I’ve seen (on TV and internet) and read about the amazing Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam. I finally got my chance to visit when I was in Ho Chi Minh City in December 2014.
There are many tour agencies that organise half-day and full-day tours to the Cu Chi Tunnels from Ho Chi Minh City and the prices range from US$10 up to US$100 depending on whether one follows a group tour or choose a private tour. A friend recommended Ben Thanh Travel Agency so I booked my half-day tour with them for US$17.
At 7.45am, the mini-van picked me up from my hotel in District 1. I was the 2nd person on the van and we went on to other hotels in the vicinity to pick up other guests. About 20 minutes later when the mini-van was full with about 20 passengers, the van finally started to make its way to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
About 1hour into the drive, we stopped at a dilapidated Handicapped Handicrafts factory for a toilet break for 15-20minutes.
Apparently this is a “must-stop” for most of the tour groups going to Cu Chi Tunnels. Even though it felt like a forced stop, especially to some of my fellow tour members, I thought it was good. Not only did I get to stretch my legs, the break gave me a chance to look at how acrylic panels that were widely sold in the city were made, without anyone hassling anyone to buy anything, which is a rarity in this city. And I enjoyed the opportunity to just walk around the small factory watching what the workers were doing.
From the Handicapped Handicrafts factory, it was about another 20-30minutes drive to Cu Chi Tunnels. Our guide showed us a short introductory video of the Cu Chi Tunnels on the van since we were running late. The old video explained that the 250km of elaborate and complex underground tunnel system were hand-dug by the Cu Chi people with simple tools during the French Occupation in the 1940s and then expanded during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. The tunnels allowed the Cu Chi people to live their lives underground despite all the fighting and bombings going on.
The entrance fee to the Cu Chi Tunnels was at a standard price of 90,000 VND (not included in my tour cost) but I think some people in the tour group were worried that they may be ripped off and decided to get their own tickets even though our tour guide was doing the same. As a result, there was chaos and confusion! I just stood at one side with a few others and waited for the guide to calm them down… before the tour began.
We walked through the forest and came to one of the most photographed area. Here, we were shown one of the entrances to the tunnels, camouflaged if not for the number of tourists surrounding it and jumping in and out of it. I had to give it a go too right? So that I can tell you what it was like! 🙂
It was a small entrance, dark and it felt really damp inside especially after I closed the cover. Have to admit that it could get really scary if I was stuck in there! And not to mention what creepy crawlies there were hiding in there as well. Someone bigger (read: with a big belly) tried going in as well and ALMOST couldn’t get out! It was pretty hilarious.
As the tour guide brought us around, we saw holes in mounds constructed to provide ventilation for the tunnels, more camouflaged entrances to the tunnels and many booby traps that were meant to kill the enemy.
There was an exhibit of an old tank destroyed during the war and many people were fascinated by it – some even climbed to the top for a photo-op.
We also visited their hospitals, artillery rooms and even went inside one of the fighting bunkers, i.e. walked /crawled inside one of the tunnels!
It was too dark inside the tunnel to continue taking a video so in order to prove that I went in, here’s a picture of me inside.
After touring the Cu Chi Tunnels, tourists were given the opportunity to shoot with all kinds of weapons available.
Since I already had experience firing pistols and air rifle back in the schooldays, I didn’t try. But, while walking to towards the firing range, I took this video to show you my what it felt like out in the forest hearing gunshots, something probably what the Cu Chi people experienced everyday of their lives.
Before the end of the tour, our tour guide brought us to get some lunch (included in the tour cost). When we reached the communal area set up to resemble the dining area during the war time, we were provided tapioca with some peanuts and sugar (I was too hungry and totally forgot to take a picture!). We thought it was a joke when the tour guide said that that was lunch until she gathered us to leave after that!!
I didn’t see other food provided to other tour groups as well so we all assumed that it was the “lunch” everyone was talking about. So if you are going to the Cu Chi tunnel in the morning with “lunch” included in your tour package, do bring something to eat on the journey back to the city…
Apparently, there were rangers at the site to bring tourists around and giving free guided tours. That means if you can find your own way to the Cu Chi Tunnels without joining a tour group it could actually be cheaper and more flexible. However, you run a risk of meeting rangers who are not fluent in English.
For those interested to take your own transportation, bus number 13 is available from the city with a change at the Cu Chi bus station.
Notwithstanding the so-so only tour guide I had, it beats going in a group of 50 people or more in a busload (yes I’ve read that in some Tripadvisor forums). I would say go for the experience at the Cu Chi Tunnels if you are in Ho Chi Minh City, it is interesting and I am still amazed by how the people dug and lived in those tunnels!