The Vietnam war was won by guerrilla warfare. The underground tunnel systems were extremely popular during the Vietnam war, and were dug all over the country by the Viet Cong. But the tunnels were more than just places to plan attacks and surprise American soldiers, local people also used the tunnels to shelter from air raids, heal their sick, teach their children, and essentially, spend the majority of their time.
The most famous tunnel system, and the easiest to visit as a tourist, is the tunnels of Cu Chi.
Getting to the Cu Chi Tunnels
The tunnels are located near the village of Cu Chi which is about 40 kilometres north west of Ho Chi Minh City. The easiest way to get to the Cu Chi Tunnels and explore the area is with a tour. Dozens of different tours leave Saigon daily. You can go on tours to just the tunnels, or you can do like I did, and join a tour which visits both the tunnels and the Cao Dai temple which is also nearby. However, most tourist busses only take you to one of the two tunnels set up for tourism.
Which tunnels should I visit?
There are two sights that are set up for tourism; Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc.
Ben Dinh: If you are joining a bus tour, then it is very likely that these will be the tunnels you visit. These were the tunnels that I visited. This site is a lot busier than the other and is much more set up for tourism. Guides here will show you to segments of tunnels, will talk you through life in the tunnels, and will show you some of the famous booby traps that the Viet Cong used to use in it’s fight against the Americans.
The tunnels at Ben Dinh were all either enlarged, or specifically created for tourism, so if you want a really authentic tunnel experience then you should consider heading to Ben Duoc.
Ben Duoc: Most tours do not visit these tunnels are it is about another 30 minutes of driving further away from Ben Dinh. If you want to visit these tunnels you will have to work a little harder to get there, and may have to consider hiring a driver to take you all the way. All the tunnels here are the original ones. They have not been enlarged, although they have had the entrances reinforced for safety. If you want a true, claustrophobic tunnel experience, then Ben Duoc is where you need to come.
What else can I do at the Cu Chi Tunnels?
For those feeling adventurous, there is a firing range outside of the tunnel tourist complex where you can fire an AK-47, M16,.30 Caliber Machine Gun, M60, M1 carbine, M1 Garand or a Russian SKS. The firing range is separate from the Cu Chi tunnels, so you don’t need to buy admission to the tunnels to fire the guns.
Shooting guns isn’t really my thing, so I had an ice cream break instead.