On our recent visit to Vietnam, I was a bit worried about the kids not being interested enough. The other Asian cities we have been to, have had big tickets items such as Disneyland, Ocean Park and spending a day volunteering at an elephant shelter. We had nothing like that organised for Vietnam and I wasn’t sure there would be enough to keep them interested.
A few weeks before we left, there was a documentary on TV about the Cu Chi Tunnels. Craig and I had visited there 12 years ago on our honeymoon and had been discussing if it would be appropriate for the kids to visit. We decided to let them decide. We sat down one Friday night and watched the program and to our surprise the kids were very keen to go there.
After we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, I organised a couple of day trips through a tour company I found while we were walking around. They were excellent and easy to deal with, here are their contact details:
Dai Ly Ve May Bay
T:(84-4) 38 273 880
A: 187 Le Thanh Ton, Q.1 TP. HCM
I booked the Vietnamese Water Puppets and Cyclo City Tour through the tour desk at our hotel and that seemed to be just as good and convenient. Due to flight delays out of Nha Trang we didn’t check in to our hotel until 1am so I didn’t realise that the Signature Saigon Hotel had tour desk, you can read my hotel review here. If I had of known this I would have booked it all there just for convenience. There was no difference in prices so either option is fine.
Tours in Vietnam are really affordable. Even though this tour was a half day tour it went from 8.30am to around 3pm depending on traffic. Traffic can delay a tour up to 2 hours but on our day the traffic was normal and we were back within the quoted time frame. Adults and children cost the same although Caelan was charged at half price but I couldn’t work out what the cut off age for half price was.
Tour per person: 240,000dong $14.60AUD
Half price: 120,000dong $7.30AUD
Total: 1,080,000dong $21.90AUD
We were also required to pay our own entrance fees into the Cu Chi Tunnels site, this was 100,000dong per adult and we paid for two of the kids 50,000dong and Caelan was free.
Entrance fees: 300,000dong $18.30AUD
I think thats pretty good value for 5 people!
On booking we were told what time we had to be in the foyer to wait for the bus. As in most cases the tour operators pick everyone up from their hotels and drop them back afterwards. I especially like this system particularly when travelling with kids as it makes my life so much easier.
After the bus had done the rounds and collected everyone, we headed off out of Ho Chi Minh City to Cu Chi, about a 2 hour drive. On the way we stopped at a handicraft factory that makes lacquerware and all the crafts are made by people with disabilities. Some of the crafts were amazing and I bought a lovely lacquered picture of 6 women walking in traditional vietnamese dress which was made using egg shells. I love it, it was the only souvenir I bought for myself and I now just have to find the right spot for it! It was also a toilet stop, I could have bought a few more things there but it would mean I would have to carry it all day and I didn’t want to do that.
It was time to get back on the bus for the last part of the drive. We arrived at Cu Chi Tunnels and Brian, our tour guide, collected our money for entrance into the Cu Chi Tunnels. This was not included in the price of the tour. That in itself was an interesting concept but hey thats how it rolls in Vietnam! Keeps you thinking!
There were a number of other tours there and Brian organised everything and took us through. Brian was also our tour guide inside the tunnel complex and was very knowledgable, his history was extensive and his grandfather was a war veteran. His english was very good and his sense of humour quirky, he obviously had english lessons as his english was better than most people I met. Our kids were the only kids on the tour and Brian took his time and answered their questions and encouraged them to have a go at things. The tour lasted around 2 hours and that had a break mid way for refreshments as it was very hot and humid.
Just for the boys, they still have the shooting range where you can shoot an AK47, M16, M30 and an M60. Craig couldn’t leave without having another go so this time he went the M16. They are now $2USD per bullet and he shot 10 bullets. The girls didn’t like the noise as it was extremely loud near the range and Caelan was disappointed he couldn’t go and watch! Boys will be boys! Just for the record, 12 years ago they were only $1USD per bullet! Inflation….
The kids and Craig went into the tunnels and crawled through for 20m. There are two tunnels that you can go through, both have been increased in size to allow for tourists but one is smaller than the other. Craig and I did it last time and I felt that once in a lifetime was enough! The kids did well, Alannah got a bit panicked on the second smaller tunnel but she still did it and I was proud of her. Keira and Caelan were able to walk straight through the first one but had to crouch down a bit for the second, Craig on the other hand was on all fours crawling through the second one! They all said it was very hot and humid down there and I remember that from when I was down there 12 years ago!
The tunnels were the last thing we did before heading out. We had a quick toilet stop and then headed straight to the bus. The drive back was a bit over 2 hours, we were last to be dropped off. I love sitting in buses and taking in life on the roads. I added loads of photos to Instagram of what I saw out the window. I took hundreds of them. I feel thats how you really get the feel for a place.
As I mentioned before, Craig and I were concerned that the kids would be bored or not enjoy all the history, I am happy to report that the kids loved the Cu Chi Tunnels experience. Brian, the tour guide, engaged the kids and took the time to answer their questions. They were the only kids on the tour so were up front and centre at everything, which of course they loved.
They really enjoyed going through the tunnel and because they are so small they were able to go through with very little fuss. Alannah had to bend down in the second tunnel which was a bit smaller than the first but still much larger than the original. The best thing they said was watching dad having to crawl on all fours through the second tunnel. They didn’t like the firing range all that much but with good reason as it was extremely loud. Its not that far from the kiosk and even for me it was a bit loud and I was happy to be moving on.
I would have no hesitations in recommending taking kids to the Cu Chi Tunnels and think it was a great experience for all of us. I think the kids will always remember crawling through the tunnels but as they get older what they learnt will slowly fall in to place, particularly for Alannah who’s that little bit older.
Sal & Co.