Vietnam
Tỉnh Quảng Trị

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  • Day9

    PeaceTrees Vietnam

    October 2, 2019 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 33 °C

    After a hearty breakfast of very fresh eggs and rolls (and chocolate pancakes for Don), we left Phong Nha early, at 7, for our day visiting with PeaceTrees, the organization Hans and Augie visited last year and one that we support as a family. It was an incredible day. The PeaceTrees slogan is "Healing the land. Building community. Planting futures." The organization, a US non-profit, based in Seattle, was started by Jerilyn Cheney and her husband Danaan Perry. Jerilyn's brother, Daniel, was killed in Vietnam and Jerilyn vowed that when the time was right, she would figure out a way forward. Her way became PeaceTrees, now a thriving organization that does land mine removal and land mine education for children as well as provide support for families with someone who has been injured by a UED. The organization works in several provinces bordering the former DMZ. These provinces were heavily bombed during the war and much of the land is still unusable due to unexploded ordinance. Consequently, they are the poorest provinces in the country. PeaceTrees also partners with communities to build kindergartens, support families with healthy food and clean water, and build community centers.

    We met the In-Country Director, Ha Phan, at a small coffee shop near Dong Ha. Our first stop was a kindergarten in a small village in the mountains near Laos. On the drive to the village, Ha told us that the money for the school was donated by a Vietnam vet in memory of his best friend, killed in the war. She also told us how she came to PeaceTrees. She started as an intern after university, and was tasked with interviewing survivors of land mine explosions. The first day on the job she spoke to an 18 year old young man, just married, who lost both hands due to an explosion. That interview transformed her and she had been with the organization for 18 years now.

    The school was a bright open one room building, with colorful decorations in the walls. The children were eating lunch when we arrived. The focus of the school is teaching children Vietnamese, as the Viet language is used in school, business, industry, etc. A community has to ask for a school. This is not an organization that swoops in and takes over. If the community asks, PeaceTrees works with the community to design and develop the school, which is built by locals. 

    As a birthday present this year, Don had given Hans a portable mini-printer, which Hans brought along. We were all taking tons of photos, and Hans took photos of groups of kids. The children were amazed, watching this 5x7 inch device spit out an image. He'd hand them the photo and they'd smile and laugh. Don and Mary handed out stickers. The kids sang for us and we sang for them: the first verse, and the first verse only, of Mary Had A Little Lamb. After distributing gifts provided by Peace Trees, we said our goodbyes and headed to lunch and coffee. Here is a link to some of the singing: https://photos.app.goo.gl/RtYkDkWMPmcGEiDQ9

    The next stop in our day was the unexploded ordinance clearance site, where we met the team of 10 folks doing on the ground de-mining. Brave people. (PeaceTrees has 10 teams is the field.) They receive extensive training, but still, it is risky work with potentially fatal consequences. Wow. This work is funded by The Office of Weapons Abatement and Removal, a US Department of State office. Our tax dollars paid to drop them in the first place and are now paying to remove them. The team showed us a map of all the bombs dropped across the province, a map of dense red dots covering pretty much the entire province. The data was provided by the US Air Force. The area the team was working in was a rubber tree plantation. They started in February, and to date, had removed 92 unexploded ordance (UDX) so far, and expected to finish up at the end of the month. The area was the size of a football field. They walk every inch, using sensitive metal detectors, to ferrett out what lies below the surface. Not every find is a UDX, but it has to be treated as such.

    The team had saved a cluster bomb for us to detonate. We could see it lying in the sandbagged hole they'd carefully excavated around it. It was a small black ball, the size of a tennis ball. You could see why it would be so appealing to a kid. A single bomb held hundreds of these small balls. When they exploded, they sent out small bullet - like projectiles that reached a radius of 300 feet. Anything in the area didn't have a chance. Mary and I were given the task of blowing it up, but before we did, we had to sign a waiver and provide our blood type. Just in case…. The team made sure the site was secure, then ran a wire from the bomb to the detonation site, 300 feet away. We practiced, Mary armed the device with one button and I hit the Fire button. After the technician, a young woman, wired it up, and the team leader counted down in Vietnamese, we pressed our buttons. It was deafening and terrifying. I could imagine the impact. Here is a link to the video: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ZehWCvYUS41Si17X6

    Our day ended with a visit to the PeaceTrees office, on a former Marine base. We saw the tree Hans and Augie planted last year. It was an amazing day, and I urge you to check out the PeaceTrees website to learn more about what they do. There's a short video there about a day in the life of a young woman working on a de-mining team.
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  • Day32

    Hue, Lao Bao, Dong Hoi

    January 13, 2019 in Vietnam ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    Mutti danke für die Reiseapotheke, die hat mich gerettet. Mit Kohle, Ibu und Imodium geht es raus Richtung Laos. Wir heizen unbemerkt in die ehemalige Entmilitarisierte Zone (Demilitarized Zone = DMZ) sie umfaßte ein Gebiet von jeweils 5 km auf beiden Seiten. Der 17 Breitengrad bzw. der Ben Hai Fluss trennten Nord und Südvietnam voneinander und dienten als Demarkationslinie. Die heftigsten Gefechte haben hier stattgefunden, entlang der Straße sichten wir keine Überbleibsel aus diesen dunklen Kapitel. Das wir nach Lao Bao fahren, ist dem Umstand geschuldet dass ich in Hoi An Papiere bekommen habe die mir bescheinigen dass ich aus beruflichen Gründen eingeladen werde. Meine Empfehlung, wenn ihr nicht genau wisst wie lange ihr euch in einen Land bleibt, macht euch ein Visum mir der maximalen Aufenthaltsdauer, mein E Visa hat die Verlängerung knifflig gemacht. 30 Minuten Laos sind doch etwas kurz gewesen, wir sehen uns wieder. Abseits des Grenzübergangs, gibt es hier nicht viel zu tun. Wir "genießen" eine Schwalbennest Limo, ich schlafe mit beruhigten Gewissen ein und freue mich auf die morgige Tour. Es geht auf verschlungene Pfaden durch den Dschungel, Gefälle von bis zu 17° ist hier keine seltenheit. Hier sind zu Zeiten des Krieges Vorsorgungskonvois des Vietcong lang gerrumpelt, wir befinden uns auf einer der unzähligen Straßen, Pfade die als Ho Shi Minh Pfad bekannt sind. Für mehrere Stunden sehen wir keine Autos, dafür zu oft Rollerfahrer die absurd große Holzpfeiler transportieren, in Kurven kann das schonmal eng werden.Read more

  • Day100

    Tag 100 Phong 》Hue

    January 7 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Schon ist die schöne Zeit in Phong Nha auch schon wieder vorbei und es geht weiter nach Hue. Allerdings entschieden wir uns dieses mal das ganze mit einer kleinen Tour zu verbinden. Sprich wir besuchten unterwegs die Vinh Moc Tunnel und den Ben Hai River. Also loooos geht's 😁.

  • Day169

    DMZ - Vinh-Moc-Tunnel

    November 20, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    From the border we continued to the Vin-Moc-Tunnels just a few kilometers away. The tunnels were built by the Vietnamese people for safety reasons. During the war they lived in there for weeks and months. All in all they are 2,8 kilometers long without any ventilation system, so it was very warm in there. In most of the parts we were not able to stand upright. It was a cool experience walking around there especially as almost no other tourists have been there.

    Von der Grenze sind wir dann direkt weiter zu den Vin-Moc-Tunneln gefahren. Die Tunnel würden während des Krieges von den Einheimischen als Schutz vor den Bomben gebaut. Insgesamt hat das Tunnelsystem eine Länge von 2,8km und wir sind durch einige Teile heute durchgelaufen. Die Tunnel sind meist sehr niedrig und nicht belüftet. Es wurde dementsprechend ganz schön warm. Generell war es eine coole Erfahrung hier durchzulaufen auch wenn wir uns nicht vorstellen könnten hier über Monate drinnen zu bleiben. In der ganzen Höhle gab es übrigens nur eine einzige "Toilette" und es wurden 64 Kinder während des Krieges in den Tunneln geboren.

    Gute Nachrichten: Ich kann schon wieder recht schnell humpeln und das Sightseeing Programm mitmachen :)
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  • Day59

    Vinh-Moc-Tunnel

    March 2, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ 🌬 14 °C

    Was ich sehen durfte, traute ich meinen Augen kaum.
    Ein komplettes Dorf auf 3 Etagen von 10 - 23 tiefe unter der Erde !
    Nachdem Vinh Moc im Krieg bombardiert worden war und kein Haus mehr davon übrig blieb, schufen hunderte Menschen ein ausgeklügeltes Tunnelsystem mit Schlafstätten, Waschräume, Kommandozentrale, ja sogar ein Krankenhaus und Gebärstation, wo 17 babys auf die Welt kamen.
    Auf dem 1. Bild ist ein nachbau von den Village im Modelgrösse zu sehen. Kann aber heute auch jeder die Tunnel selbst besichtigen.
    Eine absolute Meisterarbeit, wobei das nicht aus Spaß enstand, sondern vielmehr der Kampf ums überleben.
    Die Anlage wurde 1976 von den vietnamesischen Ministerium als historsch gelistet. Zu kriegszeiten lebten über mehrere Monate bis zu 500 Menschen darin. WAHNSINN !
    Und der Plan funktionierte! Die Amerikanischen Bomberpiloten flogen über das Chinesische Meer nach Vietnam. Sahen keinen ( Feind ) und machten wieder kehrt.
    Die Tunnel haben 17 Eingänge, sind knapp 3 km lang, ca. 1.60 - 1.70 hoch, schmal und haben auf 23 meter tiefe einen direkten unauffälligen Ausgang am Meer.
    Momentan befinde ich mich in einen kleinen Bergdorf Zentral Vietnams mit einer malerischen Aussicht 🤗🌝
    Ihr wollt mehr? Dann schaut wieder vorbei... ✌
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  • Day169

    DMZ - Zwischen Nord und Süd Vietnam

    November 20, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We have left Hue today and drove to the former demilitarized zone of Vietnam. Today the border between north and south Vietnam can only be seen on a bridge. The yellow part of the bridge belongs to South Vietnam and the blue part to North Vietnam. On our way to the old border we passed several former observation towers, but there is not a lot more to see from former days than that. Today people live a normal life in this area with only some monuments remembering the war several years ago.

    Heute war es Zeit Hue zu verlassen und weiter Richtung Norden zu fahren. Der Weg führte uns durch die ehemalige Demilitarisierte Zone oder mit anderen Worten über die Grenze von Süd Vietnam in den Nord Vietnam. Schon einige Kilometer bevor wir an der alten Grenze waren konnte man am Straßenrand viele alte, verfallene Wachtürme sehen. Die Grenze erkennt man heutzutage allerdings nur noch an einigen Denkmälern und der Brücke über den Han River. Der gelbe Teil gehörte zum Süden und der blaue zum Norden.
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  • Day265

    Vinh Moc Tunnels, Vietnam

    February 26, 2016 in Vietnam ⋅ 🌙 17 °C

    A whole village of civilians moved underground to avoid bombings during the Vietnam War. Their expansive network of underground tunnels and trenches, with sleeping and meeting quarters, was a great way for me to get out of the wind and rain on the northbound highway.

  • Day47

    Khe Sanh Base & the DMZ

    July 20, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Last night, I went to a local hangout called the DMZ Bar. The ceiling was the map of the Khe Sanh area (the Demilitarized Zone DMZ), and they had the coolest ceiling fan ever: the helicopter marking the location of the air strip. I met some Kiwi and Aussie expats and had a really nice time.

    Today, I'm on an organized tour of the DMZ. We stopped for a picture of the Rockpile. There's only a flag pole on top now, but it was a US radio Outpost for several years. Next was the beginning of one of many Ho Chi Minh Trails, which is now a two-lane highway.

    We just left the remains of Khe Sanh Base. There are a couple of Army helicopters, an Air Force C-130, some recreated bunkers, and a museum dedicated to the might of the North's Liberation Army (Viet Com) and the desperation of the South Vietnamese Army and the US. Most of the pictures of the US men were of them either running towards airlift in an attempt to escape or squatting in bunkers of trenches in fear of the mighty LA. There's one display of seismic intrusion detectors that are labeled US electronic spying devices. I guess the military museums in the US are the same way, but it's still weird.

    Now we're on to lunch, then a 1.5-kilometer-long tunnel used as shelter from the US bombing raids and defoliation efforts.

    Out for now. ✌️
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  • Day16

    Peace Trees Khe Sanh and Dong Ha

    October 25, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    This morning we woke early for a busy day with staff from Peace Trees Vietnam. Van Ahn Vu picked us up at our guesthouse in Dong Ha and drove us to their main in-country office just outside of town. Their US office is in Seattle. Along the way she explained that the organization has five main components.

    1. Clearing the land of unexploded ordinance
    2. Building and staffing preschool kindergartens and training school kids to be safe in the countryside
    3. Providing scholarships to kids or adults in families where the main breadwinner has been injured by unexploded ordinance
    4. Encouraging rural families to plant small vegetable gardens on their land
    5. Agricultural consultation with area farmers

    Their main headquarters doubles as an office and training center for area kids. She explained that the organization busses children from the provinces most affected by the presence of unexploded bombs, grenades, and mortar shells. These areas are concentrated in the two provinces closest to the Lao border and along route 9, the east/west highway most heavily defended by the US during the war. Van Ahn also asked us to plant two trees in the forest around the headquarters. It seems when they began, with the normalization of relations back in 1995 they asked all visitors to plant trees on the then barren land. Now it's a forest and we planted the two latest saplings. Now the kids who come to the training center also camp out in the forest. Pretty cool!

    After our intro we got back in the car and headed up to Khe Sanh where a demining team was busy clearing several hectares of land. The work area was adjacent to three previous US bases. The team used a sophisticated grid pattern and series of markers to slowly run metal detectors over the land. It seemed it would take them about one and a half days to clear about two acres of land. With the teams thay have operating at present Van Ahn noted that it would take about 300 years to clear the whole areas most effected. Seven years to plant the seeds of destruction and 350 to clean up the mess. I wonder how long it will take in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. This doesn't even take into account the armies that we profit from selling weapons to. During our visit they found two unexploded bombs from a cluster bomb that had failed to detonate. Augie took a video of the detonation here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/G3aTnXtR4SEFGvAm8

    Fortunately our day wasn't over yet. Next we drove out into a village adjacent to Khe Sanh to visit a kindergarten. The money for the building came from a church on Bainbridge Island in Washington. Hence the name, Grace Church Kindergarten. Each kindergarten that they building has a main schoolroom, kitchen, bathroom, playground, and library. The kids attending are between three and five years old. Each kid gets a meal during the school day. Most of the kids are from local indigenous families and are not able to speak Vietnamese when the arrive. They are staffed by teachers paid by the government. So far the organization has built 10 kindergartens. If one is interested in funding a school, the cost is around 30k. A video taken during the visit is here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/44YG1mKP9vXrPtVv7

    All in all a pretty good day. Augie and I both think we've found a really solid place to send some funds down the road.
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  • Day33

    2 bikes and 3 Buses...

    April 17, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ 🌙 21 °C

    As always we never want to make our lives easy... We recently heard about the Vin Moch tunnels and found them to be fascinating. This tunnel system was made by a village for them to live in during the war. The tunnels are about 26km in varying direction with various entrances. We just had to go and see them. However, it seems that most tourists either have their own bike or go on a tour which incorporates various other sites and costs a hell of a lot. So obviously we had to try DIY. We asked both the students and various other locals how to get there and it wasn't easy but we decided to go for it anyway with the aim to be in Phong Nha that evening. So the adventure began.

    As we got in quite late the night before resulting in only 4 hours sleep and then getting up for 6am was a struggle! The students were so unbelievably kind and took us on their bikes at 7am to the bus station (10km) out of town and put us on the correct bus.

    Next stop Hồ Xa, the nearest town to the tunnels. The bus journey was very straight forward, but then they dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. We spoke to the locals and one offered to bike us the tunnels and bring us back. We agreed a price, but didn't realise we would all be on one bike! Meh, we jumped on the guys scooter and let's just say I was literally hanging off and holding on for dear life. Not the most comfortable 20 minute journey... By this point we still hadn't eaten so we went to one of the cafes for instant noodle lunch... Not the most fulfilling lunch after such a journey...

    We then went round the tunnels which were actually quite impressive. We then jumped back on the bike for another horrific bike journey back to our bus drop-off. On the way we also chatted with the guy and he said he can put us on a bus to Đồng Hới where we would then catch our final bus to Phong Nhà. It was about 1:30pm when we were dropped off at Đồng Hới. We were absolutely ravishing but the bus dropped us off in the middle of knowhere again (luckily at a bus stop) so we had to ration on Rambutan. We had no idea how long we had to wait and just had to hope that this was the right stop. We waited 40 mins in the hot sun and the bus arrived. We were soooo relieved to be on the last leg. We were exhausted, felt sick from hunger and lack of sleep but we arrived safe and sound! We met a lovely Hungarian guy called Matt who was able to distract us from our true grumpy feeling!

    When we arrived we attempted to nap and then headed out for dinner. I have to admit we did go for pizza... We were craving carbohydrates and luxury. We can't walk past a guy making fresh pizza and not go in... It was yummy and just what we needed!!

    Full and happy we went straight to bed and slept for 12 hours. Bliss!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Tỉnh Quảng Trị, Tinh Quang Tri

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