED DURING THE WAR WITH THE FRENCH. BUT IT WAS DURING THE VIETNAM WAR OF THE 1960S THAT THEY REALLY CAME INTO THEIR OWN.
CU CHI IS ABOUT 40KM FROM SAIGON AND THERE WAS ABOUT 250KM OF TUNNELS.
THESE RAN FROM THE SOUTH VIETNAMESE CAPITAL TO THE CAMBODIAN BORDER.
THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE LIVED AND FOUGHT IN THESE TUNNELS..AND IN A LOT OF CASES DIED IN THE TUNNELS. THE VC BUILT SECTIONS FOR ACCOMMODATION..HAVING MEETINGS AND PREPARING FOR BATTLES. ALL THIS WAS DONE IN A LABYRINTH OF TUNNELS BUILT OVER SEVERAL LEVELS. EATING WAS DONE DEEP IN THE TUNNELS AND THE SMOKE FROM FIRES DIVERTED TO THE SURFACE WELL AWAY FROM THE MAIN TUNNEL COMPLEX.
THE TUNNELS TOURISTS CRAWL THROUGH HAVE BEEN ENLARGED BUT ARE STILL VERY CLAUSTROPHOBIC.. AND THESE ARE 5 STAR TUNNELS !!!!
THE AIR SUPPLY FOR THE TUNNELS WAS GOT THROUGH FAKE TERMITE MOUNDS ON THE SURFACE...THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO FOUGHT IN THESE TUNNELS REALLY WERE OF A SPECIAL BREED..A VC SOLDIER COULD CRAWL FROM CU CHI TO SAIGON IN UNDER THREE HOURS !! A DISTANCE OF 40KM.... MAKES YOU THINK.
THE US ARMY TRIED EVERTHING TO DESTROY THE TUNNELS AT CU CHI BUT ONLY EVER MANAGED TO DESTROY A FRACTION OF THEM..TOWARDS THE END OF THE WAR AMERICAN B-52'S CARPET BOMBED THE TUNNELS AND THE AREA AROUND THEM.
THESE BOMBING RAIDS HAD LITTLE IMPACT AND AS WE KNOW AMERICA FINALLY LEFT.
THE DEATH TOLL ON THE VC TUNNEL RATS WAS VERY HIGH.. SOME 10,000 WHERE KILLED AND THE AREA AROUND CU CHI SAW SOME OF THE HEAVIEST BOMBING RAIDS IN THE HISTORY OF WARFARE..
WE BOOKED OUR TRIP TO CU CHI THROUGH SINH CAFE IN SAIGON. THE TRIP COST $6 PER PERSON..ENTRANCE TO THE TUNNELS COST A FURTHER 70,000D.
IF LIKE US AND WANT TO FIRE AN AK-47 THIS WILL COST EXTRA.. $1.30 PER BULLET, AT A MINIMUM OF 10 BULLETS.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO BRING A CHANGE OF T-SHIRT WITH YOU AS YOU CAN GET QUITE DIRTY DOWN THE TUNNELS FROM ALL THE RED CLAY.. PLUS A TORCH FOR THE TUNNELS WOULD BE GREAT.. I DIDNT HAVE ONE AND BANGED MY HEAD QUITE A FEW TIMES..OUCH !!
DONT WORRY IF YOU FIND YOU CANT COPE IN THE TUNNELS, THERE ARE PLACES WHERE YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO GET OUT IF IT ALL GETS TOO CLAUSTROPHOBIC AND HOT. ALL IN ALL A VERY GOOD HALF DAY TRIP..WOULD BE A SHAME TO MISS OUT ON WHAT IS A BIG PART OF VIETNAM HISTORY.
Located in the district of Cu Chi, about 1.30 from Ho Chi Min, the Cu Chi Tunnels are part of a network of tunnels stretching as far as the Cambodian border and used by NLF guerrillas to hide from the French Army first and then from the American Army.
There was everything in the tunnels: homes with kitchen, hospitals, weapons, food... and each tunnel entrance was well concieved and protected by a rudimental deadly trap, thanks to its poisonous spikes. Tunnels were built on three levels, with direct underground access to a river, and two generations of Vietnamese people have lived in these tunnels.
The tunnels were longer than 200 kilometres and air vents were needed... as you walk around, look for the termite mounds: they used to disguise the air vents. Of course the American Army did know of the tunnels, and a clear sign is the bombs dropped on the site (you can see them) and the presence of destroyed US Army tanks... still, the tunnel system could not be won. Only small upper parts were destroyed, but people moved down the lower levels and tunnels still continued to exist.
Some short stretches of tunnels are possible to visit, although they have been restored and made somewhat larger to accomodate foreign tourists... and yet, they are still hot, in pitch darkness annd extremely narrow and claustrophobic.
As there is no public transportation to the tunnels, the cheapest way is to visit them on an organized day trip, or else you can rent a taxi for half a day. Entrance (2007) was 55000 dongs.
A derelict shell of a M-41 American tank lays solemnly in the midst of Cu Chi jungle. I tapped on the metal of the tank and you'd know that with toughness, it was made to protect the personnel that were within. But with a small weapon like the Rocket Propelled Gun (RPG) used by the Viet Cong, the tank was totally vulnerable.
At Cu Chi, you can get to try your hands on most probably a China-made AK-47. Each bullet will cost you USD1.30, and you'd need to purchase a minimum of 10 bullets. I did not want to spend USD 13 on just firing bullets. So it was fortunate that there was this German girl, Patricia from Koln, Germany, who wanted to try out as well. So we split the bullets among ourselves. It's loud even with mufflers. Truthfully, plugging in your fingers into your earhole work much better. That is if you're not the shooter!
Well, if you are a weapons afficionado, then you might like to read on.
I had tried out various weapons like the American-made M-16 and the General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) that fires 7.62mm rounds, shot-guns and Singapore-made SAR-21 and Ultimax-100 to name a few.
I was pretty excited to try out the AK-47 as I've heard so much about it. Moreover, this weapon was an icon of the communist nations while the M-16 was the icon of the allied forces.
I really love the feel of the M-16 and it was my "wife" for 2 1/2 years of my life. Easy to handle, extreme accuracy to more than 500m.
Wrapping my hands on an AK-47 felt really great. cocking the weapon, I co-ordinated my aiming using the front-side and rear-side aperture. Took aim, and fired one round. Estatic! It was really smooth and you could see the dust rising up as the bullet struck the target board and ploughed into the sand pit behind. Cool!
The flash from my camera gives a wrong impression how it actually is.
It is pitch dark, stuffy, hot, scary, ... and all the fears rolled into one.
You would have difficulty breathing too.
The Cu Chi Tunnels.
You have to experience it as how the soldiers experience it every day throughout the war.
MAJOR TIP - bring a torch light and a change of clothes.
Water is important too! You'll need it
Sinh Cafe's Cu Chi Tunnels tour. Half day trip. Around 2 hrs of bus ride from Sinh Cafe office to Cu Chi Tunnels. Bus is small, and if u have long legs, good luck to you. At Cu Chu Tunnels, u will get to see... err... tunnels (what else??), bobby traps, war-related stuff and so on.
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