Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part post about my Ho Chi Minh City experience with Urban Adventures.
Read Part 1: Travel to Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh Discovery Tour with Urban Adventures
My second full day in Vietnam, I took the Cu Chi Tunnels tour and my guide, Trinh, was just as nice and accommodating as Jay from the previous day’s Ho Chi Minh Discovery Tour. And speaking of Jay, he met me in front of the historic Saigon Post Office, meeting point for the Cu Chi Tunnels tour to say “hello.”
I was happy to see him because I feel as though he was my first friend I met in Vietnam.
“I told Trinh to take care of you because you’re my special jewel,” he told me, then gave me a big hug.
I suspect it was because I gave him a nice tip after the previous day’s tour but in either case, it was extremely nice seeing him, his comment and hug gave me the warm fuzzies and I hope he gets his wish someday, to visit the United States.
On the way to the tunnels, Trinh said there will be an anti-American propaganda film shown prior to venturing into the tunnels and specifically said I could skip it if I wished.
“Did Jay tell you he made me cry in the War Remnants Museum?” I teased.
“Yes, he did,” Trinh replied in a serious tone.
“I’ll be fine,” I assured him.
Let me explain, the War Remnants Museum was filled with anti-U.S. propaganda, as expected, and I got a little emotional in the Agent Orange Room. It included photos of Vietnamese impacted by it along with preserved babies with birth defects floating in a fluid. Jay told me he liked the U.S. but didn’t like what Agent Orange did. I think it’s a general consensus, no one, whether Vietnamese or American, liked what Agent Orange did and I broke down crying in this room.
Prior to arriving at the tunnels, we stopped at a woman’s house and learned to make rice paper and fed the adorable piglets and mamma pigs rice paper. (Think about, it’s made from rice so of course it’s edible.)
There were at least a dozen people on this tour, with visitors ranging from the U.S. (in addition to me), Australia and the U.K. “P” led us through the grounds which included learning about the different booby traps the Vietnamese in South Vietnamese used to deter (torture) the U.S. soldiers, or as they referred to them in Vietnam, the G.I.s. These included barbaric means of trap doors with deadly stakes piercing victims when they fell through trap doors dug into the earth.
“You can fire a gun captured from the G.I.s,” I was told and wasn’t sure if there was something lost in translation. Sure enough, I later found myself at the shooting range pulling the trigger on an M16.
The Cu Chi tunnels, which has an elaborate underground tunnel system used by the Cu Chi people during the Vietnam War, was the site of many battles during the war and the Viet Cong were based there in 1968 during the Tet Offensive. Today, it’s a war memorial park and tourist attraction.
Agent Orange deforested the area and Cu Chi people hid below ground and constructed various booby traps to defend themselves. The morbid examples of these are on display and many included trap doors covering a pit dug into the earth which contained spikes or other barbaric means to fatally injure someone.
During the tour, there was an opportunity to jump into a tunnel and raise the covering over your head for a photo opp. I didn’t do that because I didn’t think I’d be able to get out but I was the sole female to crouch down and waddle like a duck through a portion of a tunnel (I think it was about 10 meters).
Let me tell ya, it was pretty dang dark and tight quarters but there was some dim lighting, which was added to accommodate tourists. Entering the tunnels, one of the 30-something guys from New York offered to help me down the step stairwell but I assured him I looked more capable than I looked.
Also on site were scenes reenacting what Vietnam soldiers may be doing, at least one tank and a man making sandals out of tires, similar to what the Cu Chi people wore during the Vietnam War. Not only were they pretty cool because they were made from tires, they were designed so the footprint gave the illusion the person was walking in the opposite direction they actually were.
Because I was on a city tour, I didn’t get to see everything on the property but saw enough to help me understand a little of what our soldiers went through and the mindset of the South Vietnamese (whom we were defending, I think) and Viet Cong. Cu Chi tunnels are significant in American history and glad I made the trip, although I’m sure my perception of the war was different from the non-American tourists.
When you visit, be sure to watch the introductory film to learn about the area. Yes, it’s an anti-American propaganda film shown in a dug out shelter shaded by thatched leaves. I asked the Urban Adventures guide what happened to the teenage girl featured in the late 1960s film and who was lauded as a hero for killing several G.I.’s.
“Oh, that was just propaganda,” he told me.
The next day was all about food and it began with the Pho Trail – A Morning Walking Tour with Saigon Street Eats and ended with Saigon Street Food by Night tour with Urban Adventures. (Tip: when you book through the link, you’ll receive $10 off an Urban Adventures Tour!)
View additional images from my trip on my Flickr stream.
Travel guides I used during the trip:
- Vietnam: 100 Unusual Travel Tips and a Guide to Living and Working There
- Lonely Planet Vietnam (Travel Guide)
- Survival Vietnamese: How to Communicate without Fuss or Fear – Instantly! (Vietnamese Phrasebook) (Survival Series)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to support my traveling habit but opinions are my own.