Once we set foot in the Vietnamese capital our first aim was to book ourselves on to a tour of the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels.
Where are they?
At about 30km from Ho Chi Minh City lies one of the two sites of the tunnels that have been reconstructed and opened to visitors. Ben Dinh. As we walked around it was explained to us how the network of 250km was used by the Vietcong to outmanouvere the US forces and how the locals also used them to survive the aerial strikes during the Vienam war.
What are the tunnels like?
It is only really when you crouch into one of these tunnels that you begin to grasp how confined there spaces really are. I have to say it was a relief to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s a real leg workout. Even more surprising was that these reconstructed tunnels had been slightly widened compared to the original ones. Safe to say the Vietcong had no time for claustrophobia!
We were also shown a plethora of booby traps that were expertly manufactured from basic materials and deployed to kill or maim US soldiers. Some of these mechanisms were so creative you begin to feel for those unwitting infantry who crossed their path.
This feeling is promptly quelled however, when you’re shown a Vietnamese ‘propaganda’ video with an English narrative providing a gruelling account of the Vietnamese plight during the conflict (War of Aggression). Safe to say it doesn’t paint the American side in a great light.
Aside from this, the day was full of friendly jokes from our cheeky 62 year old tour guide Tony. He was full of amazing facts about how the US Army tried to use snakes from Thailand against them, how the Vietnamese used hammocks to survive bomb blasts and how they piped their cooking smoke to other areas of the forest to distract the Americans. We came away with a heightened respect for the ingenuity and resilience of veterans like our joker Tony.
On the return leg, the coach actually broke down twice, but the driver soon got us running again, which was of course met with rapturous applause. The same can-do attitude has endured and is still evident some 38 years on.
How much was the trip?
We were more than contented with the price we got of 120,000 VD ($6) for what turned out to be a 4 hour return trip on an A/C coach, with a tour guide for the day – bargain!
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