- Location: about 40km North West of Saigon
- Attraction Type: Historic monument
- Significance: Underground refuge of Vietnamese soldiers complete with all amenities during Vietnam war
- Best Time to Visit: All through the year
- Visiting hours: Daytime
- How to Reach: By road
- Nearest International Airport: Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Saigon
The rhetoric of war often outlives the war itself. A traveler to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the virtual battleground of the American war in Vietnam, is treated to an audio-visual recounting of the war that indulges in the violent rhetoric of enmity that has its proper place only in the secluded vaults of wartime bunkers. This is, however, very different from the true picture. The Vietnamese are warm and welcoming people, and travelers from all parts of the world continue to enjoy their trip to what was the strategic stronghold of the Viet Cong. A tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels is truly one of the greatest attractions of a Vietnam vacation.
The History of Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi tunnels continued to be a persistent problem for the American army in Vietnam. Located in the southeast of Ho Chi Minh City (presently Saigon), this elaborate network of underground tunnels was the refuge of the guerrilla warriors of the Viet Cong. They often retreated to its constricted space after carrying out sudden and unexpected attacks on the American army.
It did not take too much time for the American military to realize the strategic importance of the tunnels. However, there was no clear method on how to deal with it. The first attempt to evacuate the tunnels came about in the January of 1966 in the form of Operation Crimp, when B-52 bombers dropped a large amount of explosives in the tunnel. It proved to be a failure, as there was not understanding of the dimensions of the tunnel on behalf of the American army. Then a different mode was adopted, sending volunteers with a gun, a torch and a knife to seek and destroy PLAF warriors who were probably hidden there. This indigenous approach adapted with ‘tunnel rats’ was also a disaster, as the presence of unknown nooks and numerous booby traps made evacuation difficult for them. Learning from the past failures, the American army started Operation Cedar Falls in 1967. It was a failure of similar dimensions. The American attempt to claim the intricate Cu Chi tunnel network failed till the very end.
Life in the Cu Chi Tunnels
Life in the Cu Chi Tunnels was harsh. The fighters stayed under terrible sanitary conditions. Usually they used to inhabit the tunnels only at the daytime, and came out in the open only at night to collect food and other necessary items. The presence of mosquitoes, centipedes and other insects and rodents made life doubly difficult for them. Their power of resilience was put to a serious test. However, they held out till the end. The Vietnam Government maintains the Cu Chi Tunnels as a testimony to the courage and perseverance of the Viet Cong warriors. It is also a major foreign money earner for Vietnam, being one of the country’s major tourism centers.
Things to do at Cu Chi Tunnels
The tunnel has been renovated to allow tourists to explore it. Most of the safer parts of the tunnel complex is presently approachable. There is some kind of dim and mood lighting in certain parts, making the tunnels easier to navigate. The booby traps and other dangerous spots are clearly marked out. Some of the tunnels have been broadened to accommodate Western tourists, who generally tend to have a bigger built than the Vietnamese warriors. You can also visit the conference room in the tunnel complex, and even have a simple lunch underground — Viet Cong style.
During your visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, you can participate in shooting activities. Using an assault rifle to knock out a target from a real Vietnam war spot is a favorite activity of the tourists. An audio-visual show recounts the history of the war to the visitors.
Accommodation and Dining
For visiting Cu Chi Tunnels you need to stay in Saigon about 40 km away. You could select from among top-end, mid-range and budget hotels for putting up. Among top-end hotels Kim Do Royal City Hotel, Grand Hotel, Saigon Palace Hotel and Sheraton Hotel are notable. In the mid-range a choice could be made amongst May Hotel, Elios Hotel, Asian Hotel, and Saigon Riverside Hotel. The options from among budget hotels include Giang Son Hotel, Hanh Hoa Hotel, Canadian Hotel, and Thuan Thien Hotel.
For satisfying your culinary needs check out for authentic Korean, Thai, Chinese and other international delicacies. Lemongrass, Pho Hao, Thanh Binh, and Bo Tumg Xeo are famous eateries in Saigon.