History without war in its pages is incomplete. The human condition of violently expressing himself through the death of another is revealed through the many creative ways one can kill. This is the “travel treasure” I found in the people of Cu Chi. The Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam is a must visit for travelers who value history and culture in their itineraries. A two hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) where you can book a half day group tour for USD$15 each from one of the many trusted travel agencies found near Ben Tham Ward (Market). Meanwhile, I found myself in the company of other curious minds from Australia and the Netherlands herded together by an articulate English speaking Vietnamese guide.
Our destination, one of the two tunnel complex opened for local and foreign tourists; Ben Duoc Tunnel which serves as a memorial park for the revolutionary forces of the Vietnamese people and Ben Dinh Tunnel which was the base of the Cu Chi District Party Committee during their guerrilla war with the Americans, we were heading for the latter. The history of the people in Cu Chi is as complex as the tunnels they built underground. While the air was dry and the heat index reached 40 degrees Celsius, we watched the propaganda documentary film as a precursor to our guided walk in the tunnel complex.
The first thing your guide will show you was how the guerrillas used their environment efficiently by disguising bunkers, sniper nests, observation posts, and air vents as termite mounds. Their concealment are like ghosts, you wouldn’t even see them from 3 meters away or on top of it, unless someone knows what to look for and point it at you. After learning how they dug those tunnels you can take memorable photos climbing out of a trap door the size of a shoe box concealed with dirt and dry leaves. I was surprised that I fit through that small hole considering my 80kg built. But what many find shocking were the many human traps with bamboo spikes showcased in a row like famous portraits by national artists. Finally, not for the faint of heart, the highlight of the Cu Chi Tunnels experience is crawling through the narrow and humid shafts down to three levels. Experiencing this brief journey into the depths of what could certainly be hell during the war, forms in you a perspective about the costs of one of the most inhumane acts man invented. In the end, this is how it should be, in the past, remembered but learned for the costs of war are too horrific to consider.