An early start saw us at Saigon River docks by 07:45, ready to board our speedboat to the Cu Chi Tunnels. We differ from most tourist groups in this regard if no other: we go up and back by boat and we visit both tunnel systems. The furthest away tunnels are at Ben Duoc (which is why most tour groups don’t go there) and are very popular with local school groups.
The tunnels here are slightly larger and link interconnected chambers, giving visitors a sense of what it was like living and working underground. But first we are invited to sit through a frankly cringe-making propaganda movie from the 1960s in which an earnest young female voice-over denounces the American and their evil ways: “They shot our hens, they shot our ducks … they shot our pots and pans …”
OK, we get the picture. And then we went past displays of weapons used by the Vietcong as well as some captured from the South Vietnamese Army and the Allies. Some of them – like the cluster bombs – were particularly evil devices. But then the Vietnamese booby traps weren’t exactly kids toys either.
The braver members of the group went down the tunnels to get to underground bunkers including a planning room (where two of them seemed to take part in a meeting with Vietcong officers).
Back on the boat to the second, more touristy tunnels. This time the tunnel was closer, at least in part, to the original dimensions and two determined souls made it all the way along the 100 metres while a few brave but sensible bods baled out at escape points along the way.
The rifle range proved a popular distraction and we blasted away, giving new meaning to the phrase “aimless pursuits”., before re-boarding for a speedboat ride back to Saigon.
The evening was rounded off by an Opera House performance of the A O Show – a Vietnamese take on Cirque De Soleil style dance and acrobatics – and dinner at another Saigon restaurant.