How could they live like this? You will be haunted by this question for days to come or perhaps for the rest of your life without any doubt.
But then they lived.
Countless died; only a handful of them survived and they brought back blood-curdling stories of their endurance which are beyond a sane person’s imagination. Yet ironically, it was man himself who was the reason behind these spine-chilling incidents. They drove the fellow human beings to the very edge of non-existence.
Reduced to a meager reflection of the former self, the Vietnam War had erased the survivor’s memories of what it felt to be really ‘living’.
It was the time when the entire world came to a standstill, shell-shocked at the massacre the War had caused. It had not only torn the country apart but left a deep gash on humanity as a whole. Along with many artifacts in the War Remnants Museum in Vietnam, the Cu Chi Tunnels exist today as a constant reminder of what devastation man is capable of when the acrid venom of animosity courses through his veins.
It is as if the tunnels have been sealed in a time wrap for us who dare to go back in time to relive a story that is meant not to be repeated ever again.
Built in the district of Cu Chi, outskirts of Ho Chi Minh around the 1940s, these astounding tunnels initially served as communicating passages between the villages during French occupations. The elaborate underground network was build using bare hands and simple tools. Plunging to a depth of 12 meters, with three tiers below the ground these tunnels were used during the Vietnam War later. Today the entire area surrounding the labyrinth has been converted into a war memorial.
Your visit to Vietnam will be incomplete without paying homage to this site and respect to those who have not died in vain. You will hardly take five minutes to enter and come out of a 20 meters long tunnel but it will surely leave you gasping for your breathe. The constricted passage is hardly wide enough to accommodate your full height, the rough walls around you will seem to enclose upon you with every step you take, making your movement difficult.
In that exact dizzying moment when your mind will be in a haze of confusion, beads of perspiration dotting your forehead, you strain yourself to gulp in some of the stale air that hangs like an albatross around your neck, with a feeling of panic threatening to arise from deep within you, you will be wanting to hurry and complete your tour inside, you will come face to face with a way of life that is beyond your comprehension or experience.
Scarred for life and perhaps eternity, we who were not there can never imagine what life might have been to those who lived in the tunnels. Hanging on to that last bit of straw where mere existence becomes is a question; survival was restricted only to the counting of each breath. One inhale, two exhale, three inhale…