Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cu Chi Tunnels

The second stop on our tour was the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Cu Chi tunnels cover an extensive area. I think they said they are over 250 km long. The tunnels were initially created as a means of hiding from the French. People had a hideout underground connected to their house usually. Overtime the people connected their hideouts to each other as a means of escape. During the Vietnam War these tunnels were expanded. Over 16,000 people lived in the tunnels at this time. They had everything they needed underground, including a hospital, water wells, kitchens, etc. The Cu Chi people had clever ways of disguising their air holes and their entrances.

Part of the reason the tunnels were so successful against the Americans was because the American were too big to fit into the tunnels. They had to recruit special "Rat Solders" who were small enough to get inside. These special solders faced perilous traps within the tunnels and many died.
This is one of the entrances to the tunnels. This would have been covered by leaves and would have been completely camouflaged.
This is another entrance. It too would have been hidden. Apparently the American tried to flood the tunnels many times, but it never worked. The clay and the tree roots would soak up the water and the tunnels would remain relatively dry.
This is another entrance.
You can tell how small it is compared to Sean as he tries to fit inside.
This is one of the American tanks that hit a land mine. The mine would blow the tread right off the tank.
This is another very small entrance to the tunnels.
Sean's shoe doesn't even fit the width of the hole.
Here's our tour guide showing how the Cu Chi could quickly hide in the entrance. Since they were so small, they fit somewhat easily in the hole. I love the look on Julie's face as he disappears in the entrance. Julie said this was one of her favorite things we've done so far since she's been here in Vietnam.
The Cu Chi people set many different horrible traps out in the jungle and in the tunnels. They had examples of many of the different ones they used. Here's our tour guide showing us the classic "bamboo trap". It's a swinging door that makes you fall into a pit of spiked bamboo.
I think Sean and Julie have the exact same expression on their faces in this picture.
There was a part of the tour where you could actually go in the tunnels. They told us that they widened the tunnels for the tourists, but it's still pretty darn small. Here's Sean rounding a corner.
Julie got a little freaked out and only went the first small section of the tunnel before she climbed out. Here she is wondering if Sean and I are still alive. I think these tunnels are a claustrophobic's worst nightmare. At one point, the man who was leading us through the tunnels disappeared. I didn't know if he had kept going or went up. There were many exits to leave the tunnels and so you could get out at anytime. Julie saw him get out of the tunnels, but Sean and I were still down there, so she was freaking out a little bit too. She was like, "Uhhh... where's Sean and Anika?" But then she would hear us laughing as we completed another section of tunnel. There were sections of the tunnels that were pitch black. You would have to keep going and then soon you'd see a light.
I was in front for most of the adventure in the tunnels. Then I saw this huge, nasty centipede and I made Sean go first. Gross! After about our third or fourth section, we decided we'd had enough and got out. We could have kept going, but who knows where the tunnel would have led.
Each section of tunnel dropped down and so the farther we went the deeper we were. We were told that most of the tunnels from the war are still completely intact. Only sections damaged by bombs were destroyed. We were told that the American planted a type of grass throughout the jungle and then set it on fire during the dry season. The entire jungle was destroyed. All the trees and plant-life that we saw in the area had been re-planted after the war.
Here we are posing with the Communist-Vietnamese Cu Chi solders after our tour through the tunnels was over. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone visiting Vietnam. The only weird part was watching their propaganda "Cu Chi was a peaceful village before the Americans bombed our entire region" video. I'm sure most of what they said was true in it, but it wasn't the whole story. Our tour guide said that for the most part, people in Vietnam (especially in the South) want to just forget about the Vietnam War. The Southern Vietnamese were not very happy with the outcome and so they just don't want to think or talk about the war. Now they only care about money. They don't care where people come from, they just want to make a living.

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