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Cu Chi Tunnels

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Cu Chi Tunnels, long term travel, Southeast Asia, Travel, Vietnam

Saigon and The Cu Chi Tunnels

My stay in Saigon was eye opening. To be honest, I’m not too knowledgeable about the Vietnam War, so I was definitely in for an education and I learned just how gruesome this war was for both the Americans and the Vietnamese. Our first full day in Vietnam was spent touring the Reunification Palace, which has been left in the same exact condition it was in when Northern Vietnam rolled troops in on April 30, 1975 and forced the President of South Vietnam to surrender, consequently ending the war.

We then made our way to the War Remnants Museum, where I saw graphic firsthand accounts from journalists, photographers, soldiers and the Vietnamese people, who lived and died during the war. Also off to one side was a special photography exhibit on the affects Agent Orange has had on the people, both Vietnamese and American, who were exposed to it.

Agent Orange is a chemical agent that was used by US troops to clear land, so they could navigate during the war. It literally destroys anything in its path. Unfortunately, the after affects continue to ruin as many lives now as they did during wartime, and the most disturbing effect has been the number of birth defects in the children of the soldiers’ who were exposed to the agent. These are often severe deformities, like missing limbs, extra fingers, blindness, cerebral palsy and cleft palates. Again, this is an aftermath that both US and Vietnamese families are having to deal with.

While in Saigon, we also had the opportunity to take a day trip out to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is a network of underground tunnels built by the Vietnamese during the war. They cover about 150 kilometers in total, and became home for many soldiers and families alike, who were seeking shelter from the warfare going on above ground. The tunnels were like a maze, and because of the Vietnamese peoples’ ingenuity and knowledge of the terrain, the tunnels became key in helping the NorthVietnamese win the war.

We had the opportunity to crawl down into, and through these tunnels, and I’ll just warn you now- it’s not for the claustrophobic. Not only was I completely closed in, but it was also pitch black, so I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. It is hard to imagine people living in these kinds of conditions for years on end.

At the end of the tour, we had the chance to fire some old guns, and I opted for an M-16. Let’s just say, I need some target practice and better earplugs before I attempt that again! It was a unique day, and like I said, one that was very humbling and eye-opening, but I feel better for having an understanding of that time period in history, and the way it has shaped modern day Vietnam and its people.