Day 45 - Cao Dai Temple and Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Travel Blog

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Some of the bowls being made by the disabled craftspeople

Today was another tour day, the Cao Dai Temple and the Cu Chi Tunnels. We really were packing in the tours here in Ho Chi Minh City, I think mainly because there actually were loads of tours to do here. In Hanoi, the only tour was to Halong Bay and we stayed out there anyway, much to our regret. In Hoi An the only tours were to the Marble Mountains which weren't that exciting as well as the tour to the Holy Land 'My Son' which we done.

A disabled crafts person aligning the mother of pearl to form the picture
Anyway back to the tour today.

The tour today was to the Cai Dai temple one of the largest temples in Vietnam and then to the Cu Chi Tunnels… an intricate maize of tunnels in Cu Chi that were dug by revolutionaries during the war. The trip to the Cai Dai temples took about 3 hours in total on the bus. Thankfully we were on the right bus today, but the downside was that the bus was overbooked by 1 person so I had to sit on a small fold up chair in the aisle ... For the entire day! The bus journey passed relatively quickly with the help of my iPod! The Cai Temple is a large complex of buildings surrounding the main temple building. Caodaism itself is a minority religion that incorporates other religious beliefs including Christian, Buddhism and Muslim.

A crafts person sanding the picture to create a smooth surface

The first brief stop off though was another disabled craft village like the one we saw on yesterdays tour (and detailed in yesterdays blog) This time I did manage to get some photos of the actual making of some of the crafts though so you'll find them here.

When we arrived at the Cao Dai temple at around 12 we were just in time to witness one of the ceremonies of the day and we were allowed to enter the temple around an upper balcony to take photos of the ceremony. Every age group from the area took part in the worship from kids as young as 4 or 5 all the way to the elders that were in their 70's and 80's. The majority of people were in white robes that signified the main body of people. There were a few people in red, blue and yellow robes that signified more important members of the religion.

The biggest picture they make .. it takes almost a year to complete!
The temple and ceremony was very impressive and I would highly recommend the tour to people if they were considering the pros and cons of the combined temple and tunnel tour.

After we got everyone gathered back on the bus we headed back towards Ho Chi Minh City to the Cu Chi Tunnels. On our way to Cu Chi our guide started to explain to us the significance of the tunnels. About 2 days before the fall of Saigon during the war, the tunnels were finally overcome by the opposition, they were that hard to defeat. Our guide himself was part of the war and had used these tunnels during wartime on several occasions. He said the tunnels were originally about 60 cm in width and 80 cm in height so everyone had to crawl through them. The tunnels that we would get to pass through today had been reconstructed as nearly all of the original tunnels were destroyed at the end of the war or over the years since.

inlaying mother of pearl into a wooden dresser back
The reconstructed tunnels had also been built with tourists in mind as they now measured 80 cm in width and 120 cm in height. If you think about it this still isn't very big and you still have to be bent over to make your way through them.

We arrived at the Cu Chi Tunnels visitor centre and were first brought to watch a documentary of actual footage of the tunnels and trenches in use during war time. The footage was quite good and very informing as it showed some actual mortar attacks caught on film from the trenches!

After the video we were brought on a guided tour of the tunnels themselves and some of the buildings that had been reconstructed to show visitors what the various sections of the tunnels would of been like in war time.

The Cao Dai temple
It was a real asset having a guide who had actually fought in the war and used these tunnels themselves as the amount of knowledge that was to be learned was enormous. The fist thing we were brought to see was the smallest entrance type used to enter into the tunnels. A small approximately 14 by 10 inch square hole that was named a 'rabbit hole'. The tunnel entrances were camouflaged by leaves and clay and a person would lift off the lid, hold it above his/her head with his/her arms outstretched straight and then drop into the hole until the lid was closed and then move off down the tunnel. A few of the group did try it and it did not look easy or comfortable.

From there we moved to see one of the many traps that would be set around the tunnels. The traps consisted of a flipped board, camouflaged to match the ground and when a person stood on either side of the board, the board would flip and the person would fall into a pit filled with sharp bamboo spikes, either killing or very badly maiming the person.

The worship ceremony in the Cao Dai temple

Next on the tour was another actual entry point to the tunnels. This was one of the main entrances to the tunnels and would have had a type of camouflage termite mound over it to hide it from the enemy and to protect from rainwater entering it during the rainy season. From this entry point it was also obvious the actual size of the tunnel and how small it actually looked.

From there we went to see the section on self made weaponry. A range of devices mainly made from wood and nails that would be set to trap and even kill the enemy. These ranged in size, shape and purpose to cover all sorts of possible threats. Some of them would be planted in the ground in the paddi fields; others would be swinging from the trees where others would be hanging behind a door.

Some of the youngest members of the worship ceremony

Form the weaponry section we were brought to see some of the rooms that would be incorporated into sections of the tunnels… machinery workshops where enemy bombs would be dismantled and re-used to make revolutionary weapons as well as some of the coking rooms.

Then we got on to the bit most people were interested in, getting to walk/crawl through the reconstructed sections of tunnel. The reconstructed section is about 120m long and has an exit route every 40m or so if anybody felt too claustrophobic going through them. As there was a coach load of us in the group we were warned that the heat and humidity would be quite high and if anyone suffered from asthma or blackouts that they were advised not to enter the tunnels.

The entire congregation at the worship ceremony
On entering we descended down several levels until we got into the actual tunnel. I was about 3/4 of the way through the group and when I entered you could really feel the heat and humidity that the guide talked about. The tunnels were incredibly small and uncomfortably and in some places it was best to crawl on all 4's so make it through. There were several levels within the tunnels so we had to go up and down steps several times in the 120 meters. It took us about 5 minutes to crawl through and I was never so glad to get out at the end. It is very claustrophobic and very very warm. When we got out, we were all sweating profusely, I was soaked to the skin. At the end of the tunnel crawling section everyone was given a small Vietnamese cup of tea (I would call it an egg cup of tea) as well as some tapioca which was a welcome relief.

Once we all gathered together again and dried off a little we got back on the bus and made our way back into Ho Chi Minh City. We all got dropped off back at the tourist office and made our way back to the various hotels, exhausted after the tunnel experience!

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Some of the bowls being made by th…
Some of the bowls being made by t…
A disabled crafts person aligning …
A disabled crafts person aligning…
A crafts person sanding the pictur…
A crafts person sanding the pictu…
The biggest picture they make .. i…
The biggest picture they make .. …
inlaying mother of pearl into a wo…
inlaying mother of pearl into a w…
The Cao Dai temple
The Cao Dai temple
The worship ceremony in the Cao Da…
The worship ceremony in the Cao D…
Some of the youngest members of th…
Some of the youngest members of t…
The entire congregation at the wor…
The entire congregation at the wo…
The altar with the Cao Dai eye whi…
The altar with the Cao Dai eye wh…
A monkey beside the Caop Dai temple
A monkey beside the Caop Dai temple
Watching the documentary at the Cu…
Watching the documentary at the C…
Some of the buildings on the Cu Ch…
Some of the buildings on the Cu C…
A guide going down what is called …
A guide going down what is called…
A bamboo door trap! Those are real…
A bamboo door trap! Those are rea…
A disabled army dank in situ after…
A disabled army dank in situ afte…
An original entry hole to the tunn…
An original entry hole to the tun…
A better view of the actual tunnel…
A better view of the actual tunne…
A scissor trap ... when a person s…
A scissor trap ... when a person …
Another self made trap .. when a p…
Another self made trap .. when a …
Another self made trap .. when a p…
Another self made trap .. when a …
A circle trap .. when set
A circle trap .. when set
A circle trap when you stand on it…
A circle trap when you stand on i…
Another variant of a scissor trap …
Another variant of a scissor trap…
a box trap .. normally hidden in t…
a box trap .. normally hidden in …
A door trap. When the door was ope…
A door trap. When the door was op…
An example of an arms rooms used i…
An example of an arms rooms used …
Entering the Cu Chi Tunnels
Entering the Cu Chi Tunnels
Caroline in the tunnels .. see who…
Caroline in the tunnels .. see wh…
Caroline coming out the exit of th…
Caroline coming out the exit of t…
A B52 bomb crater .. this picture …
A B52 bomb crater .. this picture…
Some of the bomb that were re-used…
Some of the bomb that were re-use…
Cu Chi
photo by: kumikob