Photo: US tank at Khe Sanh.

The Vinh Moc Tunnels

This is the only spot commonly visited north of the DMZ, but unlike the attractions to the south, it’s genuinely fascinating and unequivocally worth seeing.

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

The Vinh Moc tunnels are an amazing achievement of human toil and engineering.

With little else at their disposal but cunning and determination, the Vietnamese had constructed the tunnels to provide shelter from regular bombings by American planes. The tunnels were build between 1965 and 1966 -- dirt was dispersed under cover of night to avoid detection by the enemy. But the Americans figured out where it was anyway, and it’s estimated that seven tons of bombs per person living in the tunnels were dropped in the area. Obviously, they failed.

The network of over a mile of tunnels goes down as much as 20 metres in some places, and housed about 300 Vietnamese for six years during the war. They didn't have to live down under 24/7, but they spent enough time down here to need areas for sleeping quarters, schools, kitchens, maternity wards, and even movie theatres. There's a small museum with good displays and information that should be visited as an overview before entering the tunnels. The tunnels have not been altered or modernised in any way, so you'll actually be seeing the real thing. Some of the caverns have been spruced up with dioramas depicting their use, but this turns out to be a welcome addition, adding to the vividness of the tunnel experience.

For the vast majority of travellers, we're going to recommend they skip everything else and head straight here.

Warning to claustrophobics -- yep, this’ll be tough -- two people had to turn back on our visit. Part of the problem was having a long line of people clogging the tunnels in front and in back of them. Try to wait until the rest of the tour is done and go through with a guide and/or a non-claustrophobic friend. That way, when the tunnels start collapsing, as they inevitably will, and snakes start coming out of the walls, as they always do, you’ll have a fighting chance to get out of there alive.

From the Ben Hai river, head one km further north, make a right on the newly-built main road running which jogs east and then heads north along Cua Tung beach. Continue 15 km and take a right, the tunnels are 3 km further on, near the water. There are no signs until you actually reach the tunnel.

Last updated on 30th January, 2008.

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