Cu Chi Tunnels...
November 28, 2006

Simon and I booked our ½ day trip out to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Son was our guide and while we were on the bus I learned a thing or two from him…

Saigon vs. Ho Chi Minh City

This city used to be called Saigon. After the war it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). But I was confused up to this point because sometimes
the names seem interchangeable.

Well, here’s the deal. The center of HCMC (also known as ‘District 1’) is actually still called ‘Saigon’. Everything outside of District 1 is HCMC. The
reason for this is because before the name change Saigon only consisted of the area of what is now District 1. This actually solved much of the
confusion I have had over the past few days. Ahhh.

The trips to Cu Chi Tunnels begin with an informational video. We were told about how life in this village was before the war. And then the video
showed the entering of the “ruthless” Americans and the destruction of the Cu Chi village. This was also the moment that
this American wanted to
slump down and hang her head low.

The Cu Chi guerillas were all about continuing on with their lives by carrying on their normal daily routines. For example, they would continue to
work in the rice paddies. But they would now do the work with a gun on their back in case the need for it happened to arise. When a guerilla had
killed a good number of Americans (who were likened to ‘devils’) they were awarded a title of ‘American Killer Hero’.

When the video concluded, we walked around the area and were shown one of the original tunnels and we watched a Vietnamese guy go into it. How
somebody fit through that little thing is still a mystery to me. They didn’t only have the advantage of these tunnels being camouflaged into the
ground. They also had the advantage that if Americans
did happen to discover these, the GIs would have probably had a hard time fitting their arm
through let alone their entire body. We also saw different traps that were set up. To see the things first-hand that are done during war (as I am sure
similar things exist for every war) was pretty eye-opening.

In total this is a 250-km network of tunnels. I can’t even begin to imagine how they spent long periods of time in there. We had the option of going
through a 100-meter ‘enlarged’ (a word I am going to use very loosely) tourist version of the tunnels. It is no secret that I didn’t even consider
attempting this feat (as just yesterday I got a feeling of anxiety when the girl at the spa put a towel over my face during my facial). People could opt
to come out of the tunnels at 30-meters and 60-meters. Many people used these exits. Everybody came out completely drenched in sweat. They
talked about how dark it was and how they were parts where you literally had to be on your hands and knees to make your way through. And then,
of course, there were the people who stopped along the way to take pictures (for what seemed like eternity to those behind them) and caused a
traffic jam within the tunnels. All I could say was that this sounded like it was my absolute worst nightmare. I can’t believe what the Cu Chi guerillas
had to do. They would crawl through 5-km of tunnels at a time (which even took people with their remarkable training two hours to do). I will also
note that these tunnels were high susceptible to snakes and scorpions and kerosene was used to light the way. You can only imagine what the smell
must have been like.

Many American weapons (such as guns) were left behind. Tourists have the option of buying some ammunition ($13 for a round of ten bullets),
choosing a gun and pulling the trigger at targets. I
had to do this as I have never been in contact with a gun before and I figure I never will be again. I
learned that there is a smell that is emitted when a gun is shot. I also learned that I have bad aim. I also learned that my little ears are extremely
sensitive to the sound of gun shots. But all in all, it was a one-of-a-kind experience and I am happy that I did it!
Back to Vietnam.
Acquainting myself with an MK-16.
Acting as if I was going into a tunnel.
A guy entering the original-sized Cu Chi Tunnel.