Cu Chi - A day in the life of the Viet Cong
No place on Earth brings to life the will of the human spirit quite like the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam.
The tunnels offer something for both the intellectually curious and adventurous. Regardless of where you fall on this continuum, here are the things you should know when visiting this interesting, but often misunderstood homage to Vietnamese strength.
Close your eyes
Imagine for a moment that you are in a dark crawl space with barely enough room to breathe, let alone move. Regardless of all of that-- the discomfort; the cold; the uncertainty—you press on with but one single thought in mind: I will live.
Welcome to life in the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Let’s fast forward to the present. And let’s be thankful we’re just tourists.
See life in the tunnels
At each of the two major sites in Cu Chi, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc, a well defined walking track loops around the area, with things to see spaced at regular intervals. These include examples of how people lived and what they ate.
Of course the major attraction are the tunnels themselves. These are limited to sample sections which visitors can crawl through. It goes without saying that if you are claustrophobic you shouldn’t go into the tunnels. Also, if have back trouble or any sort of mobility issues give this one a pass. You don’t want to be the one who got stuck in a tunnel in Cu Chi.
For those that do venture into the tunnels you’re in for quite an experience. You will be able to get a taste for what it was like to not only move through the tunnels but also live in one. While you’ll only be in for a few minutes, we imagine that will be long enough.
Warning: Many travellers put themselves into small ventilation holes for photo taking. It is great fun but consider your body before getting in as some had difficulties getting out and had to crawl to the exit point.
Necessity is the mother of invention
Perhaps more interesting, albeit somewhat morbid, are examples of the home made traps made by Viet Cong during the war. These traps are a testament to the ingenuity and persistence of the fighters that defended their homeland. No matter what your political leanings are, you have to acknowledge the efforts and sacrifices people made here.
One of the more humbling stops on a Cu Chi tour is a bomb crater. When you see how much forest and Earth could be cleared by a bomb dropped from far up in the sky it’s difficult not to feel something.
Shoot the guns
If any of the above haven’t quelled your appetite for war, well then by all means give this a go. For some this is main appeal of Cu Chi, and for some it’s appalling. So consider yourself warned, the enthusiasm surround the gun range can be a bit odd if you’re new to Vietnam. That said, for a small fee based on the weapon and target of choice, you can take aim and fire.
Should you go?
Despite being the centerpiece of contemporary Vietnamese culture, there are surprisingly few battlegrounds and war era sites to see. Cu Chi is one of the few places where you’re able to take in quite a bit from that time. Therefore, if you have even a passing interest in seeing what people on both sides of the battlefield put themselves through Cu Chi is certainly worth a visit.