Thursday, 25 July 2013

Cu Chi Tunnels

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Some of the first tourists to visit Vietnam when the country began to open up to Westerner visitors were the veterans from the United States who fought in the war. Vietnam War tunnels were on the list of places they returned to, and the Cu Chi Tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City (once known as Saigon) have become a huge draw for international visitors at a rate of about 1,000 per day.

These tunnels in Vietnam encompass an immense underground network of more than 75 miles of tunnels underneath what was one of the most famous battlegrounds of the war that ended in 1975. This part of the country’s history is not so much reverently remembered by the adults of Vietnam; most of the visitors are foreign tourists and buses full of Vietnamese schoolchildren.

Thousands of Viet Kong fighters and villagers hid in the tunnels of Cu Chi during the fiercest fighting. There was an entire underground city here, and today it is one of the country’s most important war museums. You also find war tours and museums in the city of Hue, which played an important role in the Tet offensive of 1968. Other tunnels in Vietnam are also sure to be developed, including the Hai Van Pass tunnels along the route that connected Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City during the war.

Nonetheless, it is the claustrophobic Cu Chi Tunnels system that remains the most significant remnant of the conflict that raged in the country for years. It is a sobering reminder of the kind of hardships faced by the people of Vietnam during those years and the daring of the American and Australian “tunnel rats” who braved the tunnels during the war.

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