Updated: Jan 5
While staying in Ho Chi Min City, you can visit the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnels are a 50 km trip out of the city near the Cambodian border. This is a half day trip and you will probably get quite hot and sweaty, so take a bottle of water and Deet Up to avoid mosquito bites. The scenery along the way is not Vietnam's best advert but you get to see how many people in the countryside live.
The tunnels were built by the North Vietnamese Viet Cong during the Vietnamese War. The tunnel complex is an incredible underground network of about 200 km in which about 6,000 Viet Con lived and died.
The tunnel complex is at the end of the Ho Chi Min trail which ran from North Vietnam down through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam. The Viet Cong were able to launch guerilla campaigns against the Southern forces but were predominantly aimed at the Americans.
Various traps were set up to kill or injure the US soldiers.
The Viet Cong also showed a great deal of ingenuity. For instance, they made sandals out of old US rubber tyres with the sole facing the wrong wrong way - heel at the front. In this way that could leave tracks in the jungle which the US soldiers could follow. Instead of following the Viet Cong, as they thought, they would be walking away from them.
The Viet Cong cooked meals in the tunnels and had elaborate methods to disperse the smoke from the ovens. They also ventilated the tunnels, creating false termite mounds in the jungle to disguise the air vents:
The local South Vietnamese peasants were sympathetic to the Viet Cong as the country people were not supportive of the South Vietnamese president. The peasants provided food to the Viet Cong and helped carry weapons to them.
About half of the Viet Cong who lived in the tunnels died. More died from disease than were killed.
When you visit the Cu Chi Tunnel complex you can go down into the tunnels yourself. There are various short lengths of tunnels that you can try. It can be quite claustrophobic, so bear that in mind.
You can also try out an AK47 on the shooting range. Note: your tour operator may not allow you to do this.
Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels is not everyone's idea of a fun day out but if you want to learn about Vietnam's recent history, it's well worth a visit.
Places to stay in Ho Chi Minh City