An introductory sightseeing of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) can be done within a day, or a day and a half. After that, it’s time to venture outside of the city. Many tourists visit the Cu Chi Tunnels which are located about 2 hours’ drive from HCMC. At times there are way too many tourists heading to the tunnels and some may complain that the tours are just too rushed but I feel it’s a must see because of its historical importance.
Would you be able to squeeze through that tunnel?
While fighting against French colonialism in the late 1940s, the Communist (North Vietnamese) forces started digging a network of tunnels under the jungle in South Vietnam. Then they gradually expanded the tunnels when the American military increased their presence in Vietnam in support of a non-Communist (South Vietnamese) regime in the early 1960s. By the time the Vietnam War had reached its peak, the Communist guerrillas (or Viet Cong at that time) had dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels – an extensive network running underneath from the outskirts of Saigon all the way to the Cambodian border.
The Cu Chi tunnels became the Viet Cong’s base of operations and had helped to resist against the American and South Vietnamese forces. As the American forces relied on aerial bombing, the VC guerrillas spent much of their life underground so much so the tunnels became underground villages. Apart from being hiding spots, and transported communications and supplies during combat, the tunnels were also living quarters, kitchens, hospitals, bomb shelters for the guerrillas.
The VC laid numerous booby traps and mounted surprise attacks on the American and South Vietnamese infantry, after which they could disappear underground to safety.
During the course of the Vietnam War, at least 45,000 Vietnamese men and women were said to have died defending the Cu Chi tunnels. A year after the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Vietnamese government preserved the tunnels and turned them into a war memorial park.
Visitors can now crawl through some of the tunnels, view command centres and booby traps, and even fire an AK-47 at the firing range.
Tours: There are many tour buses leave HCMC for the Cu Chi tunnels on a daily basis and it’s typically a half day tour (up to 2-3pm). You can book your tour at any tourist office or through your hotel reception.
Tunnel Sites: Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. Most tours will bring you to Ben Dinh, thus the site can get extremely crowded. All of the tunnel sections at this site have been specially created and enlarged for tourists.
Tour cost: approx. US$5 for a half-day guided tour to the Ben Dinh site.
Tour duration: 2 hours travel to the tunnels and 1.5-2 hours touring the site.
Admission fee: 90,000 VND (US$4.25)