Location and history of Cu Chi Tunnels
Located about 70 kilometers northwest of Saigon, Cu Chi Tunnels is a piece of great evidence and memorial site of South Vietnam’s heart-breaking and heroic war against invaders. It has become a legendary and the proud of Vietnamese people as well as Cu Chi people. Nowadays the tunnels are absorptive to hundreds of thousands of tourists, particularly foreigners.
The tunnels is considered “Iron Triangle” of Southern Vietnam. Route 1 and the Saigon River, which served as the major supply routes in and out of Saigon during the war. Both of them pass through Cu Chi region so that this region and the nearby Ben Cat districts had immense strategic value in the war. It played a significant role in ensuring Vietnam’s independence.
The tunnels is an extensive network of underground tunnels in Cu Chi region. By 1954, eighty percents of locals in the villages supported Viet Cong (Communist guerrilla troops). At first, there wasn’t a direct order to build the tunnels. In the French French air and ground sweeps to catch Viet Cong, it was difficult for many patriots who worked secretly hide in locals’ houses in the region. Since the late 1940s, local people and Viet Cong had dug secret shelters around their house to hide the patriots and that were the very early part of the legendary tunnels. But the French still found out Vietnamese patriots and more were captured in these shelters. They had learned to dig from one shelter to another and the tunnels had become more and more complex until they stretched over 250km in total length.
Why was Tunnels the danger of the enemies?
Many people wonder why Cu Chi Tunnels was one of the most dangerous areas for American soldiers. Although America knew about the tunnels, their force couldn’t destroy this vast complex underground system and find out Vietcong. Cu Chi people have created tunnels with lots of special parts protecting the tunnels and people inside it. The cellar doorway was so small that only underfed Vietnamese soldier could go through. In addition, it was cleverly camouflaged under dead leaves. They also made breathing hold lying in a termite’s nest to hide from enemies, old clothes of American soldiers were used to trick soldier dog. They put trap everywhere in the area and threatened all American soldiers. Hoang Cam stove, which named after the man invented it, was used to hide smoke flying above the ground.
Cellar doorway, which is small enough for thin Vietnamese soldiers, is cleverly camouflaged under dead leaves – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour
A breathing hold lying in a termite’s nest in Cu Chi tunnels – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour
Rolling trap in Cu Chi Tunnels – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour
Hoang Cam stove – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour
What’s inside the Tunnels and the tough life underground?
The 250-km multi-layer underground tunnels stretch from the outskirts of Saigon all the way to the Cambodian border. The tunnels consist of numerous bomb shelters, living quarters, sleeping chambers classes, kitchens, hospitals, ordnance factories… All were built to house and feed the growing number of residents. There are even large theaters and music halls to provide a diversion for the troops.
The life of Vietnamese guerrillas during the wartime is extremely tough. Those days, air, foods, and water were scarce. Most of the materials and supplies were scavenged or stolen from U.S. bases or troops. In addition, the tunnels were infested with poisonous centipedes, ants, mosquitoes and spiders. During the day Viet Cong work or rest in the tunnels and only get out of the hidden place at night to tend the crops or engage the invasion troops in battle. During heavy bombing periods or enemy movement, the guerrillas had to stay in the dark tunnels for a long time. They were affected by different illnesses, especially malaria which was the second largest cause of death next to wounds in the battles.
Today’s Cu Chi Tunnels – a must-see tourist destination
A local guide introduces to tourists a kind of trap created by Cu Chi people in the war – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour
Cellar doorway has been widened to fit Western people – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour
Tourist tastes Boiled cassava when visiting the tunnels- Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour
After gaining independence, the historical tunnels have been preserved and turned into a war memorial park. Tourists would have the opportunity to crawl in the safer parts of the tunnels. Some have been made larger so that Western visitors can walk through, booby traps have been clearly marked, power lights have been installed in several of them to make it easier to explore the tunnels. Travelers will be offered a meal, which is the same as what the guerrillas eat in the past.
Nowadays, Tunnels in Cu Chi one of the most popular tourist attractions for both Vietnamese people and foreign visitors. They come, explore the harsh period of Vietnamese heroes and learn more about the heart-breaking war. Read more about Cu Chi Tunnels Travel Guide if you would like to travel the tunnels by yourself.
For your information, you can visit the official website of the tunnels at http://en.diadaocuchi.com.vn/. Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc sites open from 8:00 to 17:00 daily. Entrance fee at Ben Dinh is 110,000 VND, Entrance fee at Ben Dinh is 90,000 VND.