As a quick stop driving North from Hoi An to the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, we took a detour to visit the Son Vinh Moc Tunnels that were used during the Vietnamese or locally called American war.  These were the only tunnels I saw in Vietnam as I passed up the opportunity to take a day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels in Ho Chi Minh in order to explore more of Ho Chi Minh.  I have no comparison for underground living situations but when crawling through the tunnels it was evident that the everyday citizens of Vietnam were very clever and eager to fight for their life.  Perhaps one of the reasons these tunnels are a site to be seen is that it was near the parallel line that divided the North and South and this town fell in the North.  The Americans believed this community by the South China Sea was strageically supplying the nearby islands with food and other supplies during the war to fight the south.  As the Americans heavily bombed the area, the villagers took to living underground and as the Americans developed bombs that could impact the earth deeper and deeper, additional tunnels were built.

To be able to live for over 2,000 days underground in the dark is just astonishing.  I couldn’t help but think of my Lola who told me stories of living underground during World War Two.  The Vinh Moc Tunnels have three different floors at different depths of 13 to 25 meters with 60 different tunnels.  There are half a dozen exits by the sea that also serve as air ventilators.  The air in turn also causes the dense clay to harden and when crawling through the caves it felt completely secure, as though it were a natural cave.  Our stray group crawled through a maternity ward, communal hall and even saw the different rooms afforded to the village families.  Children were born and even went to school in these tunnels!  

I’m writing this post a few weeks after my visit but just a sobering experience showing that war has many effects on daily life.  Traveling in Vietnam as an American citizen makes one feel on the defensive, even though I was not alive or had anything to do with the war.  A visit to the tunnels made me see how creative and persistent villagers in Vietnam were when fighting for their lives in the purest form, free of propanda and bias that one usually sees in museums.

Structure Plan of Vinh Moc Tunnels

Tunnel Exit