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The intimidating village of Cu Chi

Jagmandeep Singh, May 29, 2015
Travel opens you heart, broadens your mind and fills your mind with stories to tell.
Cu Chi Village

It was a lovely get-together. We met our friends after a long time - chatted and partied till the wee hours. The interesting part was that we indulged in a game, wherein, we shared our worst fears. Taking it forward, my wife - a claustrophobic, decided to overcome her fear by exploring the Cu Chi Village in Vietnam.

Cu Chi, Cu Chi!!! It is not as exotic as it sounds. This is the village from where Vietnamese Revolutionary Army planned their attacks during the Vietnam War. In fact, they created a 250 km underground tunnel system which the US Army could never decipher properly throughout the war.

The government has opened a section for tourists at Cu Chi village. As per our guide, these tunnels were built in a manner to help soldiers escape easily after an attack, and in part, it is split at multiple levels to create housing facilities for families, hospitals for war casualties, etc. It is a self contained set-up with training facilities, engineering workshops, cobbler shop, rice paper and wine factory.

During wartime, the Vietnamese soldiers survived on “Tapioca and grounded peanuts”, to stay lean and energetic. We tasted it and trust me it was quite insipid. The stories narrated by the locals were quite heartbreaking. Since the access to the tunnels was too small and narrow for US soldiers to enter, they used to release sewer rats. It is said, more people died of sickness and suffocation in these tunnels than bullet or shell injuries.

We moved ahead in the forest. Along the path were displayed different types of traps, we crossed a shirk shop, an old captured tank to arrive at the firing range, where we got trigger-happy on the M1 infantry rifles or M2 Carbines. The recoil and sound of the weapons were amazing. We spent over 3 hours in the forest, and slowly made way towards the last section.

village of Cu Chi

We entered a bunker and the guide pointed towards an opening in the ground and said, ‘Feel free to follow me, he got down on all fours and disappeared. One after the other people from a group started going in and so did my wife, and I was the last man standing. Looking at the size, I decided against it. A 10-meter long section that has been expanded to give tourists a first-hand experience. Even after expansion the tunnels are narrow with hardly any ventilation. Word of Advice, if you are claustrophobic or a big built person, don’t even attempt it. Fortunately, I’m both.

On the other side, when people started popping out, it was scary to see their faces; sweaty, little disoriented, gasping for air but it was once in a life time experience. Many of them conquered their fear of closed spaces, my wife being one of them. It was time to head back to the hotel. On our drive back, we were all introspecting and thinking about the tough journey of the Vietnamese people. It’s heartbreaking but that’s what has made them stronger.

We dined on the rooftop restaurant at the hotel over-looking the Saigon River, sipping on drinks and reminiscing our time in this beautiful place. We were glad we took this trip.