My last day in Saigon was the 9th June, and I wanted to do a half day activity since my flight to Cambodia was in the afternoon. So, I went to a local travel agency (plenty everywhere) and found a tour that my friends had also recommended me: Cuchi Tunnels.
I found a couple of options but choose the morning bus boat experience, since it was perfect for my schedule. It cost me USD65, 1499000 Dong (VND), $185000 Colombian Pesos (COP). It included all transport, guide, entrance fees, travel insurance, water, snack and lunch. I must say it was challenging to get up at 6am after such a party night the day before.
The day started with a drive to 2 hours’ drive north, 58 Kms from Saigon.
The Cu Chi tunnels comprise an interconnecting system of underground passageways and spiderweb-shaped alleys of more than 250 Kms long, which became legendary in the 60s. It is located in the Cu Chi district, 23 miles from the city centre of Saigon. The tunnels were the quarters of several Viet Cong military operations during the Vietnam War and were essentially functioning as underground cities! For the local people of Cuchi, this is a unique architectural structure and is a representation of revolutionary heroism.
The Tunnels are considered a relic and are being preserved at Ben Duoc and Ben Dinh sites, they are two different places. The tour I booked was to the very touristy side of Ben Dinh.
Our guide told us that the tunnels were essentially used as hiding spots during battle and also served as communication chambers for transport of food and supplies, consequently they were extremely important in their fight against the US forces. There is a documentary video available for visitors, but we skipped since we had our own guide.
On arrival we found a weapons museum with finding fact information about the tunnel and victories, there was also a place where visitors can fire various weapons, including the famous AK47. I found this part really uninteresting and frustratingly noisy, I can’t really understand why so many people would pay to fire a weapon….It is beyond me..
We spent approximately two hours learning about the life of the North Vietnamese and discovering a section of the tunnels. I had the chance to some originally shaped tunnels (approximately 50 cms wide by 30 cms high. However, some other tunnels were used as kitchens, dining rooms and even hospitals, were a little bigger for better access.
I also have the chance to actually squat through one which has been made bigger for tourists (80cm wide by 1 meter high). It felt really claustrophobic!.
Our guide told us that the Americans built once a base camp on top of one of these tunnels and as consequence suffered many casualties for their mistake! The conditions were extreme and on many occasions, the soldiers had to remain there for several days, especially during periods of heavy bombing. Food was scarce and the tunnels were full of centipedes and vermin yakk.. the tunnels are pitch-black!.
At the end of the visit, we were offered a local snack, and to my surprise, delightful surprise it was cassava, omg, that reminded me of my Colombia del alma! I truly enjoyed it. We also pass through souvenir shop to get rice wine or rice whisky, similar to the product I saw in Laos.
This place is a must-see, I found mesmerising to watch these tunnels and how they were built, they are really small, and I just could barely imagine how the soldiers survive here during the war.
After exploring the tunnels, we departed to the pier to get our boat ride back to Saigon, the gorgeous journey back through the Saigon River took us 1 hour and 45 minutes.
We then stopped at a local restaurant to enjoy what they called “light lunch” which was indeed plentiful and varied, at the time (June 2017) I had not become vegan yet so I ate everything!
I arrived back to my city hostel at 2pm, just in time to get my Uber to the airport in time for my flight to Siem Reap.
“…..however dark and difficult the theme, there is always some hope and redemption…. because I am an optimist at heart. I know the sun will rise in the morning, that there is a light at the end of every tunnel. Michael Morpurgo”
Sending love to you, reader!