DIY Vietnam’s wartime tunnel systems: Củ Chi or Vịnh Mốc?

On our north to south traverse of Vietnam we managed to visit both of these sites independently. To visit Củ Chi we utilised public transport from Hồ Chí Minh and to visit Vịnh Mốc we visited on our hired scooter. Our experience at both were quite different – the Củ Chi tunnels having a very structured visit while we were forced to explore Vịnh Mốc independently (unable to find any sort of guide). Here is a side by side comparison.

Note: We visited the Ben Douc tunnels at Củ Chi – these are the tunnels actually created during the war rather than those at Ben Dinh which were purely created for tourists (and which the organised tours tend to go to making them very crowded)

 Củ Chi  Vịnh Mốc
Via public transport Step 1: Bus #13 from BẾN CV 23/9 fare is 7 000 VND this bus terminates at Củ Chi ~1.5 hours

Step 2: Bus #79 (from same terminal as #13 dropped you at) from here we tracked our progress using Maps.ME however we were also told when to get off by the driver. Fare is 6 000 VND ~50 mins.

From here you will be pointed in the right direction (small shop/cafe next to bus stop), essentially go up the road perpendicular to the bus route

 From all reports this is quite difficult to do and as we had our scooter we opted not to use public transport. Getting a train to Dong Ha station then negotiating a taxi/motorbike to take you to the tunnels would probably be the way to go.
IMG_8981 IMG_8617
 Ease of access by own wheels  The route seems pretty straight forward, I imagine it would be around 1.5-2 hours from HCMC  As we were coming from the north, we left the 1A just after Ho Xa onto 573, then the first major left to stay on 573 then followed that to the tunnels. We paid a nominal amount for supervised parking
 IMG_9002  IMG_8608
 Cost of Entry  90 000 VND  20 000 VND
IMG_8993 IMG_8628
 Tour included?  Yes, good english, good stories. A snack of sugarcane and a sugary/nutty dip with tea was provided  Not that we could find although there was a bus tour happening when we were there which we eavesdropped in on a little
IMG_8997 IMG_8609
 Ease of access to information  Sufficient – (propaganda) video, signs and displays  Basic – we essentially stumbled across everything as nothing was clearly marked, there was also a video with English subtitles and a room that acted as a museum
IMG_8989 IMG_8627
 Authenticity The tunnels did feel a little more polished and as it was all on a tour it felt a little too controlled. Was very cool seeing the different entrances and how different things were disguised, there was one section of smaller tunnel to scramble through.  About half the tunnel network was lit and half wasn’t, it seemed largely in original state otherwise however they may have been enlarged as we were able to walk quite comfortably. There were a few sculptures of people enacting life in the tunnels.
IMG_9015 IMG_8626
 Ability to explore independently  Unable  Able – although I recommend going into the museum room to plot a course if you want to explore the pitch black tunnels! (And probably take a head torch)
IMG_9005 IMG_8603
 Overall We particularly enjoyed going through the hole in the ground/trapdoor and the guide was a good way to learn more about life in the tunnels. It did feel very structured and I’m not sure there was any way to explore the tunnels yourself.  We struggled initially due to lack of information however exploring the unlit (and somewhat unmaintained) tunnels gave us a very real feeling of what conditions would be like. Plus it is located on a beach which is a beautiful thing to walk out of the tunnels onto.

 

Both tunnels were worth visiting in my opinion and if I could do it again I would probably visit the Củ Chi tunnels first, just to have a bit more background knowledge before exploring Vịnh Mốc. If you’re die-hard independent, off the beaten track travellers you would probably appreciate Vịnh Mốc more, and Củ Chi is much more accessible without your own wheels, however I believe they are different enough experiences that both warrant an explore.