On this, our second to last day in Vietnam, we paid a sobering visit to the Cu Chi tunnels in the rural Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City Province, about 90 minutes from our hotel in downtown Ho Chi Min City. This area was a stronghold for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War (or American War, depending on your perspective). These tunnels are a vast network of underground passages, with multiple levels, that provided shelter and hiding for thousands from American and South Vietnamese forces. This visit, as well as our visit later in the afternoon to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, brought back a lot of memories of the war and the anti-war movement. I found it to be a very sobering place and had mixed feelings about making a tourist spot out of such an horrendous time in the histories of both our countries. But, as Christina pointed out today, it provides a counter-story to the dominant narrative so many of us were given in the Western press.
Here Sihua and Jim emerge from one of the areas of the tunnels used to demonstrate for tourists. I went through this section of the tunnels, about 40 meters, at first squatting, but about half-way through I needed to go to my hands and knees for the remainder of the distance. It was very warm in the tunnel and there was not much air. I gave passing thought to going the longer distance but then thought about my age, health, etc, and decided that 40 m was long enough for me to get the message.
The whole experience underscored for me the horror of war. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those on either side.