I wasn’t familiar with the urban exploration situation in Vietnam before I landed in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), but after doing a Google search, I quickly learned about the abandoned war bunkers at the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Exploring underground abandoned places is not typically my thing, probably because the opportunity has never arisen. But when I found myself crawling through the water-pipe thin tunnels and checking out bunkers that Vietnamese soldiers used to fight in during their decades of blood-shed war, I realised how much I enjoyed it. I don’t have claustrophobia or a fear of the dark so shimmying along the ancient tunnels was highly exciting and a new experience for me.
The History of the Cu Chi Tunnels
The three-story tunnels were built over a period of 25 years that began in the late 1940s and were made up of 250 km of water-pipe sized tunnels and chambers below the city. offer a fascinating insight into how the Vietnamese protected themselves and their families against the war, and how they fought against over 3 million American soldiers (10% of the USA population at that time) between 1955 – 1975. The resilience and fighting spirit of the Vietnamese people is clearly evident when you see how they designed and used the tunnels to protect themselves and their families. Unfortunately, over 45,000 Vietnamese people died doing so.
Hundreds and thousands of people lived their daily lived in the tunnels and even built living quarters, factories, kitchens with concealed chimneys, bomb shelters, theater and movie halls within the underground web of passages. Over 130 babies were born in the pitch black and they had to be brought out at night-time and transported to nearby villages, as there wasn’t enough oxygen underground for them to survive with.
That’s not to say there was no oxygen though. The Vietnamese built ventilation systems which consisted of mounds of grass on ground level with holes in the side. Multiple bamboo sticks were connected and pushed through the holes. This way, air could get down into the tiny, claustrophobic tunnels.
One guerrilla tactic the Vietnamese used was tying an ultra-venomous snake (dubbed the three-step snake because it allowed its victims to take three steps before it attacked) to the bamboo sticks, which when disturbed, would attack the trespasser wriggling along in the dark. Only hand-picked teams of specially trained U.S. “tunnel rats” had a reasonable chance of emerging from the burrows alive.