On Monday morning, we were back at that infamous pick-up point again to board the tour bus that would bring us to Củ Chi tunnels, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country.
Once again, we were back at this crowded street, waiting to board the bus.
The enterprising locals were hawking their wares. This man came in a traditional Chinese outfit.
This man balanced a tray of doughnuts on his head.
Located 70km from the city, the bus journey to the tunnels took about 2 hours. Along the way, we made a scheduled stop at the handicap's handicraft centre to see how lacquer-ware and other handicrafts are made.
The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968.
They were used by NLF guerrillas as hiding spots during combat, and served as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. The tunnels began in 1948 so that the Viet Minh could hide from French air and ground sweeps. Each hamlet built their own underground communications route through the hard clay, and over the years, the separate tunnels were slowly and meticulously connected and fortified. By 1965, there were over 200 kilometers of connected tunnel.
Life in the tunnels was difficult. Air, food and water were scarce and the tunnels were infested with ants, poisonous centipedes, spiders and mosquitoes. Most of the time, guerrillas would spend the day in the tunnels working or resting and come out only at night to scavenge supplies, tend their crops or engage the enemy in battle. Sometimes, during periods of heavy bombing or American troop movement, they would be forced to remain underground for many days at a time. Sickness was rampant among the people living in the tunnels; especially malaria, which accounted for the second largest cause of death next to battle wounds.
The trap door on the jungle floor leads down into the Củ Chi tunnels. The opening is so tiny, it can barely fit a skinny person. This one has already been enlarged by 40% for demonstration purposes.