Before visiting Ho Chi Minh, we had been reading up on what to do in the area and came across the Chu Chi Tunnels. A mind-boggling 200 kilometer network of underground tunnels, used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam war. Visiting the tunnels couldn’t have been easier. In the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao in Ho Chi Minh, we were tripping over people wanting to take us on a tour. Usually, we try to do things as independently as possible and are not fans of tour buses but from the research we had done, this seemed like the best option for this one, so that was that.

Hanging out with our Chu Chi Tunnels guide and Vietnam Vet, Jackie

Hanging out with our Chu Chi Tunnels guide and Vietnam Vet, Jackie

The next morning, things got off to a pretty good start. Our tour guide, Jackie, rolled up and was like someone caught in a time warp. He had big bushy, long hair and a friendly but weathered face. He was the kind of guy that you knew had a few stories to tell. As soon as the bus got moving Jackie jumped on the mic and started to tell us all about the history of the Vietnam War, Saigon and how Vietnam is the motorbike capital of the world. He wasn’t joking either; there are about three million bikes in Ho Chi Minh alone. That’s a city with a population of around 7million, take out elderly, children, sick, etc and well, you do the math. It’s A LOT of bikes!

The entrance to the original tunnel

The entrance to the original tunnel

After about an hour we were out in the countryside and the bus pulled in at the Chu Chi Tunnels. We followed our faithful leader as he guided us through the area. We weren’t really too sure what to expect but the theme of the day seemed to be surprises. The first one was the tunnel entrance. Buried under some leaves was a trap door which lead down to one of the remaining tunnels which was actually used back in the war. When they asked for a volunteer to go down I jumped at the chance. One guy had already volunteered but then backed out when it came to following through. At the same time I volunteered another guy in the group did too and so the two of us would go together.

Brian being briefed by Jackie before dropping into the tunnel

Brian being briefed by Jackie before dropping into the tunnel

I was second into the tunnel and it was a tight fit. The square entrance was just big enough for me to drop into. Raising my hands above my head, I dropped lowered down into the tunnel and almost immediately the light from outside was gone. I had Jackie’s phone to use as a light and had his directions in my head. Go straight and take the second right. I definitely didn’t want to get lost down here.

Brian going down the original tunnel; this gives you an idea of just how narrow the tunnels are

Brian going down the original tunnel; this gives you an idea of just how narrow the tunnels are

The guy who had gone first was nowhere to be seen. On my hands and knees, I crawled through the dark tunnel, there was no sugar-coating down here, the walls, the ceiling and underneath me was just dirt, it was cold and damp. It was hard to imagine that people lived in these conditions for so long, they would have been a bit shorter than me but this couldn’t be comfortable for anyone.

Michael popping out of one of the secret Chu Chi Tunnels

Michael popping out of one of the secret Chu Chi Tunnels

As my mind wandered, I kept crawling along and then all of a sudden a long, thick shadow appeared around the corner. “What the f%&$?!”, I was positive it was a snake. I had caught up with the guy in front of me. He had decided to go back and his leg was what I had seen, thankfully my imagination had gotten the better of me. I told him we should keep going and so on we went, we passed the first turn off and then came to a second. Just before we turned, we looked down the tunnel ahead. Hanging from the ceiling were loads of bats, thankfully we didn’t have to go that way! Soon we saw light creeping in and came up out of the tunnel to our group who were waiting for us to arrive. It had felt like we were down there forever but it was just a few minutes. I couldn’t imagine being down there for months like as people did during the war.

Secret trap

Secret trap

There were plenty more surprises as we continued through the forest. The Viet Cong were a mean bunch and had some crazy imaginations when it came to inflicting pain on the enemy. Traps were hidden everywhere and they were pretty gruesome. Designed to injure or kill, the traps were simple in design and constructed using very basic elements. The outcome was a series of traps that wouldn’t look out-of-place in a ‘Saw’ movie.

Noelle inside the Chu Chi Tunnels

Noelle inside the Chu Chi Tunnels

After navigating through the woodlands, we eventually reached another section of tunnels. This leg of the tunnels is the ‘tourist friendly’ section of the tunnels. There are some lights dotted through the tunnel but the tunnel itself is still very small and uncomfortable. As it continues on, it gradually gets tighter, giving you an idea of what it must have been like for the Viet Cong guerillas. They have broken the tunnel up into sections, so that you don’t have to do the full length of it if you don’t want to. We would definitely recommend sticking it out though as there are different rooms along the way that you get to see. The kitchen is the end point, complete with a smoking fire. Once everyone had cleared the tunnels we were ushered on to the next stop.

Brian with an old tank that was blown up during the fighting at the Chu Chi Tunnels

Brian with an old tank that was blown up during the fighting at the Chu Chi Tunnels

Adding to the atmosphere was the sound of gunfire ringing around the woodlands. The obligatory snack and souvenir shop had a firing range attached to it. If you wanted, you could fire anything from a pistol to a bazooka at the targets. We decided to give it a skip, as I had done it before in Thailand a few years back and had no want to do it again.

After the short break the tour continued with a stop at a tank, which had been blown to bits. We stopped for a look at some of the ammo which was used during the war and then it was into one of the bunkers for a documentary before it was time to get back on the bus and leave the Chu Chi Tunnels bound for Saigon.

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Brian Barry
Brian is a travel writer, photographer, blogger, travel addict and adventure junkie. Being outdoors, getting off the beaten track and outside his comfort zone is what makes him tick. Brian's the dreamer in the relationship; when he's not travelling, he's dreaming about it! Keeping fit, cooking, music and red wine take up the rest of his time.
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wanderingon37.6K followers☘ Irish Travel Couple - Brian & Noelle 🌍 Nomadic for 10+ years 🏞️ Hiking, Adventure & Inspiration ✈ Independent Travel 📍Edinburgh 👇🏻Travel Tips & Blog
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\"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.\"⁠ — Nelson Mandela⁠ ⁠ \"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.\"⁠ — Martin Luther King Jr.⁠ ⁠ “Never look down on anybody unless you\'re helping him up.”⁠ — Jesse Jackson⁠ ⁠➳⁠ 📷 Views from the first floor of the Hagia Sophia Museum looking towards The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey 🇹🇷⁠ ➳⁠ We understand that being white and therefore, inherently privileged, we can never truly understand this struggle, however, we completely stand with the movement and the idea that all human beings everywhere in the world should be treated equally and have the same chances and opportunities in life.⁠ ⁠➳ Unfortunately, this isn\'t the case and the thought that someone can be treated differently simply because of the colour of their skin absolutely breaks our hearts.💔⁠ ⁠➳ In our privileged position, we need to learn about and educate ourselves about these issues in every way we can and do our best to change the views of those around us.⁠ ⁠➳ To quote another great changemaker, Mahatma Gandhi, you need to “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ⁠ It starts with you, to move in the world with love and respect for all.⁠ ❤️✨✌ #BlackLivesMatter⁠
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“Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.” —Dr. Seuss » Brian standing in absolute awe at the El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza!🗿🇲🇽 » Built by the Mayans sometime between the 8th and 12th centuries, Chichen Itza is a huge complex of Mayan ruins located on the northern half of Mexico’s beautiful Yucatan Peninsula.🗿🇲🇽 The complex is an inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. » Built from limestone, El Castillo stands at a height of 30m including a 6m temple on top. Each of the pyramid\'s four sides has 91 steps up it, making 364 steps total, with the temple topping the pyramid considered an additional step totalling 365, each step representing a day in the calendar.📆 El Castillo is also known as the Temple of Kukulkan as it served as a temple to the Mayan feathered serpent god Kukulkan, or Quetzalcoatl.🐍 » We visited this time last year, however, the spring and autumn equinoxes are the best days to visit to see the “descent of Kukulkan\".🐍 » According to legend, twice a year when the day and night are in balance 🌗, the pyramid is visited by its namesake Kukulkan.🐍 Thanks to the crafty and mathematically brilliant architecture of the Mayans combined with the natural rotation of the Earth on the equinox, an amazing eerie image of a giant snake crawling down the temple is created. Kukulkan returns to earth to provide blessings for a full harvest and good health before bathing in the sacred waters below and continuing on his way to the underworld. » If you can\'t visit on either equinox, don\'t worry! The phenomenon is recreated nightly during the Light and Sounds Show at 7pm in winter and 8pm in summer. » We love doing things independently as much as we can when we travel. As Chichen Itza is located just a couple of hours drive away from Playa del Carmen (and Cancun) we rented a car and drove there ourselves so we didn\'t get to stay for the light show as we had to drive back.🚗 » What\'s your travel style? Are you a DIY person or do you prefer to go on an organised tour? Let us know in the comments below!💬👇 » #WanderingOn #LiveToTravel #Mexico #ChichenItza #SevenWondersOfTheWorld
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“Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, every day can end beautifully.” — Kristen Butler » The sun sets over Edinburgh from Calton Hill, one of the seven hills of Edinburgh.🌆 » Set right in the city centre, Calton Hill is unmistakable with its unfinished Athenian acropolis poking above the skyline, giving Edinburgh it\'s nickname, the \"Athens of the North\". » It\'s a popular sunset spot as it\'s easily accessed - it only takes about five minutes to get to the top of the hill from two staircases on either side, or you can drive up and park - and it offers panoramic views down the length of Princes Street and of Edinburgh Castle.🏰 There are also great views of the coloured cliffs of the Salisbury Crags, Arthur\'s Seat, and the slopes of Holyrood Park.⛰️ » On the last night of April, up to 12,000 people take to Calton Hill for the Beltane Fire Festival, an ancient Celtic fertility festival. 🔥 Traditionally, Beltane was the start of the pastoral summer where animals were taken from their winter shelter to the fields and \"Beltane\" is the Gaelic word for May. » In Edinburgh\'s revivalist celebration of Beltane, three hundred or so voluntary performers from the Beltane Fire Festival Society celebrate the ending of the \'dreich\' (Scottish slang for dreary and bleak) Scottish winter and the hoped-for season of warmth and new growth with drumming, fire performance, revelry, and a ritualised procession around Calton Hill. 🔥 As well as the fiery displays, acrobatics, pulsating drums, and body-painted theatrics, the Beltane Fire Festival Society retell an immersive story for the crowd. » The revival of this festival started in 1988 as a free event but is now ticketed. There is also a Samhuinn (Samhain) Fire Festival on Halloween night which traditionally marked the beginning of winter in the Celtic calendar. 🎃 We hope to catch the Samhuinn Fire Festival festival later in the year! » Have been to any interesting cultural festivals? Let us know!💬👇 » #WanderingOn #LiveToTravel #EdinburghScotland #CaltonHill
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