After spending a few hours pricing out a half day tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels we decided to book the group tour with a travel agent across from the hotel as he said there was only 10 other people on the tour.
As we were collected that morning and we walked to the bus we realised that we had been scammed.45 seater bus full to the gunnels and wouldn’t leave for another hour!! It could have been worse though, we could have paid $20 (instead of $7) like some people on the bus!
At 11am we arrived at the Cu Chi Tunnel System, which is located close to the Cambodian Border. The tunnels here were part of the wider network throughout Vietnam, but given Cu Chi’s proximity to Saigon these tunnels were more infamous than others. It was here that the Vietcong planned and orchestrated the Tet Offensive in 1968.
We all jumped off the bus and our tour guide unfurled his flag so that none of us would get lost . It felt like a school tour with the size of the group and the guide’s futile efforts to look after us. If only they knew that there was an even better tour guide in their midst.
We got our tickets and were tagged on the way into the complex.
The first stop on the tour was inside a bunker to watch a black and white video about the tunnels. Built in the 1940s to help fight against the French, the tunnels were rapidly expanded during the 1960s to take on the South Vietnamese government and then the American Army. The tunnels were so extensive that they had secret entrances into many of the fortified hamlets and even the base of the US 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi (It took them months to discover how the VC kept getting in!). Next to this was a gallery of weapons.
After this video we were brought to a small clearing covered in leaves. The guide then spoke about hidden doorways into the tunnel and proceeded to wipe away the leaves and reveal a trapdoor.
Due to US Army raids and heavy carpet bombing by B-52 Bombers the VC and their families would have to spend many days (sometimes weeks) in the underground tunnels. These tunnels were tiny (as we would find out) even after being remade for tourists. They were very hot and John had to climb on all fours to get through.
The Cu Chi Museum contains lots of exhibits. From the traps they used to capture and kill American GIs to the workshops they used to make everything from food to weapons. There is also a M41 American Tank on display that was knocked out by landmines.
All throughout our tour we heard repeated gunshot noises. At first we thought this was some sort of background tape playing. We soon realised that Cu Chi had a fully functioning gun range on site.
The minimum was 10 rounds so we chose an AK-47 Assault Rifle. Some of the Americans on our tour opted to throw away large wads of cash to fire the big M60 Jeep mounted machine guns.
That was the end of our tour. The tunnels were really interesting and it’s impossible to cram all the details in a blog post. For readers who want to know more there is a book called The Tunnels of Cu Chi by Tom Mangold and John Penycate. This is a moving book documenting the story of the tunnels from both sides perspectives.