The Cu Chi tunnels are located approximately 30 km’s to the north west of Ho Chi Minh City and are part of an extensive network of tunnels which run for hundreds of miles.
They were originally dug by hand in the 1930’s during the French occupation of what was previously Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia).
They were extended in the 1950’s and 60’s during the Vietnam war and used by the Viet Cong (Communist North) in a bid to defeat the Americans and install communist rule to the south. Many local people also used the tunnels to escape the dangers of the war, some for as long as 20 years.
Traps that were previously used for animals were converted by the Viet Cong into ‘man traps’ . An exhibition shows a range of inventive and somewhat gruesome traps (as above).
Tourists can crawl through a couple of the tunnels which had to be widened to accommodate Westerners. We spent just a few minutes experiencing them and found conditions were hot, cramped and claustrophobic so it is hard to imagine how the Vietnamese people were able to endure these conditions for such long periods of time.
The top level of the tunnels contained small rooms where people stayed during the day; the middle layer was for sleeping and the lower level was for weapon storage.
Dealing with such hot and humid conditions while also fighting must have been exceptionally tough for the young American soldiers caught up in the Vietnam war too.
This was another inspiring yet sombre trip into the relatively recent history of a South East Asian country.
War Remnants Museum
While in Ho Chi Minh City we also visited the War Remnants museum as below.
This is located in central Ho Chi Minh City and as well as displays of aircraft, tanks and weapons there was a large exhibition of harrowing photographs of the victims of Agent Orange. This was the name given to the chemicals used by the US during the Vietnam war to destroy natural resources. This campaign lasted for 10 years between 1961 and 1971. This has had severe consequences for between 2.1 and 4.8 million Vietnamese people many of whom went on to have severely disabled children. Even now, second and third generation children are still being born disabled as a consequence of agent orange.