Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DMZ Tour

Yesterday we went on a tour of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) marking the area between North and South Vietnam. This was the most heavily bombed area of the entire Vietnam War (or, as our guide pointed out, the Vietnamese call it the American War). The tour was long, lasting from 6:30 am until 6 pm but it's highly recommended. As each stop on the tour charges "entrance fees" and the tour includes all these in the price, it's also an economical way to see a bunch of stuff all at once.

I won't bore the readers with too many details of the tour, as we've put comments on the pictures if you're interested in each stop. However, highlights were going to the battle site of Khe Sanh, a major turning point of the war (and where over 400 Americans lost their lives), as well as seeing the Vinh Moc Tunnels where hundreds of Vietnamese lived underground for two years while the area was bombed repeatedly.
Finally, the last stop was the Truong Son War Cemetery, where over 10,000 bodies lie, many of them unidentified. Our guide pointed out that while almost 60,000 Americans lost their lives in the Vietnam War, over 3,000,000 Vietnamese died, and many of the dead are still missing or unidentified.
For me, coming to Vietnam and seeing the impact and after effects of the war is especially poignant as my dad served in Vietnam from July 1967 to August 1968. He was not in the DMZ area, but down south closer to Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). We hope to visit the area where he served later in our visit.

Today we're leaving Hue and heading North to Hanoi. After having so much fun on the overnight buses in Laos we're going to now try a Vietnamese overnight bus.

Update: While waiting for us bus we walked around Hue. Hue is an interesting and pretty city, but somewhat difficult to navigate. Traffic is insane and everything is pretty spread out so we had trouble just finding places to eat, for example. But we did walk around The Citadel, a walled section of the city where Emporer Gia Long lived back in the early nineteenth century. Most of the 148 original building were destroyed by heavy bombing during the Vietnam War, but there are still some beautiful temples and towers.

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