Group Tour or individual tour, the dilemma was answered the moment we came to know that the group tour would not take us to the firing range which we were looking forward to since the trip was planned.
Cu Chi is an hour and half away from HCMC / Saigon, our first stop in Vietnam. Cu Chi is an intriguing and mysterious network of inter-connected underground tunnels which led the Vietnam’s fight against the Americans. It is a masterpiece of human cleverness and tactical thinking.
The underground tunnels are bifurcated in hospitals, kitchens, dormitories etc. The Tunnels define “camouflage” in its true sense. The tunnels actually accommodate an entire city with three tiered design. It takes special foresight to envision the underground life. There is thought given to EVERYTHING!! The kitchen smoke is tactfully diverted to not give away the location. The footwear is designed such that one can wear it in multiple permutations to conceal his/her footprints while walking on ground. It’s a game of deception and the Vietnamese had mastered it.
The Cu Chi tunnels have been preserved and modified to allow visitors to get a glimpse and fair idea about how things functioned then. But, even after expanding the tunnels, they are barely enough to be crossed by crawling. I wondered if none of the residents of these tunnels had claustrophobia as even when I have no such phobia, I felt like air has been sucked out of my lungs ! Few of the openings in ground have been made accessible to the tourists and I successfully managed to get myself stuck in one such hole that experience later haunted me for quite a few days. Only those with strong push-ups/pull-ups skill should try to climb down those treacherous tunnels. They are extremely slippery and barely accommodate a person of my size and shape!
Even after witnessing my embarrassing show of getting stuck, TH had the bravado to crawl through a 10m long tunnel specially expanded for tourists. While I and our guide waited for him to emerge from the other end, TH happily walked behind us! By his own admission, he couldn’t complete the path since he too got claustrophobic and took a U-turn while crawling. Our guide shook her head with such dismay and disbelief that we both felt like we have let her down completely ! Our conclusion is that the tunnels are designed for a human race that is anthropologically structured to be half of our broad Indian physique and we should not forget our own body dimensions while attempting to venture into these deceitful burrows.
Cu Chi an outdoor museum of warfare and strategy. You will see trapdoors, bullet shrapnel, bomb craters, trenches for soldiers, hidden holes for channeling air through the tunnels, and many such awe-inspiring war related items. The highlight of Cu Chi visit was the shooting range where we fired the LMG and AK47. It’s a powerful feeling to actually fire and hear your own shots. TH and I have since then seen the shooting video innumerable times and still can’t get enough of it.
The tour offered us some refreshments at the end of our circuit which had some baked yam, crushed roasted peanuts with salt, and pandan leaves tea. And I assure you that Pandan tea is the best thing you will drink after an arduous 3-4 hours tour of the tunnels.
We strongly recommend that you hire a guide when visiting Cu Chi as the tales of bravery and intelligence are worth listening while you actually witness the place. There are more secrets waiting for you there 🙂
Read more about Vietnam: Vietnam – the land of Pho & coffee