Two years ago (May 2014) I went to Vietnam and one of the places I visited was the War Museum. It was necessary for me as a veteran of the war, but I do not necessarily recommend it to Americans. On this trip in July of 2016 I decided on one more war related tourist tour. I went to the tunnels of Cu Chi. The tunnels are a remarkable example of guerilla war ingenuity and are often referred to in retrospectives of the war. It should be noted that I have significant claustrophobia and I intended to try to do at least the first section (30 meters) of the tunnels. Cu Chi provided one war related activity and one very personal psychological activity.
The tunnels are an engineering feat and if one wants to really understand them then go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%E1%BB%A7_Chi_tunnels or other good history sites. Needless to say they are an important historical site and well worth visit despite the long bus ride.
Our tour guide was the son of a person that escaped after the war and went to the US. He spoke good English and had a lot of knowledge which he presented very well. On the bus he talked about Vietnam in general, the war a little, and lots of ‘general’ facts and comments, such as 35 people a day are killed in Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) in traffic accidents, mostly on scooters or pedestrians. He said there are 14 million people in Saigon and 12 million scooters. There are not more cars because the government adds a massive tax to control even worse traffic. He said a scooter is $20,000.00 US and cars are priced accordingly. I have no idea if the figures are correct but they are interesting.
Back to Cu Chi. The people in the tunnels were farmers by day and guerillas by night. After the war they were considered war heroes and received a special stipend from the government. They are credited in a large part for the communist victory (I credit the American Congress and Walter Cronkite). Whatever, they had an incredible operation.
The site has numerous war relics including a tank that had run over a mine and many types of man traps and other items. One of the most interesting was a collection of weapons that one could fire. I recognized an M-60, an AR-15, an M-14 and an AK-47. You paid by the bullet in 10 round minimums. A number of people were firing M-60’s and AK-47’s. I do no mind telling you that I DID NOT enjoy being scant yards from the firing area and the sound of those weapons in the jungle echoing off the range back stop was not good for my soul.
Finally we came to the tunnel entrance and one by one we lined up to enter. I was not he first and after a few went in one of the people backed out and departed the area. I got to the entrance looked inside and also thought better of it, climbing back out and letting the others go on. In all about half of our group went the first 30 yards and one person, an Australian, went as far as the tour allowed. I am glad I went, I will not go to that particular place again and I am not sure I recommend it unless you are a historian. Over a million people a year are said to go there and if it rings your bell or want to fire an old M-60 it might be a great place. Not for me.