Just two hours from Saigon, the Cu Chi district is a great destination if you want to have an idea how the Vietnam War was like aside from the photos you see in museums. Here, our tour guide John expertly navigated the “park” with little anecdotes from war and explanations on how the underground system worked.
For a couple of years, many Vietnamese lived underground to avoid capture from U.S. troops. The narrow tunnels worked for the advantage of the small Asians, as the Americans cannot follow them inside. As much as the U.S. soldiers tried to follow them to their hideout, they can only go so far till they got stuck.
There’s a demo spot where a scout illustrated how the little tunnels, more like a hole in the ground, are used by Vietnamese to hide when they’re being chased by the soldiers. It’s just Tourists were also given the chance to try and hide. True enough, one of the Europeans tried it and he could barely fit himself in the hole. Standing up, the hole only came up to his waist.
This little kid couldn’t heave himself up from the ground.
Many of the girl tourists tried and successfully managed to close the trap door. I put myself up for ridicule when I also went down the hole, but couldn’t get myself out of it. Aika was hysterically laughing as she and John lifted me out. It was embarrassing but still quite an experience so it’s okay! I posted the photos on Facebook, which Mariel happily took. But I’m not posting those here because reasons.
We were shown different traps the Vietnamese prepared for their enemies. The ingenuity of each are astonishing. There were traps especially made for different body parts. They all looked equally painful, too. Just imagining falling in one is enough to make me cringe.
Since they lived underground, they also devised unique ventilation methods. But they had to be wary of smell and smoke luring the enemies to their living quarters, so there were pseudo-ventilation holes. To avoid detection, they placed spices in real ventilation holes to ward of the scent. They also placed socks used by the American soldiers so when the dogs come sniffing, they won’t be detected.
There were tanks scattered around the area. The barrel of this one tank was so heavy that I couldn’t lift it. Our tour guide challenged anyone to lift it 50 times for a prize. One of guys accepted the challenge, and he really looked like he could lift it 50 times! But John stepped in and made excuses that we should proceed, lol.
For the last part of the tour, we were encouraged to enter the 100-meter tunnel which was used that time. There were exit points every 20 meters so those who had a sudden case of claustrophobia can go out. The tunnel got narrower and narrower, too, so taller people could only go about 20 meters in. Some of the taller guys didn’t even bother to enter.
We had to squat while walking, but as we got deeper into the tunnel, it was necessary to crawl. There was barely any light there, and I had to use my phone’s flashlight just so we could move forward. We couldn’t finish it and only walked around 60 meters before heading out.
Before going home, we were lead to a resting area where we were served tea and boiled cassava to be dipped in sugar and crushed peanuts. It was my first time eating real cassava, because I only get to eat cassava cake all the time. Hehe. It was pretty bland!
We got to rest and chit-chat with our fellow tourists before going back to Ho Chi Minh City. I got a bit jealous when one of the travelers said he took a month of leave from work to travel. I can only have five maximum days of vacation leave. I think the vacation system works differently in my country. Then there’s this other one who’s still a student but she’s backpacking already. Another one has been traveling for months now, and it’s crazy to think that some people have been leaving such awesome lifestyle. It reminded me of this crazy idea I’ve been harboring for months. Someday, someday.
It was a pretty educational and exhausting trip, but it’s definitely worth a visit. We went back to Saigon tired, yet happy.