The Cu Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968.
From 1948, the work never stopped and resulted in a massive collection of tunnels that were eventually used in the war with the American also. The tunnels were used as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped achieve ultimate military success.
The tunnels were designed with several levels and effective air filtration systems to help them to survive the Cu Chi carpet-bombing by the Americans and were dug so deep that tanks could pass overhead without causing any damage to the tunnels.
It is comprised of winding tunnels and unlit offshoots, secret trap doors connecting narrow routes to hidden shelters, local rivers and tunnels reaching to the Cambodian border. It was once a sprawling city of improvised hospitals, living quarters, kitchens and fresh water wells, with some tunnels barely large enough to wriggle through. The plan was to launch surprise assaults on the enemy, and then disappear; this strategy was so successful that the superior firepower of the French and American armies was insufficient in the face of continuous ambushes in which the assailants seemed to vanish into fresh air.
Much of the original tunnel system was destroyed in bombing raids during the 1970s but existing parts have been restored and opened as a poignant and fascinating reminder.
Today many of the tunnels have been enlarged to allow visitors the dirty and claustrophobic experience of crawling through a portion of the underground network, past secret trapdoors and booby traps laid against invasion. The two main sites, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc, are different in that one was constructed specifically for tourists (Ben Dinh) and the other was actually used in war (Ben Duoc). Once full of war traps, their popularity with visitors has turned the area into a tourist trap, with hard-sell vendors a constant hassle among the touring throngs.
This underground maze is a bit over an hour’s drive northwest from Ho Chi Minh City. While there expect to try many interesting activities such as a chance to fire an M16 assault rifle for fun or food testing – trying similar types of meals that the underground fighters had to live with years ago. Other facilities include souvenir shops, a restaurant as well as a mini-hotel.
The complex of Cu Chi tunnels is a destination not to be missed in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a huge network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City, and a part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country.
Transport: The tunnels are best visited on a day tour, otherwise a bus from Ben Thanh bus station stops in Cu Chi where public transport services the site.