The Vietnam War was one of the defining events of the second half or the twentieth century. Though the war ended more than 40 years ago, its pain and loss are still visible somewhere in Vietnam. One of the places where tourists can learn about the war with its remnants is the DMZ.
Vietnam’s Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, is the area extending from Laos border to the coast, five kilometres on either side of the Ben Hai River, roughly on the 17th parallel north of latitude, the former dividing line between North and South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975. The area mostly belongs to central Quang Tri and Quang Binh provinces. Though named as a demilitarized zone, it was actually the most heavily bombed area in the country and experienced the biggest loss during war.
Ben Hai River
Visiting the DMZ, you should visit the historic Ben Hai River first. The river is 120km to the north of Dong Ha, Quang Tri and 60km to the south of Dong Hoi, Quang Binh. It starts in Laos and flows into the sea at Cua Tung. You can hire a boat to travel along the river and enjoy its peaceful and scenic landscapes.
Hien Luong Bridge
Hien Luong bridge was first built in 1928 and repaired many times till 2003. From then on it has remained the same with 7 spans. Under the Geneva agreements, it is the dividing point separating two parts of the country. The bridge is a symbol showing the loss, separation and hurt during the long war.
Today, the only remnant left from the war is a bunker on the north side. You can also find a monument and a museum there.
Vinh Moc Tunnels
A place you should visit is Vinh Moc tunnels system. It was built as a temporary evacuating place for local people and revolutionary soldiers during wars. The tunnels were constructed to be a shelter for people when there were bombings by American planes. The dark and narrow passageway there witnessed normal life of people there, from marrying, giving birth to babies to educating children and curing for wounded soldiers. Today, the past life in the tunnel has been depicted to tourists via diorama. It proves the courage of the nation in the war it determined to win.
Khe Sanh Combat Base
To clearly understand the history of war, tourists should not miss Khe Sanh Combat Base with Ta Con airport. The battle to get Khe Sanh combat base from US troops played a decisive role in the success of the Vietnam War. The scene here has changed a lot, but there still have historical monuments. There is a small museum whose exhibits include a crashed airplane, two crashed helicopters, a collection of heavy artillery shells, a big gun, and a bunker. It also displays pictures, small artefacts left by American and Vietnamese soldiers and some recovered weaponry. There was also diorama depicting the local peoples’ support to the soldiers and their fighting. It is moving to see the memoirs of the war.
Half an hour driving away is the Rockpile. During the war, it was used as an important and strategic lookout post. Nowadays, it’s just a very big rock.
How to tour DMZ from Hue
You can easily book a one-day shared tour from Hue to the DMZ with about $9. The tour begins at 6am. The vehicle will tour around Hue city to pick up visitors so if you are at the end of the route, you can show up by 7am. By 6pm tourists will be taken to Hue.
You may also book a separate car tour which costs about $70. The tour allows you flexibility to stop anywhere mid-way or stay at a place as long as you want.
Another option is to travel to Dong Ha, Quang Tri and then book a tour from there. DMZ Café in Dong Ha is a suggestion for you with English speaking guides and negotiable price. A day-long tour costs around $15/person.