Most travelers and even locals just know about the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels as one of the military bases in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) that the Vietnamese soldiers used to fight against their enemies in the Vietnam War. However, there is another secret tunnel system that has only been mentioned by a few travel guides, even though the location of the tunnels is closer to the center of Ho Chi Minh City than that of the Cu Chi Tunnels. This lesser-known attraction is Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels, located in Tan Phu District. The tunnels had been excavated and finished before the soldiers constructed the tunnel system in Cu Chi.
139 Phu Tho Hoa Street, Phu Tho Hoa Ward, Tan Phu District, Ho Chi Minh City
7:30 AM – 11:30 AM
1:30 PM – 5 PM
How to Get to the Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels
The distance between the center of Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels is about 10 kilometers, a 45-minute to 1-hour drive, if you travel there by taxi, bus or motorbike.
From the bus station at 23/9 Park (pronounced 23rd September Park) in District 1, you can catch bus number 149 to get to Tan Phu District and walk to the historical monument. The bus fare is VND 6,000.
You can also catch a taxi or Grab to get there. It would cost you about VND 150,000 on average.
This kind of vehicle is a common choice on the streets in Ho Chi Minh City; it would be cheaper than a taxi, faster than the bus, and allow you to explore a lot of places on the way. You can use a motorbike taxi or Grab. The cost is about VND 40,000 or more if you get there from the city center.
Check out our private motorbike tours with professional local guides
A Brief History of the Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels
In 1947, in Phu Tho Hoa Ward, the official resistance committee started a plan to dig a secret tunnel in the area and managed to finish it by the end of the year. To encourage and support the Vietnamese army, the locals also excavated other tunnels below their houses to conceal the Vietnamese soldiers.
This place was chosen to build the secret tunnels because of its complicated terrain and the high land level. Besides, many bamboos and trees surrounded the place, which made it difficult for the enemies to look for the revolutionary base. In the 1950s, Vietnamese commandoes used this tunnel system as their hidden base and made several surprise attacks on the French in Tan Son Nhat Airport and their bomb storages, which caused panic in the French army.
The historical stages of Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels
In 1966, the existence of the revolutionary base in Phu Tho Hoa was revealed by national traitors, who ratted out the location to the French. The French army attacked the area, destroyed some parts of the tunnels, came back to surround the area in the next months, and later discovered the underground system. Many soldiers were captivated and tortured during this time; some were even sent to Con Dao Prison, but they still kept the secret of the tunnels.
The Tunnel System at Phu Tho Hoa
There are two levels, and 4-meter deep in the ground. The height of the tunnels is only about 1 meter, and the width is about 0.8 meters. There are some bulkheads and corners leading to other wards, but only Vietnamese soldiers can remember the ways to move in the tunnels. This was a smart plan to prevent the enemies from exploring the underground system. If they found one tunnel, the Vietnamese soldiers would crawl into other tunnels and camouflage the entrance carefully.
The doors of tunnels made of wood were covered with soil and leaves in clumps and secret places, while the ventilation holes mound were constructed near to the bamboos.
The entrance door and ventilation hole of Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels
The space of each tunnel is enough for 5 to 7 people to hide inside. There were three underground rooms, one of which was used as a meeting room. The total length of the tunnels was about 10 kilometers. However, not all tunnels could be well-preserved. They can collapse easily, so there is only one 30-meter long for visitors to see today.
The model of Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels
On the surface, there are fighting bunkers and L-shaped trenches around the tunnels, connecting the three resistance wards Phu Tho Hoa, Binh Hung Hoa, and Tan Son Nhi. The difference between Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels and Cu Chi Tunnels is that Phu Tho Hoa was built under local houses in a residential area near army bases. It was only used to make sudden attacks instead of being an extensive underground military base for commissioners like Cu Chi Tunnels.
Nowadays, this historical monument has changed a lot since Independence Day. More and more people have been moving to Tan Phu District to settle so the tunnel area is decreasing. Moreover, there is not enough investment in preserving the tunnels, so not many guests, even the locals, visit here on a regular basis.
And although this place was an important remark of the revolution with many soldiers who sacrificed their lives, there hasn’t been any memorial tombstone for these soldiers. Tourists also find it difficult to explore the tunnels because there is no light inside; to crawl through the tunnels, you have to use a flashlight.
The yard in the monument
The exhibition room in the historical monument
In the colonial periods, Phu Tho Hoa tunnels played a vital role in several victories of the Vietnamese army in the southern area. When the US army took over Saigon, the tunnels were also an important military base for the soldiers to assail enemy posts in the center of the city.
The tunnel’s entrance at Phu Tho Hoa
Some clothes, tools, and pictures of Vietnamese soldiers who lived and fought in Phu Tho Hoa tunnels are displayed inside the exhibition room.
Vietnamese soldiers who dug the Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels
Clothes and tools used during wartime
Digging tools used during the construction of Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels
Summary of Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City
Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels used to be a special military base in wartime. It became a national historical monument in 1996. However, most sources of information about these tunnels, like documents, pictures, and the people who actually dug the tunnels, have all been lost. Therefore, there are little information and exhibition displayed at this monument. However, the management department of Phu Tho Hoa Tunnels is still putting efforts in research and rebuilding the tunnel system so that this place could become another historical tourist attraction in the city.
Besides Phu Tho Hoa, there are other tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City to learn about Vietnamese history and culture. If you would love to see more of these places, check out our motorbike tour in Ho Chi Minh City.