Upon reviewing some of the top tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, we came across something left field that we decided to check out.
The Cu Chi tunnels are situated approx 70km from the city centre and are a hand made network of underground tunnels and caverns that were used primarily by the Viet Cong during the American war. The tunnels are a complex maze approximately 75 miles long where soldiers would often spend days underground, only venturing out at night to hunt for food or tend to their crops when they couldn’t be seen by the enemy. As one can imagine, sickness was rife underground with malaria in particular a big problem not to mention issues caused by poor sanitation and vermin.
We booked a guided half day tour via a travel agent in HCM City for 69,000 Dong each, approx £2 per person and arrived as instructed at 8am to pick up our tour bus. After waiting until almost 9.30am we finally made a hazardous journey to the tunnels which took approx 90 mins, albeit via a refreshment stop and a tour of a factory making and selling tablewares with intricate eggshell designs. Backpackers aren’t really the best target audience for these types of souvenir so we didn’t witness anyone buying anything.
We had to pay an additional 110,000 dong each to enter the site of the tunnels (approx £3.50) and were soon led through to the jungle with sounds of gunshots in the distance. Our guide showed us a viewing hole that the Viet Cong used to check on the position of the sun as well as the enemy, that was completely camouflaged from the outside world and was barely wide enough for someone to drop into and was concealed by a wooden lid covered with leaves. A few of our group took up the invite of going in for a look with John putting his hand up first!
Our guide proceeded to show us the rest of the site including some crude but extremely brutal booby traps to capture American soldiers as well as some ingenious ventilation holes for the tunnels. As the sound of gunfire came closer, we were given the opportunity to fire a choice of assault rifle ourselves from a choice of ak-47’s, m10’s and similar which we chose at a cost of circa £10 each for 10 shots. This wasn’t something either of us had done previously and the noise was deafening even when wearing the mandatory ear defenders. The power of the guns and kick back was much more than we both expected.
After such an exhilarating experience we discovered that our guide had continued the tour with the rest of our group and left us behind! Not wanting to wander through a jungle unaccompanied, we joined in with another group from the same company until we found him again.
We were invited to enter the tunnels themselves which were reached via a steep ladder to various depths. John found the experience too claustrophobic with the tunnels being jammed with tourists and barely 2 feet wide and 3 feet high and quickly came out. In addition the tunnels were so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face without using your smartphone torch, something the Viet Cong clearly wouldn’t have had, pretty amazing how they helped defeat the US army from such an environment.
After finding our guide again we were given a cup of local Vietnamese tea and some tapioca before heading back to our bus. All in all an excellent trip with the exception of our guide deserting us, he clearly wouldn’t have made a very good soldier!