Cu Chi Tunnels: Viet Cong’s Secret Weapon

It’s my second time in Ho Chi Minh city, it’s my chance to do things I’ve missed out the first time I traveled there. One of them that I really wanted to do that time was to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels .

There are many tour companies that offer organized trips to the tunnels like the ones offered by Klook. They cost a bit more but it’s pretty convenient. You signup, pay and show up on your tour date. Easy! I am actually booking one for my up coming trip with my Dad, you know, senior…. Hahaha!

But I was alone on this trip and yes still on a budget. So nervous as I am, I told my self heck yeah, I’ll just wing it and do it DIY!

How To Get To Cu Chi Tunnels

Before we go into putting our selves in a bus, let me just clarify that I’ll be visiting the Ben Duoc site. This is the original and authentic tunnels that was built way back during the French and Vietnam war. The other site Ben Dinh as research tells me is reconstructed or replica tunnel system made for tourists. Ben Dinh is also where most of the group tourist buses are taken.

You want to find your selves at Ben Duoc. To get there take a Ho Chi Minh – Cu Chi bus (Bus 13) departing at Park 9/23 for ₫10,000. Make sure you have comfortable clothes on (specially when it’s hot) as it takes about 1.5-2 hours to get to Cu Chi bus terminal. Hold on tight, you are not yet at your destination. You have to take another bus (Bus 79) that will get you to the tunnels.

When you get on bus 79, make sure to tell the conductor that you are going to the Cu Chi tunnels, they’ll let your know when you have arrived to your destination. travel time from the bus station to Ben Duoc is about 45 minutes to an hour.

Google Maps Direction: https://goo.gl/Hsjfsa

The Tunnels

From the gate welcoming with an arch, you will have to walk about 1 kilometer to the forested part of the park. If you are doing this DIY, you will be directed to start at the orientation area, where you will be ask (with pretty much no option to opt out) to watch north Vietnam’s version of the “American War”.

After the “Introduction” A tour guide will be showing you around the park explaining each site’s significance to the war. One of the interesting yet cringe inducing part of the tour are the human traps that the VietCong have devised to fight off the enemies.

The highlight of the tour, of course are the tunnels them selves. Your tour guide will tell you how long the entire system is and when they started building the tunnels which is pretty amazing. You will get to experience going through a few of the original tunnels. This is what sets Ben Duoc apart from Ben Dinh, as the later is just a replica of the tunnels found in Ben Duoc to accommodate big sized foreigners.

The tour ends with a taste of the boiled cassava dipped into sugar. Pretty common snack for Asians but it could be exotic for westerners. Honestly love it, but I wont blame you if you don’t. It tastes bland and sugary.

You may not agree with the stories of the tour guides but just keep an open mind and always remember that they are telling their side of the story. The Cu Chi tunnel though really far from the city center I can say is a must do to be able to learn more of Vietnam’s culture and history.

 

BOOK YOUR CU CHI TUNNEL TOURS WITH KLOOK

 

Cu Chi Tunnel Ben Duoc
Address:Phú Hiệp, Phú Mỹ Hưng, Củ Chi, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Phone: +84 28 3794 8830
Opening Hours: Daily 7AM – 5PM
Entrance Fee: VND 90,000

Phnom Penh Transit Itinerary

Many travelers ignore Cambodia’s capital city when traveling to or from Saigon to Siem Reap. Most would say that there’s nothing to see in Phnom Penh so they just skip it on their itineraries not even doing a pit stop for a night!

Unknown to many, Phnom Penh actually holds a lot of Cambodia’s history, specially its most recent events. So I’ve came up with most information that I can so can get to see a bit of Phnom Penh when you decide to stop for a night or two.

 

What To See In Phnom Penh

Wat Phnom

They say that this is where the entire city of Phnom Penh was founded when a temple was erected by madame Phnom. There’s actually an interesting story about it and how it became the heart of the city.

 

 

Phnom Penh Post Office

One of the buildings left built during the colonial French times. Mail your post cards  from here to your friends and love ones back to your home country!

source

 

Riverside Walk

Walk along the promenade leading to where the Grand Palace is and where the Tonle Sap river and Mekong River meets. There’s  a couple of shrines right across the Grand Palace and if you are lucky, you can catch local musicians indigenous instruments. You can also stand in front of your country’s flag flying proud along the river walk along with all the nations.

 

 

 

Russian Market

Looking for souvenirs? The Tuol Tom Pong or more popularly known as Russian Market is the best place to find them. While you are at it, you might want to eat authentic Cambodian food at their cooked food section.source

 

 

Central Market

Find street foods and snacks while looking at Central Market’s awesome architechture. While it is nice to visit, prices here are quite jacked up for the common tourist.

source

 

S21: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

One of the many former concentration camps established by the Khmer Rouge, this former high school is now a museum that serves as a reminder of the dark past of Cambodia. When visiting, it is best to rent an audio guide that will walk you through the halls of the museum with stories from the Khmer Rouge era.

 

Read More: S21 Cambodia’s Concentration Camp

 

 

 

 

Killing Fields

A few kilometers off of Phnom Penh, a grave site was found where people have been murdered and buried during the Khmer Rouge era. The Killing Fields is a huge place with a tower housing some of the bones discovered. It is believed that there are more remains that is to discovered in this place. I do not strongly recommend visiting both (S21 being the other) in a day as they have really dark stories. For me visiting one is enough (with S21 as my choice since it is in the city proper). However, if you choose to visit this make sure to rent an audio guide to help you walk through the site.

 

 

Grand Palace

Known for the Silver Pagoda, the Grand Palace is Cambodia’s current monarch’s residence. The entrance fee for this is reportedly at $10 ( yes you can pay in USD). I decided not to go inside anymore because…. honestly, I didn’t think it was worth it specially that its price is as much as the Royal Palace in Bangkok which is far more extravagant. Not bashing the the Cambodian Palace here, I just want to spend my money where I see more value. I am not that rich.

 

Where To Stay In Phnom Penh

The Billabong Hostel

Probably my favorite hostel in Phnom Penh. This hostel has a hotel feel. The pool is perfect for when you travel in a hot summer’s day. The hostel is also located near food options that open really early in the morning and closes late at night. The best part of it is that their dorm rooms only cost $5 when I booked them!

Read More: The Billabong Hostel Review

 

Book The Billabong Hostel Here

Base Villa 

Another hostel that I think is worth considering is Base Villa. I found this hostel while looking for a different hostel on my upcoming trip to the Indochina region. The hostel has a swimming pool (value added amenity I always look for) and cheap beds at $5 per person. They also have good reviews in Booking.com which I trust mostly when it comes to backpacker experiences.

Book Base Villa Hotel Here

Itinerary

Here’s a quick Itinerary to give you a glimpse of Cambodia’s capital city. You may notice that I didn’t include some of the places/activities here. I think these are the bare essentials that you must try if you have a really short time to spend in Phnom Penh. I’d rather go to the S21 than spend more time traveling to the Killing Fields. I also wouldn’t do both s21 and the Killing Fields in the same day coz it’s just too depressing.

Getting to Phnom Penh

You can also see that I included Giant Ibis on the itinerary. No this is not a paid post. I’ve experienced both Mekong Express and Giant Ibis going to the from Ho Chi Minh or Phnom Pneh and I was disappointed with Mekong Delta. I don’t care what western people say about how good Mekong Express is, for me as an Asian I’d rather be with Giant Ibis. It’s a bit more expensive but it’s worth it. Now if you are coming from Bangkok, you can take either Virak Buntham if you are on a budget (they’re not bad at all) or if you have some more cash to burn take Giant Ibis.

Book Your Tickets Here
Bangkok – Siem Reap
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh – Phnom Penh 
Siem Reap – Bangkok (Khao San)

 

Departure time from Phnom Penh to Ho Siem Reap is actually at your own disposal. There are buses leaving later during the day. I personally prefer using Virak Buntham when traveling around Cambodia. But for times that you want to travel and there are no scheduled departures, there’s always Larytta. If you are bound to Ho Chi Minh, take the early morning bus, you’d have to go through immigration so you have limited options here.

 

When I get the opportunity, I always tell people who ask for advise to make a stop in Phnom Penh. This city isn’t something that you would go out of your way just to visit like Siem Reap, Bangkok or Saigon. That is why you should at least give it a day or two to see the city. Make it a pit stop on your way in between countries.

 

 

 

 

Beach Days In Pattaya

Knowing that I’ll be travelling mostly inland during my Indochina solo backpacking trip, I made it a point that I’ll see the sea. At least once. It was kinda difficult finding a way to put Pattaya on the route to Cambodia without going back to Bangkok. There was little information about transportation  from there to the border town of Aranyaprathet. The backpacker instinct in me though said there must be some form of transport going from there to the border. So I said, heck yeah I’ll just wing it! Continue reading

S21: Cambodia’s Concentration Camp

Most backpackers when doing the Indochina trail either from Vietnam or Thailand would jut breeze through Phnom Penh.  Cambodia’s capital can be a bit boring if you would think about it. Yeah there are Museums, temples and food places that you can visit but there are such as well in Siem Reap right?

Before you dismiss and take Phonm Penh off of your list even just for a stop over, try to consider this. Phnom Penh actually holds a lot about what Cambodia is today. The city hosts a couple of Museums that you will not find in Siem Reap. Though emotionally bothering, these museums are important to Cambodia as a reminder of what the past has thought them.

phnom penh

History

One of these Museums is located right at the heart of the city is called S21. Formally known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the museum got its name as it was concentration camp #21.

The property was a former high school for the city with several buildings to educate the children of Phnom Penh. As the Khmer Rouge took over the country, it’s idealist leader wanted to “reborn” the country. This rebirth means realigning the country’s priorities and goals. Pol Pot, Cambodia’s defacto leader at that time decided that the country should strengthen their agricultural productivity. He sent every one to  the country side forcing them to become farmers .

But these people whom he sent from the city do not know how to farm and use the tools. While it should increase agricultural productivity, Cambodia’s population starve instead as real farmers were killed and replaced by city dwellers. Intellectuals and educators on the other hand were also purged out of the population as the Khmer Rouge’s Pol Pot see them as a threat to his reign.

I know I could never summarize the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. This is why you should visit Phnom Penh even just for a stop over. I firmly believe that as part of traveling, be it for leisure or backpacking, should include understanding a bit of a place’s history. This allows us to know how to respect each place that we visit.

What You Need To Know

Entrance fee : $5
Audio Guide: $3
Adddress: St 113, Phnom Penh 12304, Cambodia
Dress code: None

So next time you visit Cambodia traveling to or from it’s neighboring countries, check out their historical sites. They can be as recent as a few decades ago but it surely have shaped the nation as it is right now.

 

Ningxia Night Market Eat Out

On my last couple of days in Taipei on my last trip there. I hanged out with a local friend checking out the area I was staying at all the way to the underground Taipei City Mall. To my surprise he actually planned to bring me to one of the best food night markets there is in Taipei, the Ningxia Night Market. Continue reading

8 Temples In Bangkok You Must Visit

It’s your first time in Bangkok and you want to explore every bit of the city. You are so excited. But, you don’t know where to start! So where should you start then, you may ask. Let’s go back to the basics first by knowing the city. Bangkok’s full name is Thai is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Nope I am not kidding. There’s even a song made using the name as its lyrics to help people memorize it. There’s a shorter version though, Krung Thep. Guess what that means, City of Angels! So this is Los Angeles’ sister city then? Hahahaha! As the name suggest this is a city of angels where the gods have converged and where you see and feel the god’s blessings. So where else best to start but with the city’s majestic Bangkok Temples! Continue reading

10 Things You Need To Do In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Most people struggle on coming up on what other things to do when planning for trips to Ho Chi Minh. Some get stuck to just doing a city tour and eating on the side streets. But there’s more to Saigon than these. Check out these 10 things you need to do in Ho Chi Minh City when you visit for more ideas! Continue reading

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour

Probably one of the best cities in Southeast Asia if you are a fan of walking tours. Doing a Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour is relatively easy even for beginners. Most of the attractions are at walking distance from each other. They can also be reached with leisurely walks along the tree lined streets of Saigon. Continue reading

10 Things To Do In Siem Reap

Siem Reap is the city adjacent to the ancient city of Angkor that hosts travelers from around the world who’s main objective is explore the temple of the ancient city of Angkor. However, there are other things to do in siem reap beyond the temple hopping experience in Angkor Wat Complex. Here’s a quick list of Other Things To Do In Siem Reap Continue reading