About forty miles northwest of Ho Chi Minh City lies the very elaborate Cu Chi Tunnels. It’s an underground community made up of a network of passageways used by the Vietcong during the Vietnam War. This place is simply amazing. It’s unbelievable how the Vietcong used these to hide from and fight the Americans. Touring these tunnels was so much fun, however getting lost in the Cu Chi Tunnels is a different story.
Still in very good condition, they would make a unique playground for little kids. However, during the late 1960’s they were anything but fun. American tunnel rats would make their way through these unexplored, narrow passageways with nothing more than their handgun and a flashlight.
Stretching 75 miles, this maze of tunnels was dug by the local people using only shovels. They built many levels, which included living spaces, hospitals, kitchens and clinics.
The tunnels were often rigged with explosive booby traps or punji stake pits and the Americans would flush the entrance with gas or water to try and force their enemy out into the open. However, the strategic use of trap doors and air filtration systems made this largely ineffective.
Now preserved by the government of Vietnam and turned into a war memorial park, you’re able to take tours through this historic battleground. Along the way you’ll see impact craters, now overgrown with brush that were the result of “carpet bombing” from B-52’s. There are also a number of ingenious booby traps on display and if you‘re really feeling warlike, a selection of machine guns to shoot. During the tour, they let you crawl through some of the tunnels which really gives you a feel of what it must have been like.
Most of my tour group wasn’t too excited about crawling through these small spaces, but me on the other hand, I couldn’t wait. So along with one other tourist, our guide took us inside. At first, we could bend over and walk, but then that turned into crawling. Once the tunnel opened up again, we took a few pictures and then continued on. At this point, the tunnel started branching off. Our guide took us left, then right, then down. We stopped to take a few more pictures and noticed that our guide was gone!! Oh Shit!! Now where do we go?? It was quite scary at first, we were lost in the Cu Chi Tunnels! But I knew he couldn’t be far. We continued on, making turns here and there until we could see some light. “We made it!!” Upon exciting, we found ourselves inside a small hut in the middle of the woods. Hearing our group yell our names in the distance, we walked back, above ground this time!! Apparently, our guide was very concerned and had been looking all over for us. With our clothes covered in dirt and sweat, it definitely added some adventure to the whole experience. I’m just glad we were lost then and not during the Vietnam War.
For a harrowing account of America’s “tunnel rats,” check out the book, “Cu Chi Tunnels” by Tom Mangold and John Penycate.