Mar 21, 2016

Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels

On our recent visit to Ho Chi Minh City John and I stayed at the ParkRoyal Hotel where staying at Orchid Club Level was well worth it.  Orchid Club level included free transportation to/from the airport, breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktails, and laundry for up to four garments per day.
They have great service, a lovely pool, and a spa. ParkRoyals always offer great value.  Our main reason for the stopover in Ho Chi Minh City, which many still call Saigon, was to revisit the Cao Dai Temple and Cu Chi Tunnels. I made arrangement for a private car and driver so as to avoid a large group tour which always includes a shopping stop plus I wanted to return by boat. It worked out perfectly.

After our stop at the Cao Dai Temple we traveled to the Cu Chi Tunnels.  We visited them the first time in 1998 and things have changed. The tunnels are an immense network of underground tunnels outside of HCMC that played a key part in the Vietnam War.  As incredible as it may seem the tunnels were like an underground village with a communication area, hospitals, storage areas for food and weapons, and living quarters. Most of t
he time soldiers spent the day in the tunnels and came out at night. Today tourists visit an area of the tunnels that has been developed for tourism.  I was told the area we visited previously was mainly for Vietnamese and it is less developed.  Now foreign visitors enter through an extensive gift shop and a long tunnel walkway. There is a sign saying that visitors 70 and older are not allowed but no one was checking.  The first stop was in an underground room (there are several) with a thatched roof to see a grainy video of the war.  The tunnels have been enlarged to accommodate Western tourists and low wattage bulbs have been installed.  A guide gives a
demonstration of how the tunnels were accessed through a nearly invisible hole in the ground and then visitors can try it.  There are displays of booby traps that were used. It is much more elaborate and organized than our first visit but now there are thousands of visitors daily.  There are many above the ground activities such as a shooting range where one can fire assault rifles, view caged monkeys and, of course, shop for souvenirs. 

We had lunch at a riverside restaurant while waiting to catch our boat ride back to Saigon. Les Rives offers interesting tours by boat and bike to the Cu Chi Tunnels but it doesn’t include the Cao Dai Temple so we arranged just to take the boat back to Saigon.  It was a great speed boat ride on the Saigon River.  I love viewing the scenes on and along the river.  Therewere large barges transporting 100s of clay pots and people fishing and
going about their daily activities. We paused for a few minutes to get pictures of the beautiful sunset. As we got closer to Saigon we passed many riverside restaurants and disembarked at a place set up to hold dozens of weddings at one time. There were many weddings going on and ladies in traditional dress waiting to greet those attending the weddings.  Interesting.  We paid $50 for the ride and it included transport back to the Park Royal. An interesting day to say the least.