Published: March 30th 2011March 30th 2011
I saw a show on Cu Chi a while back and wanted to visit the place before we left. Tien borrowed a SUV and six of us loaded up to go out to the village. It's about 45 minutes outside of Saigon and was a VC village back during the 50's (when the French were still around) and into the 60's and 70's when the US was fighting over there. The main issue with Cu Chi was that it was over 75 miles of tunnels! The US tried bombing the place and later on an Aussie soldier decided to try exploring the tunnels.
Initially the US thought the tunnels were short, small sections but an Aussie soldier decided to explore one and after 4 days his group came out and let everyone know how extensive the tunnels really were. They had kitchens, meeting rooms, etc. underground all connected by the tunnels. The kitchens would have smaller tunnels leading off from them to carry the smoke away from where the actual kitchen was located. After the Aussie soldier came out, the US decided to start exploring the tunnels and they trained guys to go into these things.
When you get to the Cu Chi village/tunnels you buy tickets at the entrance and park inside. In the parking lot area they have some old howitzers, helicopters, etc. from the US side. Then it's a short hike, maybe a 1/4 mile on a dirt path to where the tunnel section is located. They have some covered areas set up with unexploded and exploded bombs and missles where you can take pictures.
Getting to the tunnel section you walk through the jungle...other than the path you walk on, it's untouched. The start of the tunnel section has another covered area and they have a video in English or Vietnamese that you can watch which talks about the war. I won't get into that, I'm sure you can imagine what a communist country has to say about the war and the US.
We had our group and while watching the video we had three people from Hawaii show up and we did the tour of the tunnels, etc. with them.
The first stop was in the middle of the jungle and you could see a bunker sticking out of the ground. It had openings on all four sides
so they could fire out of them. The guide was showing us the bunker and then he brushed off some leaves and there was this little opening covered by a board. It was small, really small, about 10" x 15" and it was the opening they used to get into the bunker. One of the girls from Hawaii decided to try it and after she got out, I figured what the heck...:-) Everyone was telling me I'd get stuck, but I fit and went all the way down inside. It was pretty dirty and really wet but I had planned on crawling through tunnels, so what the heck right? I put some pics up of the hole and the two of us who went down in the tunnel.
After that you walk around through the jungle and they have working punji traps, swinging traps, etc. set up but everything is blocked off so no one accidentally gets hurt. They also have mannequins set up in different places representing medical areas, living areas, etc. in the jungle.
After a 1/2 mile or so of walking we go down into the tunnels. They have smoothed them out and actually made
a lot of them a bit bigger for tourists. We crawled through a 100' of so of misc tunnels during the tour. They had medical areas set up underground, along with meeting rooms, etc. They also had lots of traps underground setup so that when the US/etc came down into them they would get killed. They blocked them off, but the traps are still down there in different places.
The entire area is covered in these huge craters that are fifty plus feet across and 30 feet deep in places. I can't imagine how big the craters were back in the 70's when the war was going on but it couldn't have been fun to be in a tunnel when those bombs were dropping.
You'd think it would be cool underground right? Heck no, it was hotter below ground and way more humid. Everyone was sweating like crazy and when the guide asked if we wanted to go the long way or the short way, everyone wanted the short way...:-)
After you do the tunnel tour, they take you to a covered area that served as an eating area for the VC. They had the kitchen working
and showed us where the smoke was coming out of a vent tunnel about 50' away. The smoke was diffused so much that it only rose about a foot off the ground before it disappeared. No way would anyone see it through the 50' of jungle growing up into the air if you were in a helicopter or airplane looking for bad guys. They fed us a starchy boiled root that you dip into a salt mixture, along with hot tea. It was the primary food source for the VC and tasted like a bland potatoe.
It's kind of crazy but they had souvenir shops setup in the jungle. They also had a show setup making sandals out of old tires, like the VC did during the war. They were about $3 a pair. We also toured through a couple of covered buildings that had lots of pictures of VC soldiers, the tunnels, etc. plus it had displays of other types of traps and war items you could touch.
The jungle is full of rubber trees. They don't get rubber from them anymore though, Tien says they stop making much rubber/sap after a few years. If you look
at them, you can see scaring from where they used to peel off ~2" wide strips for the rubber to leak out. Nowadays you see lots of rubber tree farms all over the country, but most of them tend to get rubber like we get syrup from trees in Vermont using tubes.
Once the tour was over we went over to the river, which runs beside the Cu Chi area and relaxed on a restaurant that was built onto the river. Everyone was hot and sticky and needed a cold drink. Heading out tomorrow for home...will try to get up some misc pics once we get back.
There are more photos below