Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog› entry 13 of 19 › view all entries
The Cu Chi tunnels are near Saigon and had been recommended as being well worth a visit. They are probably the MOST popular day trip from the city as every travel agent offers a half or full day trip there for less than $10. The full day also includes a visit to the Cao Dai temple, which although it didn't seem particularly interesting to me, made for a better balanced day.
On the bus we ran into a couple who we had met in Chau Doc in the Mekong delta. They had stayed an extra night near Chau Doc so had just arrived in Saigon and were staying in the next street to us. This turns out to be a familiar story; although Vietnam is a large country most travellers paths are similar and we do run into the same people several times.
The Cao Dai temple is actually not that close to Saigon and the hectic traffic means the journey there takes over 2 hours. We break the journey at a "handicapped" handicraft factory where we are given a quick tour and plenty of time to browse and purchase. We see the workers making eggshell and mother-of-pearl ornaments; to me none of them seemed handicapped but maybe I wasn't looking carefully enough.
The Cao Dai temple is a large church-like building set in an impressive grounds. The architecture, like the religion, is a modern blend of many different styles and is particularly ornate and colourful. We arrive in time to see the temple before the 12 noon service begins. While the service is conducted we are allowed to watch from the upper balcony.
It's another hour and a half drive to the Cu Chi tunnel museum. The set up here is built for tourists and most of the exhibits are reconstructions but is all well done. We start with a DVD that has a government propaganda style but is a very good introduction to the tunnels and the way in which the VC fought. There are exhibits of the different types of "traps" (mainly made of sharpened bamboo) that were used to trap soldiers as well as mock-ups of the kitchens and workshops that were all built underground.
There is a firing range and you can buy shots on a variety of weapons, AK47 and M60 being the favourites. I have 10 shots with a colt 45 pistol and I don't think I hit the target once.
We have the chance to crawl through the tunnels. These section have been enlarged for tourists but are still only about 4ft high. The two tall Dutch girls on the tour find this a bit harder than the rest of us who are a more normal height. There is also one of the original tunnel entrances which was designed to be too small for the American soldiers. I have a go at squeezing in and just manage to fit through the trap door entrance.