When I told friends I would be making a quick stop in Ho Chi Minh City during my Vietnam travels, one of the first suggestions I received was to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. Having nothing else pulling my attention in the city, I decided to make the day-long trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were used during the Vietnam War as a means for Viet Cong soldiers to hide in during battle. The tunnel system covers a large area of Vietnam and was critical in helping the Vietnamese soldiers fight against the Americans. While I do find the history behind the Cu Chi Tunnels incredibly interesting, the tour lacked authenticity, making the experience rather dull and overwhelmingly “touristy”.
Bus Ride to the Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels are not an easy point to get to. Expect at least a 2 hour bus ride, and if you’ve ever been to Ho Chi Minh City before, you know that a good 3/4 of that time is going to be taken up by the driver navigating his way through hoards of traffic before you even make it out of the city center. Normally I wouldn’t necessarily mind such a long trip, especially in the morning, because I can fall asleep within seconds. However, our tour guide (bless him) talked to us non-stop. While he did offer up some great background information on the history of the war and the tunnels, it was laced with a whole lot of propaganda and slightly personal information that you couldn’t help but awkwardly laugh at.
“Exploring” the Cu Chi Tunnels
After we made it through the entrance tunnel, we were brought to a medium-size area to sit down and watch a black and white film the government put together on the Cu Chi Tunnels. The TV screen couldn’t have been larger than 20″ and the program was painful to get through; the Vietnam celebrated a young girl for killing Americans, and so forth. Needless to say, we weren’t off to a great start.
After the screening, our tour guide took us around to a few different points of interest, explaining things like the various in-ground traps the Vietnam used to catch the Americans and the underground rooms where the Viet Cong would build weapons. Definitely interesting to see and listen to, but again, everything was very gimmicky and done up.
After an hour or so of being taken around, we stopped for about 30 minutes at a shooting range where you could fire some rounds if you so desired. While a handful of people from our tour group were incredibly thrilled at the thought of handling a gun, more than half of us were rather annoyed that we had to sit around and wait for them to finish up, especially since the day was already dragging on.
The last part of our tour was for us to actually walk down into one of the tunnels to experience what it was like for the Viet Cong soldiers to make their way through these tunnels every day. The checkpoints to get out were about 50 m or so apart, so you could come up shortly after going down if you’d like. As a word of warning; they are very small – I was able to crouch and still walk on my feet, but if you’re taller you’ll likely have to crawl on your hands and knees.
Overall, it’s hard to say how I feel about the Cu Chi Tunnel tour in Ho Chi Minh City.. Part of me can appreciate the history and I do find it intriguing, but the whole tour felt fake and way too touristy for my liking. It also took up far more of the day than I had anticipated – we didn’t arrive back into the city center until around 6:00 pm when originally when we booked the tour it said we would return at 3:00 pm.
Cost: 131,000 VND (about HK$45) per person (this does not include the 110,000 VND entrance fee you must also pay)