One of the things we were told we have to do in Saigon is visit the Cu Chi Tunnels.
These are an incredible network of underground tunnels which many military operations were based in the Vietnam war. The tunnels were used as hiding spots during the war and were used to house communities of North Vietnamese fighters, hospitals, schools, they were used as large food storage areas and also served as communication routes. These tunnels were so well connected that they had a great advantage over the Americans. Despite many US attempts to destroy the tunnels, they underestimated the size of the tunnels and weren’t aware of all the trap doors and air filtration systems used within the tunnels. that they offered many means of escape, and contributed to the success in winning the war. Some of these tunnels have been preserved by the government and converted into a war memorial park which are now a highly popular tourist attraction.
From our hostel, a bus took us to Bach Dang pier where we embarked on a motorboat, along serene, calming backwaters, to the jungle-surrounded museum. On arrival, we were made to watch a propaganda, anti-American film about the war, and the victory of North Vietnam. As we were guided around the memorial park, we were shown a variety of terrifying booby traps and how they worked, and of course we were shown a number of tunnels which were considered safe for tourists to enter – and had been enlarged to accommodate our larger frames. The size of one of the tunnels was so tiny I couldn’t fit my hips through, and yet this was where soldiers would hide.
I went down some of the tunnels, which gradually got narrower and lower the further I went. Combined with the heat and humidity down there, I didn’t go quite as far as the girls and made my way out via one of the newly-added staircases along the way.
As we browsed the souvenir shots, waiting for the rest of our group to finish their tour, our ears were ringing and our heads were pounding from the loud shots coming from the nearby shooting range. Tourists can choose to fire a gun of their choice, including a machine gun… Perfect.
Instead of heading back to our guesthouse, we had the bus drop us off near the war museum which we visited after a lunch break. The War Remnants Museum is one of the most popular museums in Vietnam and has a high number of foreign tourists. If there’s one message this museum is trying to say, it’s that the Americans are “bastards”. Every piece of information comments on how the Americans were to blame for every death or injury, and imply that it was all one-sided. There is a torture chamber where Americans are said to have carried out horrific acts of violence towards the North Vietnamese, there are jars of mutilated fetuses, showing the effects of the Agent Orange attacks, large photos of decapitated soldiers cover the walls, photos of deceased photos, and writings from photographers depicting what happened to the subject after the photo was taken.
This visit to the museum is a particularly emotional one and I would advise dedicating half a day looking around. We only had a couple of hours and we didn’t even get the whole way around. It is definitely on my ‘to revisit’ list.