From friends who had visited ‘Nam before, we knew that no trip was complete without a glimpse at some startling war history. Sharing a mutual hatred for organised tour groups, Aristo and I decide that the best way for us to investigate Vietnam’s history is to ride our motorbike out to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Still largely intact from the war, there are thousands of tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh (or, since we’re getting historical, Saigon) and a lot of preserved and very clever booby traps. Who wouldn’t delight at the opportunity to crawl through a veritable human ant-farm?
All the details: Cu Chi Tunnels
Cost: Upon arrival at the tunnels, it’s possible to join an on-site group tour for 80,000VND. If you want a tour including transport to and from HCM, however, the cost will be closer to 250,000VND.
Getting there: It’s an easy 2 hourmotorbike ride from Ho Chi Minh out to the Cu Chi Tunnels, but there are also dozens of tour groups that offer transport.
Where to stay: When in Ho Chi Minh, stay in a private room at Hotel Nguyet Van for $12/night.
Top tips: I’d definitely recommend making the ride yourself out to Cu Chi— there’s an amazing amount of scenery to enjoy along the way and you’ll wander through the tunnels with only a few others rather than an entire bus full of tourists.
The ride is long, perhaps 2 hours, but fun and full of colour as we pass through the city and into rural Vietnam. Inevitably, we get lost only moments away from the tunnels and spend a half-hour playing Guess This Hand Signal with some locals, trying to ascertain the exact direction we need to be heading. After devolving into Full-Body Charades, we finally figure out how to get to our destination, and arrive just in time to have one of the guards walk us out to the tunnels.
After some history lessons and the eagerly awaited crawling through tunnels, which Aristo describes as “hot fun”, we get back on our back and set off for the city. For about 2 minutes, I attempt to captain the bike, but manage to chuck myself over the handlebars and crush Aristo’s leg in a matter of seconds, so I am once again demoted to navigator—a role that doubles in difficulty when we lose our map.
As the time closes in on 7pm, when our bus to Mui Ne departs, we grow increasingly frantic, but just drive in a direction that feels correct. At about 630, I start asking other bikers at stoplights if they can give us directions, and finally a man does understand me and points us off in the correct direction. Within 5 minutes, we are back at the hostel to grab our bags and hustling off to the bus.
Sadly for us, we never do make it to Mui Ne that day. Blame it on sleep-induced confusion, blame it on the language barrier, but whatever the reason, we get off the bus in Phan Thiet and are alarmed to later learn that we are not where we thought we were.
Pandemonium ensues as we look for a hotel room at 2am with absolutely no knowledge of the local language or even a map.