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DMZ overview Dong Hoi - Phong Nha Dong Ha
Skeleton of a church Bridge over Ben Hai River Truong Son National Cemetery
Vinh Moc tunnels Dakrong Bridge Hochiminh Trail
Hill Tribe Villages Khe Sanh Combat base A Luoi
Lao Bao The Rockpile


The Rockpile

RockpileThe Rockpile is the name given to a 230m high rocky hill that was used as a US marine listening post during the Vietnam War. Situated within view of Route 9, this former US military base was only accessible by helicopter. It was thus a perfect location to watch for NVA movements in the surrounding area as well as a good platform from which long range artillery could be used. There is really nothing left on the Rockpile and one would wonder why anyone would step out of the bus to look at what is now just a rock mountain.

The Dakrong Bridge

dakrong brigdeThis bridge crosses the Dakrong River and was completed in 1976 with the assistance of Cuba. You are not permitted to take photos of the 'bribe officers' here who often extort money from the truck drivers arriving from Laos, but once you cross the bridge and are away from the officers you can take all of the pictures that you would want to. The road on the far side of the bridge was used as a section of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.



Ho Chi Minh Trail

Ho chi minh trailHo Chi Minh Trail was the artery of life feeding the Viet Cong fighting in the South with much needed food, ammunition, weapons and medicine. Parts of the trail existed before the war but it was extended to massive proportions Originally only porters on foot and bicycles were used, but in the later staves of the war, the trail virtually became a highway facilitating massive truck traffic. The trail that became known as Hanoi's road to victory stretched 16,000 km in total and consisted of main roads, smaller arteries and numerous detours. It was all extremely well camouflaged and always in a constant fury of development with new construction and rebuilding of sections that had been damaged. The trail not only ran through Vietnam but extended into Laos and Cambodia to avoid American bombing. The US forces only managed to inconsistently destroy parts of the trail, however they never successfully cut the supply trail even after the constant defoliation of the area and extensive bombing using infra red detection dives and laser guided systems.

Hill Tribe Villages

Hill tribeLining in the region from the Dakrong Bridge to the Ashau Valley is the dominant minority Paco Tribe. They were the only tribe in this area to support the NVA in the Vietnam War. They are so in love with Uncle Ho that the entire tribe uses Ho as their surname. There are two other minority groups in the area of the DMZ. Around Khe Sanh Town there are the Van Kieu Tribe and around Lao Bao there is the Ko Ho Tribe. All three tribes are of Cambodian origin and are patrilineal and ruled by the oldest wise man of the village. They also use stilted houses and they use the space under their hoses for storing wood and keeping livestock, and old tradition to keep the animals safe from tigers. There are no more tigers here, but the tradition has stuck. The DMZ tours from Hue take tourists to a small village just by the Dakrong Bridge that was an embarrassment and where the villager are so apathetic about seeing foreigners that it is ridiculous. 

Khe Sanh Combat base

Khe sanh combatThis old American base is the site of one the most important battles (or diversions) of the Vietnam War. All that remains at Khe Sanh now is an eroded pock-marked dust bowl with a memorial near the airstrip and an awful lot of scrap hunters still searching for leftovers from the war. There are numerous large bomb craters and an endless number of hotels and mounds of dirt surrounding the area created by the locals trying to add a few more dollars to their income. Khe Sanh became a sizeable marine base in late 1966 with a view to training the surrounding hilltribe people and stopping Viet cong incursion into the area. By late 1967, American intelligence detected huge movements of Viet Cong in the area and n January 1968 the siege of Khe Sanh began. It was not until 75 days later, with hundreds of US dead and unnumerable Viet Cong killed, that the siege was finally lifted. Only then was it discovered by the US leaders that Khe Sanh had been little more than a monumental diversion for the Tet Offensive which itself proved to be a running point of the war. When the US forces finally pulled out of Khe Sanh in mid 1968 everything that could have been used by the Viet Cong was blown up, bombed from their or buried. Thus ended another bloody and seemingly pointless chapter of the Vietnam War. Rumor has it that the Vietnamese are planning to rebuild Khe Sanh combat Base as a tourist attraction. 

Please note that in the area of Khe Sanh Combat Base there is still a lot of ordnance sitting around. These are not souvenirs. They have been left by the scrap hunters who believe them too unstable even for them to attempt to disarm. The ordnance includes landmines, bullets and bombs of all types and descriptions. They are left so that either temperature fluctuations explode them or an unfortunate cow steps on them. You are not a cow, do not touch any ordnance you see laying around. Too many people have already died during and since the war, so do not add yourself to the statistics books.


A Luoi

AluoiAluoi is situated near the Ashau Valley, and is the site known as the infamous Hamburger Hill battle during the Vietnam War. During this weeklong battle in May 1969, 245 American soldiers died. It is located on the inland road between hue and the DMZ. The road to get there used to be part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and extends up to the Dakrong Bridge. The scenery is quite beautiful as the road runs parallel to the Dakrong River and passes some primary jungle. However this road is in terrible condition and you would be pushed for time to see the sights of the DMZ if you were taken to this road. It is 20 km to get to Aluoi from the Ashau Valley and another 92 km to the Dakrong Bridge.

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