Throughout the Vietnam-American War, the Viet Cong built an enormous network of tunnels that were used as meeting points, hiding places, supply routes and more. The Viet Cong (north Vietnamese fighters) often spent many days or weeks at a time in the tunnels, speaking to their sheer strength and will power. Not only were the tunnels elaborate, but the traps and unique weapons that they used in conjunction with the tunnels were astoundingly innovative. Ultimately, their ability to use the tunnels as a means to house troops and move supplies greatly contributed to the eventual withdrawal of American troops.
Today the Cu Chi Tunnels are a big tourist attraction near Ho Chi Minh City. At the tunnels, tourists can get a greater insight into life in the area. They show you how the residents and soldiers repurposed war materials to make everyday items, how they survived for long periods of time in the tunnels, and even how they passed supplies to soldiers within the tunnels. They also have a shooting range there where visitors can shoot the military guns used at the time. The tunnels are a great way to spend half a day understanding an integral part of Vietnam’s history. On the way there or back, you can make the trip a little longer and stop at the Cao Dai church. Cao Dai is a new religion created in Vietnam, but already has a massive following. They have built a beautiful temple in Tay Ninh near Cu Chi, which is also the main centre for the religion. If you time it right, you can view a service where hundreds of monks pray at one time. It is quite a sight!
Details: To get to Cu Chi, you have a few different options. You can take a private car, open tour bus, or public bus. If you prefer a full tour of Cu Chi tunnels and the surrounding area, many tour companies offer a car or boat tour, but keep in mind that tours a Cu Chi are offered for free as well. When you arrive there, if you are not part of a tour group, a tour operator that works there will herd you into a group and give you a free tour, which is the exact same as the pre-booked tours although the operator’s language skills may be better in the paid tour. Many of the open tour buses leave at 8 am and will cost around $5 for both the ride and a tour of the tunnels. Or, if you want to go by public transport, you can take bus #13 from the Ben Thanh bus depot directly to Cu Chi for about 6000VND. Note that there are two tunnel sites – the main one is Ben Dinh and the other one is Ben Duoc. Most tours will take you to Ben Dinh, but the public bus stops at a junction where you will get off and walk to the right to get to Ben Dinh. Admission to the tunnels is 90,000 VND.
At the Cao Dai church, a mass is held at 6 am, noon, 6 pm and at midnight. Most tourists go to the midday service. They have built a balcony that overlooks the main service hall so that you can get a really good view of the ceremony. Many tour companies, especially the open tour bus companies, offer a complete tour that takes you to Cu Chi, the Cao Dai church for the midday service and back for around $7-10. Most tours start early around 8 am so if that doesn’t work for you, a private tour may be the best option.