When in Ho Chi Minh City, you can’t miss the famous and well visited Cu Chi Tunnels just a few hours away. There are a lot of travel agents and booking offices to choose from along the street of Pham Ngu Lao because most backpackers are there. If you just care to walk, you’ll see a lot. I browsed for the cheapest tours online and I found a $6 half day tour. It’s reasonable enough although it doesn’t include the tunnel entrance worth 90,000 dong (about $4). I was really worried about spending a lot of money with booked tours so I decided to do it on my own. Here’s how I did it.
If you are staying near Pham Ngu Lao, there’s no need to go to Ben Thanh bus station to take a bus going to park 23/9. Also, it is Park 23/9, not 24/9. I was playing charade with the locals at Ben Thanh bus station (They don’t speak much English.) because I could not find the bus going to 24/9. I looked at the route map and it’s not even there. Instead, go to the intersection of Pham Ngu Lao and Do Quang Dao street. Hint: Walk away from where Ben Thanh bus station is or just ask around. It’s just a little walk. No need to take a moto. From there, Park 23/9 is right across the street. Look for bus #13. Fare is 7,000 dong and travel time is around one hour and thirty minutes. Allow few more minutes for the traffic and frequent stops for passengers along the road. This bus will lead you to Cu Chi Bus Station. From there, look for bus #79. It’s pretty easy to find because of the numbers shouting in front of each bus. Plus the bus route is also visible in front. You may want to check if bus #79 says Cu Chi-Dau Tieng. If it is, hop on! Fare is 6,000 dong and travel time is about 45 minutes. The bus was not as good as those in HCMC but who would complain about the fare?
You will pass by rice fields and residential areas. You will also see an intersection that says Ben Duoc (turn left) and Ben Dinh (turn right). Please note that Ben Dinh is where the tourist buses go so it is safe to safe that it’s crowded. (I’ve never been there.) Also, it’s not really a part of the tunnel but is actually made for heavily built tourists. Tunnels and entrances were bigger while Ben Duoc is the exact opposite in terms of visitors and tunnel size. When I went there, I found only few foreign people and more local visitors as the tunnels here are smaller. Tell the driver to drop you off at Ben Duoc. Pay the entrance fee at the booth.
You have to walk a little bit to reach it although I think there’s a shuttle service going to the tunnels. I just don’t know if they are for free.
Upon reaching the site, the staffs will ask you to read the guidelines and safety reminders written in both Vietnamese and English. There will be several stops before exploring the tunnels. Remains of bombs were on display and there were also life size human forms enacting life during the war.
There’s also a short film viewing about the war, how the tunnels were made by the locals (with their bare hands and simple tools). How long did it take to finish the entire system of tunnels? Twenty years.
Finally, after the film viewing, our guide gave us more information about the tunnels. There’s a replica of it in the film viewing area. You’re free to ask questions. He showed us the ventilation, booby traps, infirmary, meeting room, etc.
I had the chance to go through a really small tunnel. I was glad I fit it. It’s a long winding tunnel where I had to sit on my bum and just slide all the way just to finish it. There were two European women ahead of me though so they were always checking on me if I was still tailing them and if I was still alright. We took a picture after that. I don’t have the photo though.
There’s a prepared plate of tapioca with ground peanuts mixed with brown sugar for snack. That was the staple food of the Vietnamese then because food was really difficult and cooking in the tunnels was dangerous. End of tunnel adventure.
You may visit their souvenir shop or shoot guns in their firing range after. Cost is per bullet. I opted not to do that and just headed back home.
I took the same bus #79. It will pass by Ben Duoc and will drop you off at Cu Chi bus station. From there take bus #13 going to park 23/9.
|Transportation||6,000 x 2 = 12,000|
|7,000 x 2 = 14,000|
|Cu Chi Entrance||90,000|