The Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Travel Blog› entry 59 of 94 › view all entries
I took the half-day tour out to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The bus driver drove unusually slow where traffic was thin and roads wide open. He never would have made it as a MaiLihn Express or a Domino's Pizza delivery man and I reckoned that he must have been paid by the hour and looking for a little overtime. Some miles before Cu Chi, the bus stopped for about an hour at a handicraft shop and showroom. A walk through the factory showed glossy wood products at every stage of development from raw material to the finished product. All of the workers were handicapped - primarily by the effects of Agent Orange during the American War. At the end of the work area, a large showroom contained a wide and colorful display of the finished products for sale.
I had passed through Cu Chi several times on busses between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City but the tunnels were a good distance out of town at Ben Dinh.
The first station inside the Viet Cong encampment was a partially underground classroom where maps and cut-away models defined the tunnel networks and typical designs. A black and white video documented the activities that took place here during the war. The Cu Chi area, just 40 kilometers from Saigon, was the terminus of the Ho Chi Minh Trail which delivered war supplies from Hanoi. Heavy bombing and the destruction of foliage by Agent Orange and Napalm had driven the Cu Chi Guerillas underground. Today, trails lead through replanted eucalyptus groves and bamboo stands.
The first stop had stunning impact of that war era - a hinged trap door that rotated to cause an enemy to fall into a deep pit onto bamboo punji sticks. Their sharp tips were coated with cobra venom so that if the impaling did not kill them the poison would. Originally used for hunting animals, that and other booby traps on display had been modified to hunt the enemy. The trails continued past B-52 bomb craters and a destroyed American tank to the tunnels. Being somewhat claustrophobic, and even though the accessible tunnels had been enlarged, I only crouched one passage for ten yards to its first exit. Others in the group descended into the second and third levels where the tunnels became smaller and smaller.
Village huts displayed how unexploded American bombs were used for the manufacture of land mines and other weapons and tools, how the VC lived, cooked and ate, dressed, provided medical treatment, and survived during the war years.