Touring the DMZ: Day One (South Vietnam)

Caitlin Adventure, Asia, Exploration, Featured, Places, Vietnam Leave a Comment

I arrived into Dong Ha after my tiny 15km ride (having not made the complete distance yesterday), and was naturally exhausted. But I’d already booked my DMZ tour, and I’d barely jumped in the shower before Mr Hoa arrived ready to find out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see.

Today we set ourselves up for the “South” Vietnam tour, taking in the various sites of the US bases and important sights from the war, all leading towards the Khe Sanh base as the final big stop.

Here’s what I saw:

Truong Son National Cemetery

Unlike the south, the North Vietnamese weren’t easily identifiable if they perished during the war. They didn’t wear dog tags, instead having papers held inside some plastic wrapping which served as their means of identification. Unfortunately, a lot of those papers were destroyed, leaving many Vietnamese soldiers unaccounted for and unknown in death.

An idea of the numbers of loss can be seen at the Truong Son National Cemetery, where thousands of graves can be seen with details of each person listed (although some of these contain only some of that person’s history, with the other details lost). More sobering is the mass tombs carrying the only remains of a number of men who could not be identified at all.

These cemeteries can be seen across the country, but this is the largest.

SouthVietnam-TruongSonNationalCemetary

The Rockpile

You could be forgiven for not understanding how on earth this relates to the war – to me it just seemed like a great big pile of rocks to start with. As it turns out, it was a pretty important military observation post for the US, and based on this article, it definitely came in handy.

SouthVietnam-Rockpile

Dakrong Bridge

During the war, a number of trails (now known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail) were used as a supply route between the north and south. The US continuously tried to take out the route, but given it’s ever changing paths, were not successful. One important section was the Dakrong Bridge which was destroyed and rebuilt on multiple occasions.

The current bridge, while built since the war, is still typically seen on a tour of the DMZ, although to be honest, it’s just another bridge. The importance comes only in knowing that the area was used as an important supply route and that because of that, a whole lot of bombs were likely dropped in the very spot you’d be standing.

SouthVietnam-DakrongBridge

Khe Sanh Base

The main stop along the tour – Khe Sanh Marine Base. Just don’t go expecting to see a lot – the place was razed to the ground before the Americans left. What is there now requires a little understanding and knowledge of the war for it to be worthwhile.

There’s a little museum on site which provides the typical biased history of the Americans fearfully retreating as the North Vietnamese take over the base. I believe the Americans might tell a slightly different tale to that which the museum depicts in its images though.

You’ll also see a number of planes, helicopters, tanks and various bombs from the war period. Be aware though that these have been bought in from other sites to make the base a little more attractive for the tourists.

SouthVietnam-KheSanhBase-Image1

Other Sites

There’s a few other places to visit along the route to Khe Sanh, but they’re almost impossible to find without a guide. The most notable is Camp Carol, a former US artillery base. There’s little to see here now aside from a monument built by the Vietnamese, but if you can venture a little further into the dense bushland, you’ll find a few areas with circular concrete foundations which are said to be former gun placements.

Other than that, the whole route is set through some stunning scenery making it a worthwhile trip just for the view!

SouthVietnam-Scenery

Read More at: Vietnam Travel

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