Not exactly Gucci
There are a lot of fancy, upscale stores around Saigon. You can buy a Rolex (the real kind), Prada shoes or a Rolls Royce. So when you hear talk about “Gucci”, you’re thinking:
What people are talking about is spelled “Cu Chi”, and it refers to the tunnels that the Viet Cong built, lived in and fought from starting in 1948 through the end of the war in 1975. It only sounds exactly the same.
So 14 of us from the tour group took the trip out to the tunnels. It’s about a 2 hour drive to get there, even though it’s only 40 miles or so. Traffic is horrendous, and then the country roads are very poor and you just can’t get the bus moving very fast.
Arriving at the site, we were greeted with a static display of left over war armaments–a couple of howitzers, a couple of MiG aircraft, and a Huey helicopter. After the guide bought our tickets and everyone visited the “happy house” (Vietnamese euphemism for the toilets), we set off through the brush to see the tunnels.
There were over 250 km of tunnels at one time, built over more than 25 years of fighting without lumber or shoring in the hardpan dirt. They ranged from 3 to 10 meters below the surface, and were tiny, poorly ventilated, dark and scary. This is the first one we came to, where you can enter at one point and come up about 15 meters later:
Even a 5′ 4″ tall Vietnamese soldier had to stoop to pass through these tiny places; 6′ 2″ Mike ended up crawling on hands and knees to make it to the exit–there is no turning around, either.
Since I don’t have the knees to duck-walk through the low-ceilinged tunnel and it’s just possible I’m too wide to make it comfortably, I passed on the opportunity. Seeing Mike with dirty knees from crawling convinced me that I had made the right decision.
But, you are asking, how did they get in and out of the tunnels without being discovered? Darned good question, and here’s the answer:
There was another tunnel, exiting into a meeting room that had been dug out so we could see it. Gail got into the tunnel to show how small it really is:
We had an 8 year old girl on the tour who had a great time–she was the only one who comfortably fit. Imagine having to live in these underground burrows, with bad air, little lights, no easy way to cook, pit toilets, no chance to stand up and stretch, just darkness, damp and danger. And they did it for more than a quarter century, surviving raids, bombings, bulldozers, bugs, infections, malnutrition and fear.
The Cu Chi tunnels were a highlight of our tour, even though they were an added-on extra after the tour had officially ended. If you ever get here, don’t miss them.