Heading back from dinner at 11pm was when we decided that it would be a good idea to visit Cu Chi Tunnels the following day. Luckily, the travel agencies in District 1 are open (very) late and the one next door to our hotel still had places available on its ‘luxury’ tour. Luxury ($8, compared to ‘Standard’ $4) allegedly meant a mini-bus with a small group of fellow tourists and included an English speaking guide.
$8 per person for a ‘luxury’ tour? Sure!
The mini-bus was indeed mini… in the narrow sense (we had trouble sitting side-by-side) and packed with tourists! More uncomfortable than we would have thought possible. However, as the tunnels are only 70km from Ho Chi Minh City, we figured, it wasn’t that big a deal.
Our ‘English’ speaking guide, however, barely spoke English. His pronunciation was so bad that our group resorted to shouting out guesses to help him ‘guide’ us. Some of the guesses were hilarious! At the end of the day, however, several things remain a mystery as no one managed to guess correctly.
When you are paying for a tour in Asia you have to accept that you will be taken to places that are not on the itinerary. These are usually professional tourist-traps where they try and make you buy something.
Our detour on this trip was to a handicraft factory specializing in lacquer ware. Apparently, the factory was set up after the war to help handicapped people earn a living. Years later in Vietnam there are still lots of handicapped people working in these factories.
The Cu Chi tunnels are over 200km long. The tunnel system dates back to 1940. They were used by Viet Cong guerrillas. There was an entire underground city with hospitals, kitchens (with chimneys far away to misdirect US troops), weapons factories and living quarters. In some places there were several levels of tunnels.
Rolling trap door with bamboo or metal spikes which were covered with poison or human excrement with the intention of inflicting serious wounds and infections on unlucky American soldiers.
You can fire an AK-47, M-60 or an M-16 there too. Each bullet costs $5 and you have to buy a minimum of 10. From our group, some Canadian tourists were the only ones that decided to go for it. Incredibly loud. So much louder than handguns!