Cu Chi

The Cu Chi Tunnels are a portion of the countrywide underground tunnels that the North Vietnamese used as camps during the Vietnam War, to elude soldiers and bombs. They are kept open and are a popular tourist destination.

In addition to tunnels- a portion of which you can crawl through- there are underground bunkers and huts that were home to cooks, tailors, teachers, and bomb makers. There were craters, from bombing raids, and abandoned U.S. tanks. The tunnels are in a wooded, isolated area, about a one-hour drive from central Saigon.

At Cu Chi we were shown hidden entrances to a tunnel, impossibly small openings that no human could possibly enter—until our guide, then I, got in. (The trick is to raise your arms high above you.) Once in, it was pitch black; I didn’t linger. This was a real tunnel. I think that the tunnel reserved for tourists is somewhat larger.

At one point you can fire war-era weapons. I paid $10 for ten bullets and enjoyed squeezing the rounds off from an AK-47 at a distant target, which, frankly, I couldn’t tell if I hit—though the assistant indicated I did well. Rifles are LOUD, and sound sharper than they do in the movies.

We also saw various huts that were home to cooks, tailors, teachers, and bomb makers, as well as a variety of bamboo-spikey boobie traps for injuring the “American devils,” as Americans were referred to in the propoganda film from the 1960's that we were shown. Here's one of a few that were presented to us, in front of a curious mural which was meant to add a realistic touch:

These tunnels reminded me how clever and resourceful the North Vietnamese soldiers were, and illustrated what they were willing to endure to win their independence and "unite" the communist north with less than willing western-supported south. As Ho Chi Minh told us, "You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win." He was right, except for one thing. They won, yes, but at the cost much greater than the odds he offered.

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