One of the places which everybody told me to visit in Vietnam is the Cu Chi tunnels.
You will have seen them and a brief explanation of their history in my last video. The tunnels themselves are quite amazing simply as a feat of human engineering, but when you add to that the history of the tunnels and the fact that they were not just for defence but that people actually lived, cooked, and had industry within them, then the feat becomes astounding.
The tunnels themselves by the end of the Vietnam War stretched for over 120 kms and were significant in winning the War. The design of the tunnels meant that the American technological advantage was largely ineffective.
During the War the Americans dropped over half a million tonnes on a 100km area around Cu Chi. Many of the craters can still be seen as you walk around the park. The size of the bombs dropped is a stark reminder of what it must have been like to have to live underground for days at a time.
The tunnels themselves vary in size. You can squat in some while others you have to crawl through on your stomach. The tunnels at the time of the War were infested with Rats, spiders and other vermin. Sickness, especially Malaria and intestinal parasites were rife.
Now the tunnels have been turned in to a tourist attraction and are maintained my the Vietnamese Government.
My experience of the tunnels was a very nervous one. Being underground in a confined space is one of my great weaknesses and it took a lot of coaxing myself to finally get in the tunnels. The hardest part was climbing in through the small door at the beginning. The entrance is only big enough for you to squeeze your body through slowly and once the door is replaced you are in total darkness with only the bugs, the smell of earth and your own imagination to keep you company. My heart was pounding in my chest and the only way I could get through it was to concentrate on the furthest most point I could see and then not to stop. I cannot fathom having to live down there.
It really makes you think about just how far humans will go to survive and what they will do to stay in their homeland and fight for their cause. The strength of will that it must have taken to live in this place would have been incredible.
It’s easy sometimes to forget when you are at places like this that men and woman were only a few decades ago fighting and dying all around you. It’s a sobering thought and reminder sometimes as you watch kids laughing, climbing and playing in the tunnels and on the ruined tanks that life sometimes is not without a sick sense of humour.