The Cu Chi Tunnels are definitely worth the day trip out of Saigon. Vietnamese are proud of their resolve in their prolonged history of struggle against invading armies, and the story of the people of Cu Chi is indicative of that spirit. Just 65km (40 miles) northwest of Saigon, the Cu Chi area lies at the end of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and was the base from which Ho Chi Minh guerillas used to attack Saigon. As a result, the whole area became a "free-fire zone" and was carpet-bombed in one of many American "scorched-earth" policies. But the residents of Cu Chi took their war underground, literally, developing a network of tunnels that, at its height, stretched as far as Cambodia and included meeting rooms, kitchens, and triage areas -- an effective network for waging guerilla warfare on nearby U.S. troops. The U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division was just next door, and there are detailed maps denoting land that was either U.S. held, Vietminh held, or in dispute.
Visitors first watch a war-era propaganda film that's so over-the-top it's fun. The sight supports a small museum of photos and artifacts, as well as an extensive outdoor exhibit of guerilla snares and reconstructions of the original tunnels and bunkers. Wear your "play clothes" if you choose to get down in the temples; the experience is dirty and claustrophobic. There is also a shooting range where, for $1 per bullet, you can try your hand at firing anything from a shotgun to an AK-47. At the end of the tour, visit the dining hall and try the steamed tapioca that was a Cu Chi staple. Souvenir hawkers abound. A half-day trip can be arranged with any tour company in Saigon, often including a visit to the Cao Dai Temple .