Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 132 - Crawling in the Cu Chi Tunnels

After sleeping in a little longer than we were supposed to, Mallary and I found ourselves in a bit of a pickle.  We had missed all the tours going to the Cu Chi Tunnels for the day. Dammit. Ho Chi Min City isn't exactly a budget destination, and we really needed to move on after today.  But the Cu Chi Tunnels were on our 'must see list' for Ho Chi Min.  The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong in the 60s to control the Cu Chi district, and at their height, reached all the way to the Cambodian border.  Just within the Cu Chi district, there were over 200km of underground tunnels.

Being the saavy travellers we are (you tend to get the hang of it after 4 some months!), we figured there must be a local bus out to the tunnels.  We walked to the bus station, and in broken English, found which bus number we needed to catch (number 13).  We boarded the bus, paid for our ticket (25c!) and rode the two hours to the Cu Chi district, hopped on a scooter and drove the further 25km for only $2.50! Not only did we save money by sleeping in and missing the organised tour group, we also got to the tunnels when they were blissfully quiet, once all the tour groups had already left.

Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels was a completely different experience to visiting the war reminants museum.  I felt that the war reminants museum focused on the US and anti-communist Vietnamese attacks, weapons and their overall involvement in the war, whereas Cu Chi was more about how the Viet Cong outsmarted their enemies, and fought back, despite having less sophisticated weapons and being severely outnumbered.

The tunnels themselves were absolutely tiny! We walked through two different passage ways that had been made bigger so westerners could fit through.  We learnt that most of the Viet Cong had to bend down or crawl through the tunnels to fit.  Just walking the 40 or so metres in the tunnel, bend over in order to fit, was incredibly exhausting, I can not even begin to imagine what living down there would be like.  However, being a little claustrophobic and a lot scared of the dark doesn't exactly help!

But what I took away from the Cu Chi Tunnels the most was just how smart the Viet Cong were in their battles.  They used techniques they had previously used for catching animals in the jungle as booby traps, they stole US weapons and modified them or cut them open to make their own hand grenades.  They created tunnels just large enough for them to fit in, but that almost no American soldier would be able to crawl in without getting stuck.

Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels (and enjoying another bowl of Pho) was the perfect ending to our time in HCMC, it really rounded out the history lesson that began at the war reminants museum.

But now, enough serious stuff, we are off to Mui Ne to tear up some sand dunes!!

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