We started our first day in Ho Chi Minh city with an up close and personal history lesson on guerilla warfare at Cu Chi Tunnels. It's more than two hour's drive from the hustle and bustle of HCMC.
Built by local fighters during the Indochina conflict, the Cu Chi tunnels served as a base from which they could operate from close to the Southern Vietnamese capital.
Initial construction started in 1948 when the local fighters required somewhere to hide from French air attacks. By 1965, the tunnel complex was estimated to consist over 200 km of tunnels. It included hospitals, schools, meeting rooms, kitchens, and sleeping quarters.
Life was difficult for the inhabitants, and to protect against outside intruders, booby traps were laid throughout the complex.
Our tour guide took us on a fascinating tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels where we learnt about the conditions the people lived in and the hardships they faced. It was amazing to see the size of the tunnels.
It is really bone chilling to imagine the long periods of their stay underground as well as the regular commuting through these narrow, customized tunnels. I admire the ingenuity of the Vietnamese. They were determined to stay alive. No wonder they win the war.
We spent almost all of our time walking around above ground looking at the various ways in which the Vietnamese were able to camouflage and hide their tunnels and operations. We were shown hidden entrances and hidden ventilation system in the grounds.
We were offered a chance to explore the tunnels on all fours or sit and drag our butts along to experience the thrill of being inside one. I declined as it was too claustrophobic for me. :P
We saw huge bomb craters left from B-52 bombs and a display of the bomb casings representing the amount of explosives dropped on Cu Chi per day. Visitors can also climb upon the remains of an American tank to have a photo taken.
For an extra fee, we could fire off rounds from an AK47 or MK16 (like the ones the Viet Cong used) at the nearby rifle range. We didn't take up the offer.
We watched a demonstration of making spring roll wrappers.
After touring the Cu Chi Tunnels, we relaxed with steamed tapioca and hot tea. The underground root was one of the staple food the fighters survived on during wartime. The pandan leaves were placed around the underground tunnels to keep away snakes.
Be prepared to get dirty and sweaty in this tour. It was an amazing experience and a very moving history lesson for me. Worth a visit.
Credit : explanatory guide of Cu Chi Tunnels