HCMC’s Phu Tho Hoa Tunnel is an enduring symbol of Vietnamese resilience and ingenuity that defeated the French colonialists.
The 10 km long Phu Tho Hoa Tunnel, lying today at No.139 on its eponymous street in Tan Phu District, used to be a secret underground base for revolutionary officers for more than two decades (1947-1967).
It was first dug in 1930, but it wasn’t until 1947 when the tunnel was expanded to connect to surrounding areas to become a secret base for the soldiers.
The tunnel’s location was advantageous for the resistance fighters because of its lush surroundings that made it easy to hide it, and patriotic residents that made it difficult for enemies to find it.
“This tunnel network is of a much smaller scale than the Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam’s most famous underground destination in Saigon, but it was built earlier, and from here, battles were organized in Saigon,” said Luong Hoai Nhon, a tour guide to the war relic.
Luong Hoai Nhon, a tour guide at the Phu Tho Hoa Tunnel site.
The entrance to the tunnel only allows one person at a time. In the past, some tunnel openings were masked with bushes and others with small dirt mounds. Now, they have been cemented and have wooden covers.
The tunnel has two floors 3-4 meters deep.
Every 20 meters, there is a 0.5 diameter hole that allows one person to go through at a time, making the entire tunnel system resemble train cars. In case the tunnel was compromised, the design allowed people inside to cover the hole, tricking the enemies to think it was a dead end.
There are tunnel sections that are only 0.5 meters high, requiring people to move on all fours.
Tour guide Luong Hai Nhon uses a flashlight to show the entrance to the lower floor of the tunnel.
A tiny ventilation outlet that was once covered by bamboo clusters is now cemented to prevent water and insects from entering the tunnel and ensuring visitors’ safety.
A model of the cross-section of the Phu Tho Hoa Tunnel shows French soldiers looking for it.
During the Vietnam War, the tunnel was also used by the communist soldiers. In 1966, it was discovered by some locals who worked for the American army and partially destroyed.
After the country’s unification in 1975, it was excavated and fixed. In 1996, the place was recognized as a national historical relic.
Some of the spades used to dig the tunnel.
The tunnel site opens free of charge to visitors from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Part of the site has been turned into a sports ground for locals.