When visiting Vietnam, you will most likely fly into Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. Since big cities have never been my favorite, I try not to spend too much time there. However, you should consider a day trip from Ho Chi Minh to the Cu Chi tunnels.
What are the Cu Chi Tunnel?
The Cu Chi Tunnels is a 200km long tunnel system where Vietnamese partisans were hiding during the Vietnam war, which lasted 15 years. The first tunnels, however, were already built around 10 years earlier to protect weapons and food for people.
The construction of the Cu Chi Tunnels took about 25 years and could accommodate 16k-18k people. However, around 3,000 lived there during the war.
Cu Chi Tunnel Architecture and Protection
It is pretty amazing what the Vietnamese created down there. The tunnels were built on 3 levels and functioned like complete cities. There were schools, offices, bedrooms, kitchens, birth rooms and so on. Those rooms were connected via tiny tunnels which were no bigger than 80cm high and 60cm wide.
The first level of the tunnel was to be found between 3-4 m from the surface, the second level around 6 m, and the third level around 8-10 m. You can imagine how hot, humid and dark it was down there. They used bamboo trees as vents to be able to breathe.
The entrances to the tunnels were folding doors hidden underneath grass and leaves. On top of that, they were secured by traps like bamboo skewers and poison from trees. Furthermore, they used a chili, pepper, lemongrass mix to keep dogs away from finding them underground. Because when they cooked the smell of the food went out through a self-created vent that the dogs could easily smell. Thanks to this mix they could not. So smart!
Although the Americans tried to destroy the tunnel system by bombing, flooding, and introducing toxic gases, the depth and extent of the system made it unsuccessful. However, the people had to deal with regular attacks by rats and venomous snakes.
Finally, they even designed special shoes for going outside of the tunnels, so that the enemy would be led in the wrong direction. The shoe was designed so that the shoe print indicated the opposite direction than the one they actually went into. So clever!
Day Trip from Ho Chi Minh – Cu Chi Tunnel
The Cu Chi Tunnels are around 50km away from Ho Chi Minh and you will find various providers where you can book tour packages to visit. I booked my Cu Chi Tunnel Tour with GetYourGuide and it took us roughly from 8 am to 2 pm.
Handicapped Factory and Craftshop
The first stop on our day trip from Ho Chi Minh to the Cu Chi Tunnel was a handicapped worker center. There you can walk through and observe people during their daily work, and support them with the purchase of their products.
People who work there are often physically handicapped as they were either born that way, caught a disease throughout their life or lost body parts during the war. As you can probably imagine, it isn’t easy to find work when you are physically handicapped.
In this center, these people create beautiful handicrafts, such as images out of eggshells, seashells, rice corns, or sand, but also other souvenirs.
Cu Chi Tunnel Tour
The next stop on our day trip from Ho Chi Minh brought us to the actual Cu Chi Tunnels. First of all, we gathered in an open room where we got some background information with visualization of the tunnels, thanks to a self-made miniature. This way, we better understood the situation that leads to such life underground.
After the short introduction, we head off to the first tunnel which was around 90m long. In order to walk through you needed to bent over the whole time. I believe, for people with claustrophobic it will be tough, even though, the tunnels have been made bigger for western tourists already (1,20m high and 80cm wide). Actually, you will have many chances to go through different tunnels and rooms. Some of which are smaller, some bigger, and some deeper.
At the end of the Cu Chi Tunnel Tour we got a small snack that tasted like potatoes. The dip was made out of salt, sugar, and nuts.
The final stop on our day trip from Ho Chi Minh to the Cu Chi Tunnels brought us to a shooting range. This was voluntary and you could also wait on the bus.
However, if you decided to go you were able to shoot with a gun of your choice. There were like 10 to choose from and you paid around 50c per patron to fire.
I hope you enjoyed this day trip from Ho Chi Minh and learned many new things about the Cu Chi Tunnels and life in Vietnam back in the days. If you need more Vietnam travel inspiration, check out 6 fun things to do in Dalat, and Lantern Workshop in Hoi An, as well as how to apply for the right Vietnam visa.