Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Cu Chi Tunnels ...Vietnam

If you are ever in Vietnam, there are a couple of things you cannot afford to miss.
One of those things that you must do is to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and see for yourself
how the Vietcong and NVA soldiers survived the non-stop carpet bombing and attacks
by American forces during the Vietnam conflict.
You'll probably need half a day to do this as the Tunnels are located about 70 kms away
from HCMC ( Saigon ).
But it is a journey worth the time and expense.

In the years gone by, I have read much about these tunnels...of how American GIs and other combat troops went on "search and destroy" missions of these tunnels. They found some here and there but did not really go all the way in for fear of "booby traps" and such things.
Many of those who ventured inside did not come out alive!
The strategic opening/ entrance of each tunnel is kept very small, tiny enough for a VC soldier
to get in or out but not for the bigger size of an American generally.
These tunnels are linked underground to others in a vast and complex network that stretch from
North to South, East to West.

It's truly mindbloggling when you sit through the introductory presentation in an actual underground dugout lecture room.
No electricity nor modern heavy equipment were used to dig these tunnels.
So what were the basic tools used by these resourceful peasants?
Not surprising at all.
I had used them myself when I helped my late father in the early 60's to construct an
underground room for me as a study cum simple bedroom, under our Siang Lim Park
The main tools, still useful today anywhere, are the changkol and the "punki".

At last, we arrived at the entrance to the Cu Chi Tunnels. It is vast.
We orientate ourselves to see where we should explore using the Site Map.

Our "NVA" Cu Chi guide led us into this lecture room where
we watched a historical ( propaganda ) film in mainly black and
white format depicting the history of the Vietnam conflicts.

It was a very hot day on the surface. I can't imagine how the
Vietcong cope with the burning sun, the heat, the humidity, the
mosquitoes, leeches and terror raining from the sky daily.

A diorama showing the cross-section of a typical underground tunnel system
complete with different facilities such as kitchen, sleeping quarters, hospital,
meeting room, store room etc..all connected by tunnels over separate levels.

After a bombing raid, the VC emerged to scour for unexploded bombs.
There were many.
They took these back to their underground workshops, saw them open
to extract the gunpowder for making their own explosives and bullets.
Resourceful and ingenious!

These are the 2 basic tools they used to dig these famous tunnels...
the changkol and the "punki" ( rattan basket ).
It just go to show that in this case of the Cu Chi Tunnels as well as all
other tunnels elsewhere in Vietnam...the indomitable spirit of a people
willing to survive at all costs can unite together, struggle against all odds,
do the almost impossible and defeat the vastly superior might of America...
the world's leading super power.

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