The tunnels at Cu Chi is one of the most famous attractions in Ho Chi Minh City that you should visit to understand more about the Vietnam War. A visit to this monument will let you see the living conditions of Vietnamese soldiers during the war and how the tunnels system contributed to the victory of the People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam.
Cu Chi Tunnels, the complicated underground system, were created as shelters for the villagers at Cu Chi in 1948, and later expanded to use as a secret base for military commissioners and soldiers. During the two wars, the Indochina War with the French (1945-1954) and the Vietnam War with the US Army (1962-1975), the people dug the tunnels, hid there at daytime, and went for missions at night.
The actual system of the Cu Chi Tunnels includes many levels deep underground, with a total length of about 250 kilometers. The entrances to these tunnels were covered with camouflage leaves and a secret wooden door, and their sizes were so tiny that only the Vietnamese could fit in. And despite the attempt to discover and destroy these tunnels, the US had failed to bring down the system completely because these tunnels were built isolatedly with emergency escapes out to the Saigon River, booby traps, and counterfeit bunkers.
The Cu Chi Tunnels area preserved for tourists is divided into two sections at Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. Most of the sights and exhibits you see are related to the Vietnam War period. There are 3 tunnel levels measuring between 3 to 10 meters underground. For safety reasons, you can only visit the first level and a few meters of these tunnels that have been widened and reinforced so that it would be safe for visitors as the construction in other parts could easily collapse. But the exhibitions and the experience here will help you understand the poor conditions that Vietnamese soldiers and people had to live in and how clever they were to make use of what they had and manage to win the war.
Widened tunnels entrance and path
Address: 741 Tinh Lo 15, Nhuan Duc Commune, Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 8 AM - 5 PM
Ticket price: VND 110,000/person
How to get there: Ben Dinh is about 45 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City’s center (District 1), so it should take about an hour and a half to travel by car or bus without any traffic.
You can take the public bus from Ben Thanh Station (Route 13) or from Cho Lon Station (Route 94) and transit at An Suong Station (Route 122) and Tan Quy Station (Route 70) to come to Ben Dinh.
Get your bus ticket to Cu Chi online:
Address: Phu Hiep Hamlet, Phu My Hung Commune, Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 8 AM - 5 PM
Ticket price: VND 90,000/person
How to get there: When traveling from District 1, to come to Ben Duoc, you will have to travel about another 20-kilometer road further than Ben Dinh. Because of the far distance, it will take you about 2 hours.
If you choose the bus as your transportation, you will also catch the bus Route 13 at Ben Thanh Station or Route 94 at Cho Lon Station, and only make one transit at Cu Chi Station to Route 79 to come to Ben Duoc Tunnels.
For details bus guide, see here.
Lying next to the Saigon River and a place used to be a US Army base, the tunnels at Ben Dinh was the perfect location for Cu Chi District Commissioner to lead people in the area during the war. They could easily escape to the river if the US Army found out their hiding location and they could also make surprise attacks and set traps around the area. This base was used most of the time in the Vietnam War, from 1968 to 1975.
Tunnels simplified model and map
When entering the visiting site at Ben Dinh Tunnels section, you will see the map and simplified models of the tunnels system. Next to them are small bunkers where you can watch a short documentary film about how Cu Chi Tunnels was made. After that, you will get to see the ventilation system - made of bamboo pipes and disguised as termites mounds on the surface - and the iron spikes booby trap.
Ventilation hole and booby trap
The underground and real tunnels exploration begins with the small door to get inside the tunnels. You can try to climb in and out at the same door or follow the small path and get out at another that is a few meters away. Follows that are series of dugouts and small tunnels to get to the places that Vietnamese soldiers had lived, worked, and made weapons, the meeting room, surgery room, A-shelter to prevent collapse during bombing attacks, food, and weapon storage, underground well to get water, fighting bunker, Hoang Cam stove, and a kitchen underground.
Sleeping bunker and meeting room
Kitchen and surgery room
Making weapons and rubber shoes
Other exhibits and remnants are a tank body trapped in the woods, weapons, B52 bomb crater, tunnels entrance in actual size, replicas of traps that Vietnamese soldiers set around the area, as well as how they make clothes and recycle the broken tires to make rubber shoes. Near the way out, there are the shooting range and place where people demonstrate the process of making rice paper and wine, which are traditional crafts of Cu Chi District.
B52 bomb crater
Cassava and peanut salt
And at the end of the tour, when you visit the kitchen bunker to see Hoang Cam stove and find how the smoke from this kitchen was carefully hidden, you will be invited a special dish and tea. They are cassava with peanut salt and pandan leaves tea. They are what people ate every day during the war to survive underground with few supplies and choices of food.
Next to the ticket checking point, you will find a small path leading to the area where there are many helicopters, tanks, bombs that the US Army used in Vietnam War as well as the weapons that Cu Chi guerrillas used against the enemies.
Remnants display and documentary hall
After seeing all of the remnants, you can watch a documentary and listen to the explanation about the complicated tunnels system at a pavilion in the middle of the forests. And like at Ben Dinh, next you will get to go underground through tunnels, dugouts and see different rooms like the living and working space, meeting room, surgery room, shelter, weapon factory, fighting bunker, and kitchen.
Weapons and booby traps
After visiting all these sites, you will come to understand that the Vietnamese were smart in using the underground system to make guerrilla attacks as well as making use of the available items to survive the harsh conditions. Everything that people used in that time, from clothing, shoes, foods, to weapons were all recycled and made by themselves.
The tunnels and underground well
The special thing when visiting Ben Duoc Tunnels section is that you can choose to continue with the exploration by going further into the forest and visit Ben Duoc Temple, shooting range, or the stimulation areas.
The Ben Duoc Temple was established to represent Vietnamese patriotism and as a memorial to the soldiers who sacrificed in the wars; there are over ten thousand names of people who fought and sacrificed written on tablets in the main hall. Standing on the highest floor of the 9-story tower, you will get the chance to have a view of the land once called “Iron Triangle” where Vietnamese make history with an intricate system underground.
You can see a model recreating the Cedar Falls event, the scenery of Cu Chi Village in different periods of the war, from the peaceful image of farmers and buffaloes working on the fields to the wreckage and destroyed houses and forests.
An interesting stimulation here is the "Little Vietnam" with East Sea Stimulated Lake and small replicas of One Pillar Pagoda representing Northern Vietnam, Meridian Gate (in Imperial City of Hue) representing Central Vietnam, and Ho Chi Minh Museum representing Southern Vietnam.
There is one firing range at each tunnel section. Price varies depending on the kind of bullets, and for some types of bullets, you will be asked to buy in a clip including a certain number of bullets.
Carbine: VND 55,000/bullet
Garand: VND 55,000/bullet
M60: VND 55,000/bullet
AR15: VND 60,000/bullet
K 63: VND 60,000/bullet
AK 47: VND 60,000/bullet
PKMS: VND 55,000/bullet
RPD: VND 60,000/bullet
RPK: VND 60,000/bullet
M30: VND 55,000/bullet
Moreover, at the Ben Duoc section, you have another recreational option at the paintball guns field for about VND 100,000 depends on the number of bullets you purchase.
Because Ben Dinh is closer to Ho Chi Minh City’s center, it is usually the stop of many tour groups, and thus packed with people. You may have to wait in line to see the exhibits or visit the tunnels. However, if you have a tight schedule of other places you want to visit, it seems like a better choice.
While Ben Duoc Tunnels’ attraction area is a bit further from Ben Dinh Tunnels’, it is much less crowded and unexploited. You should go with a local guide to help you go through and understand the stories behind all of the historical attractions that are offered here. If you are in to fully explore the magnificent roles Cu Chi Tunnels played in the Vietnam War, Ben Duoc is the place worth your visit.
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If you have heart diseases, phobias, respiration problems or walking difficulty, it is advisable that you should not go underground to visit the tunnels as they are narrow and quite steep at some points. You can see the surface shelter with more open-air and fewer steep steps.
Another thing you should notice before getting to the site of the tunnels at Ben Dinh is that you will have to go through a tiled tunnel for ticket check that can be a bit steep and difficult to walk. However, there are handrails on two sides to give you aid.
In both sections, it should take around two hours or more to visit all the tunnels and dugouts. They are both good choices of half-day or day trip from Ho Chi Minh City for any who loves history. You can also extend your visit time to try out the shooting ranges, do some shopping at the souvenir shops or eating at the restaurants.
Also, when visiting Ben Duoc section, you can also choose to visit the Ben Duoc Temple, Stimulation of Cu Chi Liberated Area, of Eastern Sea, and of North-Central-South famous attractions, as well as the Sai Gon-Cho Lon-Gia Dinh Revolutionary Tradition Monument. If you visit them all, your trip will extend to a few more hours to a whole day.
When going to Cu Chi Tunnels, you can visit either Ben Dinh Tunnels section, which is a closer site, or Ben Duoc Tunnels section, a bit further than Ben Dinh, but you can explore other attractions besides the tunnels system such as Ben Duoc Temple and Cedar Falls stimulation area. You will get the chance to have not only a better understanding of the Vietnam War but also a closer look and experience life in a rural area of Ho Chi Minh City.
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