Whenever I go to a certain country, seeing and experiencing the culture and history is my main priority. Prior to my SEAsia backpacking trip, I researched on the must-see historical attractions and I came across with Vietnam’s Cu Chi Tunnel.
I was picked up from my hotel in Ho Chi Minh City at 8:30 in the morning. I was surprised (and happy) when the bus arrived that it was a newer bus with air conditioning. All of us inside the bus (mostly western tourists) were given some brief history by our tour guide and stopped at a place on the way where those affected by the war make artwork for sale. It was a 90 minute trip to reach Cu Chi.
The ticket office is a few minutes walk once you’ve gone under the sign about the tunnels, (just bear left when we you see the signs pointing you to the right for the restaurant).
Continuing on, you’ll come to a display (on the left of the road) of old American guns, which may or may not interest you.. The entrance to the tunnel complex is behind this. Hand over your tickets and you’ll be grouped for your attendant or guide to begin. You walk into the jungle area down well trodden paths afterwards.
Experience starts with a fairly short film about the tunnels and the Vietnam war, but made from a purely Vietnamese point of view – like a war propaganda film. Could imagine a few war veterans who visited getting upset at being portrayed as criminals.
Digging out 250 kilometers of tunnels, especially by hand, can be nothing short of brilliant. But the tunnels are much more than a boring achievement. The attraction is very much reflective of the incredible hard work and cleverness of the several thousand Vietnamese soldiers who called it home over the period of the Vietnam War. Kitchens, hospitals, workshops, offices, sleeping quarters and more are all housed within this amazing labyrinth which the American Army, with all their fire power and technology, failed to destroy.
The tunnels reserve is very well laid out, you will see an interesting exhibit of traps, and while walking through the reserve you will hear lots of gun fire from the shooting range, that adds a lot to the intensity of the moment, makes one feel like one is back in time, during the war. I personally had shivers down my spine with emotions, I loved the entire experience.
Then you will start walking and see some exhibits of how the underground rooms looked like, the traps that were laid for the Americans.
There is an area where a guide will present a map and explain how the tunnels were built and how they worked, that was very interesting and useful, as it helps understanding the immensity and the importance of the tunnels, the role they played to the locals and to the war.
The tunnels are a monument of determination, to think how many years it took to build, and then how many years Vietnamese people hid or lived in those tunnels to fight for freedom or their lives.
For me it was worth a visit for the history and as something out of the ordinary, but if the culture, wildlife or scenery is more important to you have limited time to explore then a trip to the Mekong Delta might be better. If you are interested in history or looking for something a little different (like I do!), I’d definitely recommend this one.