Today Ho Chi Minh City is very much the heart of Vietnamese business and entrepreneurs. Incomes here are typically twice that of Hanoi and the city’s skyline is rapidly changing, reflecting the sharp influx of foreign trade within the last decade. And yet for all this modernity, the city still retains its connections to the past, particularly so in Cholon, Saigon’s Chinatown. Here dozens of elegant temples and pagodas can be seen. The French too left their mark here – the city has many street cafes and patisseries where fresh croissants can be purchased The Cu Chi Tunnels were pivotal to the Communist’s victory over the Americans and the South Vietnamese Armies as they allowed the Viet Cong to control a large rural area around Saigon. At its height, the tunnel system, parts of which were several levels deep, stretched over 200kms from Saigon to the Cambodian border
The area of Cu Chi was one of the most pro-communist districts in the far south; indeed the VC used the tunnels to organize the 1968 Tet Offensive. During the American War the entire area of Cu Chi was designated a free fire zone and was heavily bombarded: you can still see numerous craters caused by 500 pound B52bombs.
It was this persistant bombing campaign that drove many of the residents of Cu Chi together with the Viet Cong underground. Originally the tunnels had been created as far back as 1948 to help combat the French. Now they were rapidly expanded to include innumerable trap doors, specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centres kitchens and even schools.
Today the remaining tunnels of this intricate network have been widened to accommodate the larger western frame and have now become a major tourist attraction giving the visitor a unique experience of what underground life in the American war must have been like and a deep appreciation of the courage and ingenuity of the Vietnamese people