DMZ (Vietnam)

Rusty tank in the DMZ

Vietnam's Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, is the area around the former border between North and South Vietnam. Historically it was a narrow band of terrain extending from Laos to the coast, five km on either side of the Ben Hai River, roughly on the 17th parallel, north latitude.

The area saw heavy fighting in the war, and ruins of old American military bases still exist. Even if you're not interested in the history, the area has some spectacular mountain scenery and rugged jungles.

Understand

While the actual border was marked by the Ben Hai river, most historical sights (i.e., American bases) are along Highway 9, which runs parallel to the river several km to the south. This road runs to the Lao border and continues onward.

Get in

The area's only major city is Dong Ha, on the coast. It's on Hwy 1, and easily accessible from Hue and Da Nang.

Tours can be arranged from Dong Ha by DMZ Tours (located along Le Duan street) for around US$15-17. This tour will pick you up on the bus coming from Hue, and go to the tunnels, Dakrong bridge, rockpile, and Khe San. Does not include Camp Carol, Con Tien, or food/water, but is a pleasant ride with a spirited guide (some propaganda).

Lots of travel agents in Hue offer convenient day trips by bus. They are cheap at US$10-15 per person, but be forewarned that you will have to get up very early, as the tours usually hit the road at 06:00. Expect to return to Hue between 18:00-19:00. You will also find yourself herded back on to the bus to continue to the next stop, only to find yourself waiting for some stragglers. It can get crowded in the Vinh Moc Tunnels if your bus group is large.

You can go by car, which can be expensive, but if it's raining, which it often is, you'll be glad you did. Also, private tours can take you to some places where the big buses and large groups don't go.

Tours by motorbike can be arranged, but unless you are a diehard, you may find yourself exhausted when you return, as you may cover as much as 300 km round trip. If you want a motorbike tour, it may be better to spend a night in Dong Ha, and make your arrangements there.

If you book your tour through your hotel, it will probably cost more, as the hotel takes a commission.

Get around

Unless you have your own transportation, you'll need to hire a taxi or take a guided tour to see the sights. Some local tour operators offer motorcycle trips along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

See

Bunker, Khe Sanh Combat Base

Arranged in order from east (Vietnamese coast) to west (Lao border):

Do

Buy

Though you'll probably encounter vendors selling GI dogtags, lighters, and other paraphernalia, you can be sure that none of them are genuinely from the war.

When you get into Dong Ha city, there are several places you can visit to purchase things. Quang Tri is famous for pepper bean and Arabica coffee. You can buy these products in Dong Ha Market, next to the Dong Ha bridge, right on Hwy 1.

Go next

You can either move to discover Phong Nha-Ke Bang or enjoy your next days in Hue city. Other than that, you can take a bus and get to Laos from Dong Ha City.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, May 14, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.