The Cu Chi Tunnels were started during the 1940s when the Vietnamese were fighting for independence from the French. They were greatly expanded and a major stronghold from which the Vietcong would launch attacks on the city of Saigon, including the infamous Tet Offensive. At its height, the network connected outposts and support bases all the way to the Cambodian border, covering hundreds of miles.
The tunnels served as supply depots, communications hubs, and home to Vietcong and North Vietnamese fighters. The U.S. launched several raids to destroy the complex that was just an hour and a half from outside the capital city of Saigon. None of the attacks proved very successful as the tunnels kept them safe from carpet bombing and hidden from the land forces combing the area.
Guided Tour Of Cu Chi Tunnels
As a history buff and someone interested in the Vietnam War, I want to take a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. I booked a half day tour through my hotel and arranged to be picked up in the next morning.
I barely started breakfast when the driver and guide showed up early to pick me up. I slugged back the last of my coffee and hurriedly finished my eggs as the guide waited. I was the first passenger aboard the mini-van and we spent the next 30 minutes driving around the city picking up the 7 other customers.
As with just about every guided tour I’ve been on, they stop somewhere on the way to or from the destination in order to visit some sort of local artisan shop where you can view the locals making some local product – and hopefully, you buy something at the end.
For this tour, we stopped at a factory where blind and handicapped workers make a variety of Vietnamese lacquered art for sale. You get the ‘tour’ past maybe a dozen workers making the items of the day and end in a big gift shop.
It was some beautiful artwork, but none of us were interested and we were impatiently waiting for our guide to get back to the van so we could get on with the tour.
After arriving at Cu Chi Tunnels, we start with a short video explaining some of the history and how they managed to stay hidden and survive the various assaults from the American and South Vietnamese forces.
The tour continues on the surface where there are various stations set up to give examples of life during the war and what was happening underground beneath us. These stops gave our guide a chance to fill us in on the history of the site.
Our guide was OK, but some times hard to understand, and I got the impression he’s pushing some politics in with his history.
It wasn’t hard to see how the tunnels were so well hidden and hard to find. One entrance was so small, it would be near impossible to spot and definitely impossible for a G.I. of my girth to make it through the entry.
Our guide pointed out rocks with small holes in them that were used to get air in the tunnels. Cover it with some brush and you’d never see it.
There is an interesting exhibit of all the different types of booby traps the Vietcong used. They were all nasty and some were just diabolical in their cruelty.
There were a couple of highlights of the tours. One is that you get to crawl through a section of the Cu Chi Tunnels. If you are large, claustrophobic, have bad knees, or afraid of the dark, you might want to skip this part of the tour. It gave me a new appreciation for the American “Tunnel Rats” that would have to crawl through here looking for the enemy and not knowing what would be around the corner.
The second is the firing range where you can shoot all sorts of armaments from the Vietnam War era – for an additional fee of course. You can shoot anything from an AK-47 to a .50 Machine gun. It seemed very popular.
The tour took a couple hours and overall it was interesting. I was anticipating seeing more of the tunnels, however, after seeing how small and uncomfortable they were, I’m happy to have only gone through a small section. I can’t believe people lived down there during the war.
Craft Beer In Ho Chi Minh City
After the tour of Cu Chi Tunnels, I decided to check out one of the local restaurants that was supposed to have a good selection of craft beers. HCMC has a surprisingly good craft beer scene, which I didn’t realize or expect.
One of the main breweries is The Heart Of Darkness, which I thought was a great name. If you’re not familiar with the connection, It was a novel written in 1899 and was the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.
I tried a couple of the beers on the menu and had a light snack of chicken fingers and fries. The place was nearly empty, not really surprising as they charged Western prices for beer and food in a city where you can get a can of the local brew for .50 cents.
Roof Top Bar
I moved on and decided to check out one of the rooftop bars that was pretty swanky compared to the other bars I visited. I ordered a Bombay Sapphire and Tonic, some more food, and took in the view.
They view wasn’t exactly breathtaking considering I was overlooking a construction site, but it was surely a nice place to enjoy a cocktail and enjoy the cool breeze.