The Imperial City of
Hue, Vietnam’s ancient Imperial Capital, lies at the mouth
of the Perfume River. It, too, has been disfigured by warfare,
first by French colonists who sacked and burnt the Imperial
Library as a reprisal for resistance, and then by a massive
US barrage during 1968 Tet Offensive that destroyed much
of Hue’s ancient Citadel. Nevertheless, the restoration
work, and Hue’s status as a World Heritage Site, makes it
an important destination for visitors. Hue has a small airport
with regular flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
This area saw most of the major confrontations during the
American War. North of Hue is the Demilitarised Zone, or
DMZ, and Quang Tri Province where much of the fighting occurred.
The border between the communist North and the US-supported
South was the Ben Hai River, not the ‘17th Parallel’ as
is popularly believed. The area still bears the scars of
the massive bombardments that took place.
few remains of the many camps and combat bases, the barren
ground pockmarked with craters, and the tens of thousands
of graves in the National Cemetery, a fraction of the million
North Vietnamese soldiers who died in the conflict, are
solemn reminders of war. Nearby is the Vinh Moc tunnel complex,
less extensive, but more authentic, than the more famous
Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City.
Ma National Park
Forty kilometres south of Hue is Bach Ma National Park,
one of Vietnam’s best-managed nature reserves. The park
encompasses a mountain area that was once a colonial hill-station.
As well as good nature trails, waterfalls, lush vegetation
and opportunities for trekking, Bach Ma has spectacular
views over the coast.
Twenty-five kilometres further south, Lang Co Beach is a
long stretch of white sand with a pretty village and an
attractive lagoon at the southern end. Halfway along is
recently built resort hotel on the beach, a short distance
from Highway 1. Its proximity to Hue makes it an alternative
to accommodation in the city itself.
Hai Van Pass
The mountains straddled by the Hai Van Pass are generally
regarded as an unofficial demarcation line between the north
and the south of Vietnam. It has spectacular views from
its highest point, a good reason for avoiding the new tunnel
cut through the granite peaks.