Cu Chi Tunnels (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

Cu Chi Tunnels (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

Beneath the suburban Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City is a network of tunnels that served as a home, air raid shelter, weapon storage facility, and supply route for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. For years, thousands of people effectively lived underground, only emerging after dark to gather supplies. It was a grim existence—the air was stale, the food and water scarce, and malaria spread fast through the claustrophobic, insect- and vermin-infested passages.

Construction on the tunnels began in the 1940s, as Vietnam fought to gain its independence from France. By the 1960s, the network stretched to over 100 miles (161 km). Tiny tunnel entrances, concealed beneath leaves on the jungle floor, required bodily contortion to squeeze into. To guard against enemy infiltration, the tunnel maintainers incorporated traps, such as dead-end passages and revolving floor panels that sent enemies tumbling into pits of sharpened bamboo. Should a foe make it past these snares and into the underground city, the Viet Cong might respond with a handful of scorpions or a well-aimed snake to the face.

Large sections of the tunnels are gone, having collapsed or been destroyed, but a preserved section, enlarged to fit larger tourist bodies, is open to the public. Visits end with the seemingly inappropriate opportunity to fire AK-47s and M-16s at a shooting range.

Sources: Atlas Obscura

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