I was up at at 7 in order to catch the tour bus to The Tunnels.
(View from the bus window)
The Cu Chi Tunnels:
The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located near Ho Chi Minh and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. (250 kms of tunnels in total.) The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War.
The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding places during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for North Vietnamese fighters.
Tunnels were just wide enough to fit a very small person.
And just high enough for them to crawl through.
And pitch black with no light source.
Claustrophobic x 1,000
American soldiers used the term "Black Echo" to describe the conditions within the tunnels. For the Viet Cong, life in the tunnels was difficult. Air, food and water were scarce and the tunnels were infested with ants, poisonous centipedes, scorpions, spiders and vermin. Most of the time, soldiers would spend the day in the tunnels working or resting and come out only at night to scavenge for supplies, tend their crops, or engage the enemy in battle. Sometimes, during periods of heavy bombing or American troop movement, they would be forced to remain underground for many days at a time. Sickness was rampant among the people living in the tunnels, especially malaria, which was the second largest cause of death next to battle wounds. A captured Viet Cong report suggests that at any given time half of the unit had malaria and that “one-hundred percent had intestinal parasites of significance".
The tunnels of Củ Chi did not go unnoticed by U.S. officials. They recognized the advantages that the Viet Cong held with the tunnels, and accordingly launched several major campaigns to search out and destroy the tunnel system.
Rarely would anyone be sent in to search the tunnels, as it was so hazardous. The tunnels were often rigged with explosive booby traps and stick pits. The two main responses in dealing with a tunnel opening were to flush the entrance with gas, water or hot tar to force the Viet Cong soldiers into the open, or to toss a few grenades down the hole and “crimp” off the opening. This approach proved ineffective due to the design of the tunnels and the strategic use of trap doors and air filtration systems.
Those tunnels were about as scary, dark, sad, miserable as I imagined they would be.
I shot an M16...
We wandered around in the jungle for another hour or so, looking at various tunnels and displays and the gift shop. The jungle sounds were deafening at times. Birds? Rodents? Screeching and cooing and ticking and buzzing and cackling. I tried recording it, with my phone, but I'm pretty much useless with my phone. So you'll just have to take my word for it. It was a symphony of sounds unlike anything I'd ever heard before.
And then we got back on the bus. And I took pics out the window.
They astound me.
I got back to the hotel around noon and was looking forward to spending a few hours at the pool while Minh and Sue worked.
It was not meant to be.