Asia

Tunnels Cu Chi, Ho Chi Minh City

Tunnel history

The suburban district of Ho Chi Minh City Cu Chilies on a huge network of tunnels. And although the tunnels became famous during the Vietnam War, they began to be built in the 1940s, during the time of the resistance of Vietnam to the French colonization. Second Life in the tunnels breathed war between northern and southern Vietnam. During this period, the network of earthen holes has grown greatly. The reason for this was the aerial bombardment by the United States – allies of southern Vietnam. The raids did not leave the communist troops of the north, no other way out, as, in the literal sense of the word, to go underground.

The tunnels where the soldiers lived, were arranged in such a way that it was almost impossible to detect them. Not only that the entrances to the burrows, by themselves, were narrow and hardly noticeable, they were also carefully covered with branches and leaves. Protruding ventilation from bamboo trunks masked as termitaries. And the smoke from the kitchen, taken out through a series of special, earthen chambers.

Life under the ground

Most of the time, soldiers dug new passages. As a result, in 1960, under the dense jungles of Vietnam, an extensive network of underground passages grew. Tunnel communication ran from the outskirts of Saigon to the Cambodian border, covering a distance of 250 km. They were entire underground villages with living quarters, kitchens, ammunition depots, and hospitals. In some areas, there was a place even for theaters and music salons.

But life in the tunnels could not be called easy. For security, during the day the soldiers sat underground and left, as a rule, at night. And during the period of protracted bombings or offensives of the American troops, they were forced to remain in burrows for many days. Warm and wet tunnels were a haven for insects, as a result of which, many Viet Cong soldiers were infected with malaria.

The war in the Cu Chi tunnels

Vietcong soldiers used underground labyrinths to house their troops, transportation lines, and supplies. Also, the Ki Chi (Kuti) tunnels played a key role in military operations and were also convenient for sudden “field” attacks, after which, the soldiers could disappear unnoticed underground.

The guerrillas set numerous traps, both in the tunnels and near them. For this part, the Vietcongs were extremely creative and their flight of fantasy was not limited to mine stretch marks. In the arsenal, pits-traps were providing at least – a wound, as a maximum – a painful death. “Rain” of scorpions/snakes falling on the head of overturned boxes. Bee attacks, on pre-doused with sweet syrup victim, etc. All these techniques attempted by American soldiers to penetrate the tunnels are incredibly dangerous.

To counter such tactics, the Americans created an elite squad “tunnel ferrets” which later became known as “tunnel rats” with the “light hand” of one journalist. It was a specially trained group, whose task was to find the location of the partisans, neutralize the traps, and, if necessary, engage in hand-to-hand combat. The soldiers of the special detachment, as a rule, were of small stature, to be able to slide along incredibly narrow tunnels dug under the Vietnamese figure. They had a weapon, a knife, a flashlight and a piece of string with them.

Vietnamese syndrome – according to the organization of veterans, about half a million soldiers from three million who served in Vietnam suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, the so-called “Vietnamese syndrome”.

The Americans tried to smoke out the underground workers with gas, but the system of moves was arranged in such a way that it simply did not penetrate deep into the gas. The tunnels were flooded with water and hot tar, but it was all in vain. With the “tunnel rats” also failed to complete the task of destroying the “underground troops”. As a result, to eliminate the Cu Chi tunnel system, several large-scale military operations were carried out. “Successful” was carpet bombing and processing of the surrounding areas with powerful herbicides. All this turned the Cu Chi jungle area into a lunar landscape along which American tanks moved. The Northern troops retreated, but after a while, the Viet Cong soldiers would return and use the tunnels as a base to attack Saigon.

The American bombardments succeeded in destroying sections of the tunnels, but a large part of the system remained intact. Today Cu Chi is the memory of protracted, brutal conflict and one of the military monuments of Vietnam.

What tunnels can be visited

The Kuti Tunnels are located northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. Opened two directions – Ben Ding and Ben Duk. The complexes are located approximately 13 km from each other. Ben Duk is further away from the city and has an original tunnel system, while Ben Ding offers a less authentic experience. Ben Dinh is turned into a tourist attraction, there are a lot of people here and part of the tunnels is adapted to the size of a western person. In Cu Chi, there is a shooting range, where for an additional fee, you can shoot from a machine gun. In the field kitchen to eat an ascetic guerrilla lunch (tea and baked sweet potatoes). Also open 4D – cinema and other entertainment for tourists.

How to get to Cu Chi tunnels

In any hotel in Saigon or online, the options below in the article, you can order a tour to the tunnels. Specify whether the cost of visiting tunnels is included in the price. Most of the tours that agents sell in the field are half-day trips (about 5 hours) to Ben Dinh. It is better to avoid large bus tours, where you will be about fifty more. Alternatively, you can choose a minibus or speed boat, such as the  Saigon River Tour.

If you want to go to the tunnels on your own, there are also several options: a bike, a taxi, a bus. Only a very, very experienced driver can ride a bike in Saigon! The taxi will be expensive, at around $ 60. By bus, you need to go to the bus station (opposite the Ben Thanh market). Bus number 13 to the town of Kucha, then you can take a bike or transfer to bus number 79 and get to the tunnels (stop near the Ben Duong temple). Specify, on the spot, the bus schedule, so as not to be late for the last one. Usually, from Ku Chi bus station the last bus to the city goes at 16:00. For more options on how to get to the tunnels.

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