Tuesday 15th October 2019
Cu Chi Forest, Outskirts of Ho Chi Minh
Today we were driving to Cu Chi located 60km from HCM City to discover the hidden underground world of Vietnam’s complicated network of tunnels.
I had been wanting to visit these for quite some time now.
As we began our journey we travelled through the countryside which was once a stronghold of Viet Cong.
Cu Chi is now considered a heroic district for its role in the anti-American war in Vietnam.
It is legendary for original tunnel systems of over 220km.
This was a display model showing you the land on top and then the three different levels of tunnel systems and ‘rooms’.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.
These cramped tunnels were used as hiding spots during the Vietnam war, and were also a base for operations and were central to a few of the war’s strategic operations.
The tunnels were built by the local fighters. The local soldiers and residents of the tunnels used to eat, sleep, work, cook and even go to school here!
It included almost everything needed for the life of local inhabitants: hospitals, schools, meeting rooms, kitchens and more – I mean can you even begin to imagine!
The tricks and methods the Viet Cong used to confuse and baffle American soldiers were amazing and when you see and go through the tunnels they are exceptional, complicated and incredibly inventive.
When they were cooking underground they made vents with bamboo to release the smoke and smell. In order to keep the dogs away used by the American soldiers they used chilli powder and water to spread around the area where the vents came out on land. They released the smoke in stages so it looked like mist/fog – they thought of everything it was unbelievable!
Tea pot and dishes underground
This experience has been an immersive exciting history lesson.
We learned about Vietnam’s guerrilla war by climbing into the underground tunnels that played a crucial part in the fight.
The mound of dirt in the forefront was actually a ventilation system designed by the Viet Cong, to you or me, or the American soldier it looked like a termite mound.
The tunnels are tiny and dropping in from the top to go through them was quite an experience.
Its easy to see that even from the size of the entrance to the tunnels is a straight away deterrent as I don’t believe there would be many an American soldier that would even fit in to one, let alone carry equipment through them!
Once down your completely crouched over and the heat down there is stiffling.
We crawled through several including one that was 50 metres long and by the time we saw day light we were saturated in sweat!
This is the ‘real soldier’ who guided us through the tunnels because believe you me you wouldn’t want to get lost down there!
For me it highlighted the dedication, ingenuity and resilience of Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War.
We saw many of the hand built traps and deterants which were so brutal.
The peaceful rural rice paddy scenery all around this area now contains ducks and water buffalos swimming in the rivers alongside the road.
Its hard to imagine the destructions, damage and defoliation all over the area, caused by bombing and mines, when Cu Chi was “A Free Target Zone”.
The remnants we see though clearly show Cu Chi still has her evidence to prove the fierce battleground that took place here.
Around this area there are many who have still been tainted by the effects of Agent Orange used in the war.
We visited a factory that has been opened up by the government to provide locals with disabilities the opportunity to work and earn extra money, whilst being around others.
There are several of these centre’s across the whole of Vietnam.
When we enter we can see the men and women working on very intricate pieces of work.
The level of their work is absolutely stunning. They had wall pictures, jewellery boxes, coasters and much more all hand painted or put together using a mosaic style design but using duck egg instead of ceramic, pretty amazing!
Ho Chi Minh City was one of the worst affected cities in the Vietnam War, and the deeply destructive history is retold in the American war museum which we visited later on in the day.
With its extremely graphic photography exhibition’s and prisoner of war camp replica, our visit was both fascinating and shocking in equal measure.
These were called tiger cages in all different sizes made from barbed wire. Sometimes five people were in one cage. Prisoners could not sit up in them and would be in them days/weeks/months!
This picture broke my heart as did all of them. But for me this just stood out and showed extreme innocence and devastation.