Cu Chi Tunnels....A Crawl Into The Warzone
Trip Start Jul 20, 2011
10Trip End Jul 24, 2011
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Where I stayed
Bongsen Hotel Ho Chi Minh City
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
The journey started at 8 am heading all the way out of the city through the main trunk road that ends all the way in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Along the way, through the busy morning traffic, we had some stops for railway crossings too. Here the railway crossing mechanism is still quite primitive. The railway guards pull collapsible gates as the train is scheduled to run past. Not much of a security is there but so far, there has not been any untoward incidents.
Along the way, we past many small zones and then the city limits and after that, the drive was through some villages. The journey was almost 90 minutes. These weblike tunnels, were the main artery of the war for the Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communist) against the Americans. Here in Vietnam, they call it the American war although outside of Vietnam, we are so used to the terminology of Vietnam War. They label it as such as they had two main wars in their history, firstly the French War and then followed by the 30 year long American War.
I was also told that most of these tunnels are outside city limits as the Viet Cong were not able to conquer the main city of Saigon and hence their strength laid in the villages and the tropical forests, where the American troops were not accustomed to.
This is a large complex, now preserved by the government as a tourist spot. There are also video shows at the beginning of the tour in various languages where one would be taken through the war with actual footages of the bombings. The language used was harsh though, there were some Americans there who could not take it and they walked out during the show. They had used crude words like 'American Devils' which should not have been used, but I do understand the pain form their end. Anyway, any war has casualties from both ends too.
The living conditions in these tunnels were terrible. They were built for the Vietnamese size, therefore American troops could not enter it. Even I could not enter many of the tunnel mouths. There was great engineering in these tunnels, manually digging them for a length of more than 200 kilometers. These were the hiding grounds for the Viet Cong and was their greatest strength during the war.
Booby traps were set at various places which is not friendly at all. These tunnels consist of artilleries, meeting rooms, kitchens but all were set at a very cramped settings. I did enter the tunnels at one of the so called widest points and I regretted it. Entering it was complete darkness, I had to crawl on all fours and the feeling was claustrophobic. There were several exit points in the tunnel and I crawled out of the very first point within a 20 meters distance. Truly, only after entering one of the tunnels, one would be able to experience at least slightly the life that these troops went through.
The chimnies were also built uniquely. There were seperate air tunnles for the cooking smoke to exit, usually only at a distance of a minimum of 300 meters away from the actual cooking point. This is to deceive the American troops from the actual point. I was told, initially, the Americans used hunting dogs to locate these tunnels as even the entrance points were camouflaged. Then, the Viet Cong raided the American Camps and stole their own clothing and cigarettes and had them at these entrance points. By doing so, the dogs were unable to sniff the actual entry points. Such a brilliant idea.
There is also a spot for one to rent a gun, the guns used during the war and visitors are able to fire shots and get the experience of firing the AK 47. These AK 47 were the best weapons to be used in this kind of terrain. It is the weapon that would still fire without getting jammed or exploding even after being immersed in water and mud.
On the whole, the visit to this place was definitely worth it. From here, we head back to the city. By the time we arrived at the city, it was already noon and we head for buffet lunch at one of the hotels in Saigon called Vien Dong Hotel.
Here the menu was entirely Vietnamese dishes. It seems that the Vietnamese eat mostly pork and beef. The food was good here, nothing to complain. For me, most of the dishes seemed very different and prepared differently. The variety was good, right from Soups, starters, main dishes, deserts and sweets and also the variety of drinks.