After the Cao Dai Temple and lunch, we proceeded to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are an underground network of connecting tunnels that are also part of the larger network of tunnels around Vietnam. These particular tunnels were used by the Viet Cong guerillas as communication and supply routes. These were also used as hiding spots during battle and sometimes even as living quarters.
Slim Jim showing us a trap. He told us that the trap only injures, doesn’t really kill. I will take his word for it.
Not far away from the first booby trap, Slim Jim made us gather around a small clearing full of leaves. There was nothing to note in the area, so I thought he was going to update us on our itinerary.
I was wrong.
And the soldier went in. It’s a really small hole.
And now he’s gone! Pretty much one of the coolest things I’ve seen. So I made a .gif of it 😀
This hole/trapdoor connects to the Cu Chi Tunnel network. After the demonstration, Slim Jim asked a couple of us to go in and try. Not everyone was able to get the cover to close above their heads. After this, we continued our walk.
We stopped by some mannequins dressed in the guerilla uniform where Slim Jim told us about the guerilla’s lives and the significance of the scarves the mannequins wore. All around the place, there were underground huts. These huts were situated low on the ground to avoid the line of sight of the American forces’ airplanes.
Despite the lack of heavy artillery and machinery, the Viet Cong were able to stand their ground and even wipeout American tanks.
We moved on to an underground weapons factory. I use the word factory loosely; it was really just a square of ground shoveled deep enough for people to enter with a couple of tables and handmade machinery to make weapons. There was even a simulation using mannequins on the process. We were also informed about the different kinds of traps the Cu Chi soldiers used against the heavily armed American army.
Slim Jim actually fought on the American side of the war but he was very good at keeping his biases aside.
We headed to the shooting range after that, where you can fire guns (models they used in the war) for a fee. At the entrance of the shooting range is a shop with creative handicrafts like the picture above and below.
Of course, normal souvenirs were also sold.
After this was the highlight of the trip: entering the Cu Chi network!
At the entrance of the enlarged Cu Chi Tunnel they widened especially for tourists.
The tunnel systems greatly helped the Viet Cong in their war against the American forces. Based on the size of the original tunnels, the American soldiers would have a hard time navigating the insides of the tunnels. The Viet Cong guerillas were really thin because of lack of food, and the tunnels were made to accommodate their weight and stature. When the tunnels were discovered by the American forces, they didn’t bother going inside because the entrances were tiny and were often rigged with booby traps. Some Australians, however, managed to infiltrate the tunnels and it was then that they discovered how instrumental and important the tunnels were to the Viet Cong (one of them died inside; he got trapped at a dead end). From their discovery, the US started to train ‘Tunnel Rats’, soldiers who would infiltrate these tunnels with minimal weapons. This project ultimately failed.
Me at the second entrance before proceeding to the real tunnels. The only challenge of the tunnel for me was the darkness. As you can see, I didn’t have much problems fitting in and walking while squatting. It’s a good thing I brought my camera, I was able to use the flash function to light my way through.
All throughout the Vietnam Agression war, the tunnels proved to be resilient and a consistent source of frustration for the U.S. military in Saigon. By 1965, the Viet Cong guerillas had been so used to the area that they were actually able to control when and where the battles would take place locally, giving them a considerable advantage (as the US forces obviously had advantage on weapons). The tunnels were extremely useful for moving supplies and soldiers undetected and ultimately helped the Viet Cong in their area to survive and prolong the war. The longer the war wore on, American costs and casualties also grew in number until they were forced to withdraw in 1972 and were finally defeated in 1975.
The final part of our tour was a documentary about the Vietnam war and a short lecture from Slim Jim. The viewing hut had a beautiful 3D diorama that illustrated how the tunnel system worked.
And this concluded our Cao Dai-Cu Chi Temple tour. This package is 168,000 VND from Delta Adventure Tours, exclusive of the Cu Chi Tunnel entrance fee (80,000 VND) and lunch (45,000-150,000 VND depending on your order of food and drink).