One of many hidden entrances to one of the Cu Chi tunnels.
The Viet Cong tunnel system is a 75 mile complex (121 kms) that amazes, educates, and gives a good shot of claustrophobia too as US troops were well aware, especially the 'tunnel rats' who used to pursue the 'Cong into and through the tunnels, "Out of the Blue and into the Black," as Neil Young sang. Another expression used by GIs to describe the tunnel experience was "The Black Echo."
Inside one of the larger tunnels.
Subterranean life was not easy for the 'Cong as the tunnels lacked air and water, and the food and human residue in them attracted various unpleasant insect forms, such as poisonous centipedes, scorpions, spiders and the deadliest of all, mosquitoes. Malaria was rampant underground and the second biggest killer of Viet Cong after battle wounds.
A model of the Viet Cong's Cu Chi tunnel system.
Multiple levels and exits made initial US army attempts to shut tunnels down by throwing in hand grenades or pumping in gas ineffective, as the enemy escaped by another concealed door, so tunnel rat volunteers were trained to enter tunnels with little more than a knife, flashlight and pistol, avoiding booby traps, punji traps, Viet Cong ambush and overwhelming psychological assault.
A Cu Chi shooting range offering a wide variety of automatic weapons.
Tourists visiting the Cu Chi complex can not crawl/crouch/waddle along tunnels which in some cases have been made larger to accommodate the larger size of Western tourists, while low-power lights have been installed in several of them to make movement easier. Underground conference rooms where campaigns were planned have been restored and visitors can enjoy (OK, maybe 'try' would be a better word!) a typical meal that Viet Cong fighters would have eaten (rat fried rice for example), inspect an underground Command Centre and also fire a variety of assault rifles, such as the M16 rifle or AK-47, as well as a light machine gun like the M60.
And when the tourist has had enough of the war's shock and awe unpleasantness it's time to go shopping for silks, hand-painted sandals...
...or trying superb local cuisine, whether it's pricey, like this Elephant Ear Fish from the Mekong River with an inscrutably muddy taste...
...or superb value spring rolls and two veg, or even a simple....
...dish of noodles on the street.
Vietnamese cuisine is light, fresh, inexpensive, diverse and delightful. It's less spicy than Thai food, and less oily than Chinese. Fresh ingredients are always used with lots of herbs.
Street eats, especially Pho (noodle soup, in beef or chicken form) is particularly more-ish, nourishing and hygienic. Boiled street food is a good tasty but safe starting point for delicate foreign stomachs.
Excellent seafood is served everywhere, while Chinese or French influenced food is widely available, particularly in Hanoi and Saigon. Travellers will also enjoy fine local coffee and Asia's best French bread
Or Mui Ne beach >>>
Or Ho Chi Minh City >>>