For most people,
the attraction of Quang Tri is the DMZ. However, there’s not
much left of the battlefields camps and firebases, most are
unmarked, and there are still problems with unexploded ordnance.
If you travel
with Haivenu, you’ll always have an expert guide who knows
the area like the back of his or her hand, and particularly
anywhere that might pose a safety risk.
If you’re interested
in particular sites and locations, we’ll tailor-make your
tour to your requirements.
If you’re a returning
veteran, or a friend or family member of someone who was in
Vietnam during the war, we’ll try to track down the exact
places, and if possible, local people who were present and
remember what happened. We’re good at tracking down clues
to identifying specific places.
If you’re looking
for a general overview of the DMZ, we’d usually include the
main sites, the bridges, the Vinh Moc and the Truong Son National
could be La Vang Church, the Quang Tri Citadel, the Ai Tu
Base and Airfield, Camp Carroll, The Rockpile, the Khe Sanh
Marine Combat Base, Lang Vay Special Forces Camp, Con Thien
Firebase, the McNamara Line, the Dak Rong Bridge, and the
Doc Mieu Base.
The Ben Hai River
and the Hien Luong bridge would also feature. The river runs
about 100km from its source to the sea, but was catapulted
onto the international stage when the 1954 Geneva Convention
designated it as the demarcation line between the communist
North Vietnam and the South (not the ‘17th Parallel’ often
mentioned in guide books).
Hien Luong was
a steel bridge built by French sappers in 1950: previously,
the only means of crossing the river was by boat. When Vietnam
was partitioned, the northern half was painted red, and the
southern yellow. The bridge was bombed to destruction by the
US in 1970 – a pyrrhic victory as nearly all the troops, supplies
and weapons used the heavily disguised Ho Chi Minh Trail,
not the exposed coastal route.
There’s no point
in visiting the Ho Chi Minh Trail, as there’s nothing to see
– the whole point was that it should be as invisible as possible.
However, much of the route is being reincarnated as the Truong
Son Road, a new highway in the west linking the two major
cities designed to alleviate the pressure on Highway 1.
The Truong Son
National Cemetery is another possible element. It’s built
on several low lying hills in Truong Son village, a memorial
to the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese soldiers who died
keeping the Ho Chi Minh Trail open. The history of the trail
beggars the imagination – the cemetery commemorates the thousands
of men and women who kept the link open throughout the war
– engineers, gunners, medical personnel, and a small army
of young volunteers, some little more than children, who worked
ceaselessly each night to fill in the craters caused by incessant
bombing during the day.
The only place
to the north of the Ben Hai River that we visit is Vinh Moc.
In June 1965, after heavy bombardments, the people of Vinh
Moc village began digging shelters beneath their houses to
link them to the neighbours thus creating a web of tunnels.
Everything was carefully planned to provide access to underground
public facilities, such as meeting rooms, a school, and a
clinic where seventeen babies were born.
(but more authentic) than the more famous Cu Chi tunnels near
Saigon, and built for different purposes, the Vinh Moc passages
and chambers are a poignant example of the ingenuity of the
ordinary Vietnamese people in coping with life in the epicentre
of one of the world’s most brutal conflicts.