“Local pride”. What everybody advocates when it comes to tourism. However, is it only limited to buying souvenirs or home-grown products? Cu Chi Tunnels goes beyond that.
On the first week of October, my officemates Mab, Kuya Julius, Kay and I boarded a plane to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam. For this trip, we were hosted by Kuya Julius’ sister’s family, the Calibaras. We did not waste time!
Resilience of the Vietnamese People
We headed over the Backpackers Street (Pham Ngu Lao) to book a tour package to Cu Chi district of HCMC. We were entertained by our Cu Chi Tunnels tour guide Mr. Bom which has quite an interesting story.
He may not speak English too well, but he made us laugh and think. He was one of those people who experienced the Vietnam War firsthand — and even had a bullet scar to show.
Our first stop before Cu Chi Tunnels was the Handicapped Handicrafts. Individuals with different disabilities unleash their creativity in making Vietnam-themed portraits made of eggshells. Taking photos in the gallery is strictly prohibited. But I have to say, the works are quite expensive primarily because it is an enterprise that caters to the disabled’s needs.
Cu Chi Tunnels: Genius and Grit during the Vietnam War
In no time, we made it to the Cu Chi Tunnels proper. These 75-mile long networks of tunnels were used a hiding places and strategical base camps to manufacture weapons as well as entrap foreign intruders.
Mr. Bom tells that every Vietnamese has a story to tell when it comes to the war. On his part, he still gets tearful in telling the story of how he lost his entire family to the wire, but managed to survive until now.
One of the big factors of their survival can be summed up in the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels were preserved by the government, and were enlarged and restored to accommodate tourists.
The Cu Chi Tunnels were used as secret supply and communication routes for the Viet Cong soldiers. Being an agricultural country, they had to be resourceful and tactful when it comes to resisting American forces using only what is readily available to them.
The Viet Cong designed trap doors with bamboo spears and tunnel systems dug by hand. Below, we finally got to immerse ourselves into the lives of the soldiers during the war.
We delved into a short tunnel system that only goes smaller, darker and windier as you go in. Thankfully, the Cu Chi Tunnels have been cemented and dim lights illuminate the way. So… not very Viet Cong experience after all.
In reality, the Cu Chi Tunnels used to be laden with booby traps and explosives and has effective design to that the it became a frustration to the Americans who failed in many of their operations to destroy the tunnel systems.
Lots of travel bloggers do not recommend going to the Cu Chi Tunnels because it is mainly of historical significance. You really have to go with an open heart to understand its significance to their lives today.
I have to say that Mr. Bom looked really proud of Vietnam’s history. After all, they have stood and prevailed against a super power like the US — with mainly a troop of farmers who did not know much about systematic combat but with skills, intelligence and heart to fight.
I know they always say “local pride” about tourism. But I felt it in a very real way, of all places, inside the Cu Chi Tunnels.