Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Cù Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City

Planning my visit to Vietnam back in July, I knew the Cù Chi Tunnels were an absolute must do on my list of places to visit.


I'd always known that this was a main attraction for those visiting the Ho Chi Minh area, but I had no idea just how much I would end up enjoying it. We decided to book a half day trip (in 30 degree heat in the middle of jungle - trust me this was by far enough time) through our hostel and by 1pm we were sat on the coach starting our 2 hour journey out to the attraction. The company we booked it through was amazing and our tour guide was even better. The whole way there he told the coach the detailed history of the Vietnamese War as well as about the tunnels themselves, along with treating us to a sing song here and there. Bless. But this meant that the 2 hours quickly passed and before we knew it we'd arrived!


For those who don't know, during the war the Vietnamese soldiers created a large network of tunnels underground stretching for many kilometres to protect themselves from the enemy. They lived down here for days at a time with their families, cooking, sleeping and even bathing in them in order to stay alive. There was even a maternity ward! There's 3 levels of tunnels, the deepest one reaching around 20 metres and they are honestly the tiniest things I've ever seen - so if you're claustrophobic like many on our tour were, the actual climbing through the tunnel part won't be for you. At all. 

But anyway, we arrived, grabbed our tickets and followed our guide through the twists and turns of the trees. We passed large dug out areas of land covered with shrubbery (see photo above) to disguise them, which turned out to be large meeting areas or rooms such as kitchens that the smaller tunnels led to - the shrubs were used to disguise them from attackers in the sky dropping bombs. 

After a good few minutes of walking and sweating at how muggy it was, we were suddenly stopped at what looked like just a normal spot of jungle floor. Oh how wrong we were. With just a few kicks of the ground a small rectangular plank was revealed which showed one of the original entrances. Now I'm 5'2 and can usually fit in anything, but when I was offered the chance to hop inside of it (which I of course did) even I struggled. 


As well as the minuscule entrances to the tunnels which have now been widened for Western tourists, the original air holes and clever traps are still preserved around the site. Knowing the tunnels inside out, the soldiers would also create many different traps above ground for the attackers. Below is an example:


With this particular one, the attackers would pretty much stumble across their death. Not pretty. Once we were shown around the site and different larger bunkers, we were offered the chance to actually crawl inside the tunnels themselves and make our way through the 3 levels. This is the part I had been looking forward to! Straight away many people backed out and couldn't do them because of how small and compact they were, but the rest of us headed in and came out at the end with sweat dripping off us and covered in dirt. It was honesty so so hot down there and the only way to get through them was to crouch right down and shuffle - that's how small they were. It was crazy! I don't get claustrophobic in the slightest usually but even I struggled at times.


(Inside the tunnels - sorry for the poor quality/darkness. The tunnels had hardly any light so we had to guide ourselves the best we could using our senses and hands). 

After dusting ourselves down and finding out a little more about the tunnels, our afternoon was up and it was time to head back to the hostel. I'd always known that the tunnels were a must do in Vietnam and they 100% lived up to my expectations. It's so interesting to see how the soldiers lived down there in such hot temperatures for days at a time, as well as learn so many facts about them. 

Even if you don't like confined spaces and won't do the climbing through the tunnel part itself, still definitely give it a visit. I'm so glad we did and would even go back for a second time. I think out of all the countries I've visited so far on this trip, Vietnam is definitely proving to be my favourite. It's such an amazing place and there's so much history behind it it's hard not to love. We head to Cambodia in a few days time and I honestly think I'm going to find it hard to leave Vietnam behind!

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