Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Cu Chi Tunnels

We woke up in the jungle for an early breakfast before heading out for the day. The tide was too shallow at the docks where we were dropped off the day before, so we had to walk quite a ways to a different spot to be picked up.

It was a long hot walk, and we were glad to get back on the boat to catch a breeze and cool off. One thing I thought was funny - all the boats have tires on the front of the bow, and usually along the sides, and as they dock they just play bumper boats to get a spot.

We rode around the delta for a while and they dropped us off at Vinh Long, where a van driver was waiting to pick us up for the day.

From Vinh Long, we drove a few hours to the Cu Chi Tunnels, in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City, about an hour northwest of Saigon. It was a really pretty drive along rice paddy fields. Families keep the same land from generation to generation, and they consider the land sacred, so many family members wish to be buried on their land. They build beautiful shrines over the burial plots which are scattered across the fields. It was really hard to capture these while sitting in a bumpy van ride, but hopefully you get the idea.

The Cu Chi Tunnels were really fascinating. They were first built by the Viet Cong during their war against the French and greatly expanded during the American war (as they refer to it). I just thought it was incredible that they were able to not only create this tunnel system but to live in these conditions for such a long time. Most people spent a majority of their waking hours for the better part of the three decades of war they faced between the French and Americans, except for when they came up for air circulation, to propagate the North's cause, and to fight the war.

Some of the tunnels have been enlarged for visitors to go in, but they were still so very small. I went down in one of the tunnel entrances and just barely fit. I was actually a little nervous about whether I'd be able to get back out. Good thing about being tall, is that when I stood in the tunnel, I was only about waist-deep. Once I stood in the hole, I picked up the covering and had to hold it above my head so that my shoulders would fit through. I squatted down and put the cover back on - after about three seconds I was ready to come back up for air. It was so hot and pitch-black inside. Kinda scary!

The original tunnels were even smaller, but they are closed off now and tourists aren't allowed to go in them anymore. Seriously, those people are so tiny!

They had several exhibits showing the various booby traps used during the war - mostly using bamboo spikes and shrapnel from American bombs. Ouch.

There were also several exhibits with weapons and bombs used during the war, and we saw several bomb craters throughout the site.

Another exhibit showed the sandal shoes they made out of tires during the war. They were actually fitted to go on their feet backward, so that when they left trails, it looked like they were heading the opposite direction. Tricky.

Towards the end of our visit, Bo and I both got to go down and walk in the tunnels. They set it up so that the visitor tunnel is 100 meters long, with exits every 20 meters to go back up. It is also enlarged when you first go down, but every 20 meters it gets smaller and smaller back to original size. A guide went ahead of us with a flash light to lead the way so we could see where we were going. The first 20 meters weren't so bad, so when he asked if we wanted to keep going, we said of course! We'll go all the way to the end. Well... the next 20 meters were a LOT more difficult. Since the tunnel was so small, being tall was a definite disadvantage. We were pretty much doing squat-walks - talk about a serious workout! We had to stop a few times because we kept hitting the ceiling and it was just generally difficult to move in such a cramped space. Plus it was super hot and kinda hard to breathe. So we only made it 40 meters and then we came back up. I cannot emphasize enough how completely blown away I was that people lived in these tunnels for years. Crazy.

And that concludes our overnight trip. After the tunnel visit, we drove back to Ho Chi Minh City to meet the rest of our tour group that evening and spend the next morning in Saigon, which I previously posted about here. We then took a quick flight to Nha Trang where we spent the next two days - coming up next!

1 comment:

  1. Crazy! And the backward fitting shoes...pretty crafty. I just can't even imagine these conditions. Those tunnels and the traps they built are freaky stuff.


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