Cu Chi Tunnels

I guess I am more claustrophobic than I thought…

Rewinding the story, we wanted to learn more about the Vietnam War, or American’s War coined by the Vietnamese, and so we booked a tour to explore the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels. There are multiple ways to get to the tunnels, we chose (wisely I might add) to take an hour long speed boat down the Ho Chi Minh River, winding through mangroves. The other option is a long, long bus ride…

We were greeted on the boat with fresh fruit, ice tea, water, and Banh Mi pork sammies. The ride was so refreshing that it lulled me to sleep, and I woke up when we were arriving at the dock in the Cu Chi District. A quick background of the Tunnels’ significance, they are an immense network of underground tunnels that were used by the Viet Cong soldiers (Northern Vietnam), serving as hiding spots, hospitals, resting areas, supply routes, etc. Crazy, huh?! Naturally, we had to see this man made masterpiece for ourselves.

Our first stop was to see an underground bunker that a Viet Cong soldier could quickly hide in, if necessary. I’m guessing that the hole was about 1 and a half by 2 feet, leading into the creepiest little (emphasis on little) bunker underground. We had the opportunity to test it out. You have to hold your hands over your head going in, otherwise, your shoulders won’t fit… It was so freaky inside. All I could think was there is definitely a snake inside… Terrifyingly enough, that wouldn’t be a rare sighting during the War.

Throughout the tour, we stopped at various tunnel entries, booby traps, and air holes. Since thousands of people were underground at one time, it was pertinent they create small tunnels the size of a clenched fist to allow fresh air inside the tunnels. These were built with sharpened bamboo sticks. The labor that went into building these tunnels is astonishing. Due to the heat, lack of modern tools, and other distractions (oh, the War), they were only capable of digging a couple meters a day. Keep in mind, the tunnels span about 100 miles…

But, when U.S. soldiers and the Southern Vietnam army discovered the tunnels, the Viet Cong put precautions in place to avoid detection. The traps were so cruel in nature, its difficult to grasp that people actually used these torture devices. Fake bunkers were created so that enemies would step in the hole and land on sharpened metal spikes. There were a variety of these traps, some had snakes inside, some had bombs, but all ensured the enemy wouldn’t move again.

Our second opportunity to enter a tunnel was far more terrifying. This is where I realized that I am a lot more claustrophobic than I formerly thought. There is a 40 meter tunnel that tourists can try out, but they caution you not to if you have bad knees, back, etc. We tried it out, and walking down into the tunnel was scary in itself (dimly lit with electricity, they only had gas lamps during the War), but when there was a decoy tunnel and I couldn’t see the girl in front of me, I honestly freaked out. Chase was behind me, and started crawling to get out. Safe to say you will never find me living underground.

It was incredibly enlightening, especially to see first hand what people went through to survive. The cruelty is astounding.

Once we got back from our boat ride home, they served us the most awkward lunch I’ve ever experienced. Our tour was a group of about 20 of us, everyone was exhausted, hungry, and not talkative. We sat at a huge table with everyone, and had a buffet-style meal. It was so uncomfortable. Chase and I left after we snacked on a couple pieces of chicken…

Anyway, the tunnels are an eye opening experience. The complexity of the tunnels blows my mind, and how people lived down there… I don’t know.