Vietnam
Tỉnh Quảng Trị

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  • Day47

    Khe Sanh Base & the DMZ

    July 20, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 82 °F

    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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  • Day15

    Long Hung Church

    September 4, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ☁️ 31 °C

    First stop was Long Hung Church.

    The church in Quang Tri fell victim to 8 continuous days of bombings by South Vietnamese and American troops during the Vietnam War. The church has remained untouched and basically remains as it was immediately after the bombings occurred.Read more

  • Day15

    Vinh Moc Tunnels

    September 4, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 33 °C

    Last stop was the Vinh Moc tunnels. Our guide through the tunnels grandparents helped build the tunnel complex and lived in these tunnels, the family still live in the Vinh Moc village.

    During the Vietnam War it was strategically located on the border of North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The tunnels were built to shelter people from the intense bombing of Son Trung and Son Ha communes in Vinh Linh county of Quảng Trị Province in the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone.

    The American forces believed the villagers of Vinh Moc were supplying food and armaments to the North Vietnamese garrison on the island of Con Co which was in turn hindering the American bombers on their way to bomb Hanoi. The idea was to force the villagers of Vinh Moc to leave the area but as is typical in Vietnam there was nowhere else to go.

    The villagers initially dug the tunnels to move their village 10 metres underground but the American forces designed bombs that burrowed down 10 metres.

    Eventually, against the odds the villagers moved the village to a depth of 30 metres. It was constructed in several stages beginning in 1966 and used until early 1972. The complex grew to include wells, kitchens, rooms for each family and spaces for healthcare.

    Around sixty families lived in the tunnels and 17 children were born inside the tunnels.

    The tunnels were a success and no villagers lost their lives. The only direct hit was from a bomb that failed to explode the resulting hole was utilized as a ventilation shaft.

    Three levels of tunnels were eventually built.
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  • Day15

    Highway of Horror

    September 4, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    There was only one exit out of the local war battles and that was National Highway No. 1. On this day, the local militia fled the city and abandoned their posts. Thousands of innocent people who had also been abandoned found their escape in the same line as soldiers.

    Unfortunately, the bridge Truong Phuoc in front of them had been blown up. And the bridge Ben Da behind them had also been knocked down by the VC. Finally, countless amount of shells and mortars exploded right on the civilians' heads.

    A CNN reporter who was there 60 days after the bombs dropped named this area as "THE STREET OF HORROR" because of what he saw. I am not going to go into any detail as I do not feel that it is necessary.
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  • Day15

    The Rockpile and Firebase Fuller

    September 4, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    We stopped by the roadside to learn the importance of both The Rockpile and Firebase Fuller.

    The Rockpile and known in Vietnamese as Thon Khe Tri, is a solitary karst rock outcropping north of Route 9 and south of the former Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone. Its relatively inaccessible location, reached only by helicopter, made it an important United States Army and Marine Corps observation post and artillery base from 1966 to 1969.

    Firebase Fuller also known as Dong Ha Mountain or Hill 549 is a former U.S. Marine Corps, Army and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) firebase in central Vietnam.
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  • Day15

    Khe Sanh Combat Base

    September 4, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Next we visited the Khe Sanh Combat base the planes, helicopter's and some artillery where left when the Americans pulled out.

    Khe Sanh Combat Base was a United States Marine Corps outpost south of the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) used during the Vietnam War.

    This is the site of the most famous siege of the American War, the USA’s Khe Sanh Combat Base was never overrun, but saw the bloodiest battle of the war. About 500 Americans, 10,000 North Vietnamese troops and uncounted civilian bystanders died around this remote highland base.

    The 75-day siege of Khe Sanh began on 21 January 1968 with a small-scale assault on the base’s perimeter. As the marines and South Vietnamese rangers braced for a fullscale ground attack, Khe Sanh became the focus of global media attention. It was the cover story for both Newsweek and Life magazines, and made the front pages of countless newspapers around the world. During the next two months the base was subjected to continuous ground attacks and artillery fire, and US aircraft dropped 100,000 tonnes of explosives in its vicinity.

    But the expected attempt to overrun the base never came.

    On 7 April 1968, after heavy fighting, US troops reopened Hwy 9 and linked up with the marines, ending the siege.

    It now seems clear that the siege was an enormous diversion to draw US attention away from the South Vietnamese population centres in preparation for the Tet Offensive, which began a week after the siege started and resulted in the North Vietnamese winning significant ground right around South Vietnam.
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  • Day15

    Dakrong Bridge Vietnam

    September 4, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 34 °C

    The current Dakrong Bridge was built in 1975 after reunification. Just west of the main DMZ zone, the bridge was considered the beginning of the Ho Chi Minh Trail network and during the years of conflict with the United States, this access point was hotly contested. The Dakrong Bridge fell many times.

    On the edge of the bridge the HCM trail is marked.

    The Ho Chi Minh Trail is a concept, not a road. The trail was a vast network, spread across hundreds of miles of terrain extending far into the interior of Laos, a broad avenue of hundreds of kilometres of trails that brought supplies to North Vietnamese troops, usually on the backs of porters or with giant loads precariously perched on overlaid bicycles. You might call it "the path of least resistance," or the "road less bombed or occupied," really. The trail starts in Quang Tri Province, basically anything from the Dakrong Bridge south.
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  • Day15

    Hien Luong Bridge and Museum

    September 4, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 34 °C

    I mentioned it was a long day so much to see and learn about and we are still learning.

    The Hien Luong Bridge is a bridge across the Ben Hai river, which was part of the border between North and South Vietnam from 1954 until the reunification in 1976. The bridge is an important national monument to the reunification of Vietnam.

    The bridge is now just a pedestrian bridge. You can walk across the old bridge over the entire length 165 metres. We did not walk across as it was quite hot today.

    We then visited the museum which is near the bridge which houses propaganda war remnants and two memorials.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Tỉnh Quảng Trị, Tinh Quang Tri