Cao Dai Temple And Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Travel Blog

 › entry 70 of 117 › view all entries
Cao Dai temple
While in Saigon, I wanted to visit the Cu Chi tunnels, used by the Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communists) to hide and fight against the Americans during the war. Seen as I had enjoyed the trip with TNK, the company I went to the Mekong with, I booked up with them again, and a full-day tour even included a visit to see a Cao Dai service at the Grand Temple.

I didn't regret the decision, purely on the basis of our guide. Hilariously-named My Thong, aka Slim Jim, had taught English in the Mekong region for about 15 years. Every so often he would pronounce certain ways with an air of nobility, like foreign footballers picking up words with a regional twang. He had obviously been communicating with foreigners for a while as well, seen as he loved dropping in cockney rhyming slang or saying things like, 'have a butchers,' which I haven't heard since I left England.
During the service


First stop was the Cao Dai temple. Cao Daism is an attempt to create a super-religion from existing philosophies of both East and West: from Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism and Taoism. Founded by Ngo Minh Chieu, who practiced seances to speak to spirits, he was said to receive revelations from Cao Dai (a euphemism for God) in which the tenets of Cao Dai were created. During the Vietnamese-American war, 25-000 members of the Cao Dai army were used to fight the Viet Cong. It is still most prevalent in Vietnam in the Tay Ninh area and Mekong Delta. At the temple, there are four non-compulsory services a day, one of which we were allowed to witness. I, like you, initially thought it sounds a little nuts, but I enjoyed the service, if not for the temple, then for the colours of the temple and those worn by people at prayer.
"I'm never fitting down there"


After lunch we headed back towards Saigon, to the Cu Chi tunnels. The Cu Chi region was pivotal in the defeat of the US during the Vietnamese war. Almost completely devastated by continual bombing and napalming overland, many Viet Cong still survived by digging and hiding in underground tunnel networks, initially built in the war against the French. It was also used to counter attack American forces who were bamboozled completely by the system. Large-scale bombing failed to destroy the networks, gassing the tunnels largely failed and American troops called 'tunnel rats' sent down were often killed by the inhabitants within. Despite the Viet Cong winning the war, only around 6,000 of the 16,000 who hid survived.

Only a small part of the network is open to tourists, and even that has been widened to cater for fat Westerners who come to visit.
A booby trap
Tunnels would have been about half of what we travelled through, to make collapsing from continual bombing less likely. It was still small enough for me - we only travelled about 100m through the pitch-black, scorching hot tunnel and by the time I got out I was relieved to see daylight and breathe fresh air. I couldn't believe it when I heard someone say, "It's not how I thought it would be." Maybe she was expecting sofa beds and cocktails.

In addition, Slim Jim showed us some traps used to cripple Americans and stop them from finding the tunnels. Most were enlargened traps used by Vietnamese for catching tigers or whatever, usually involving a concealed trapdoor with spikes underneath. Very clever, and very gruesome. We were also given the chance to fire some guns used in the war at the shooting range.
A to the K
I'm not too bothered about firing guns, but seen as I probably won't have another chance to fire an AK-47 (and because I looked mad gangster), I gave it a go. You pay for the bullet at about 50p a pop. There were targets, but with no feedback on how you were firing it didn't mean much. I was shocked, however, at how loud they are - even with protective headphones, it still made your ears ring. I couldn't buy one as a souvenir, unfortunately.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Cao Dai temple
Cao Dai temple
During the service
During the service
Im never fitting down there
"I'm never fitting down there"
A booby trap
A booby trap
A to the K
A to the K
Some Cao Dai music
Some Cao Dai music
Before the service
Before the service
Cao Dai temple entrance
Cao Dai temple entrance
Slim Jim showing us the door trap
Slim Jim showing us the 'door trap'
After you.
After you.
Cu Chi Sights & Attractions review
I used TNK for both a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta and I thought they were reet bo. If this review doesn't make it… read entire review
Cu Chi
photo by: kumikob