Old world charm and the Viet-Cong


After a very long ride on the night bus from Nha Trang we arrived in Hoi An at 7am. A short walk from the bus stop at Sinh Cafe and we arrived at our chosen hotel; a rather nice place with a swimming pool in the middle and free breakfast poolside every morning. Our room was on the top floor (4 stories up). We had a quick nap before renting two peddle bikes to check out the old town, which was amazingly beautiful. We had decided to spend only two nights in Hoi An and spent our first full day exploring the old town more in depth. There were a lot of sights to see in Hoi An by just going to the old town; The Japanese Covered Bridge, some old houses that have barely changed since they were built well over 100 years ago, a traditional factory where they made silk paintings, clay carvings, clothes and much more, as well as many temples and museums filled with information and relics from the history of the area.

We had a nice dinner on the riverside; all the trees were lit up with Chinese lanterns as well as the shops along the river. We spent awhile wandering the riverfront and on some of the main roads. The nice part about the old town is that motorbikes aren’t allowed inside for the majority of the day, making the area very peaceful and pleasant to wander around. (No obnoxious honking or revving of engines).

Our last day we had a couple of hours to kill before our bus left for Hue, so we booked a tour to go and see the My Son temples, which were a bit of a drive outside of the city. The first question our guide asked was how many people had been to Angkor Wat; we put up our hands and were told that we would probably find this a very boring day. The My Son ruins were like Angkor Wat in miniature. They were used as a funeral temple mostly, where they prepared and worshiped their dead ancestors (or at least this is how I interpreted what the guide was telling us). We wandered around three of the 6 or so temples and then headed back to the bus and back to Hoi An. It was a short day trip, and could be very interesting if you don’t have the time to go to Angkor in Cambodia, but very dull after seeing the massiveness of Angkor.

We got back into town and got onto our bus headed for Hue. We were there before nightfall and after a brief scare when we left the camera on the bus (thank god Sinh cafe was honest and made sure we got it back right away) we headed off in search of ‘Halo’ guesthouse. We spent two nights in Hue, and our one full day we went on a tour of the former DMZ.

North and South Vietnam were once split by the Ben Hai River, which during the ‘American War’ was the DMZ line. The DMZ stretched 5km south and north of the river and was supposed to be a peaceful area, but in actuality saw the most fighting and destruction during the war. We left Hue at 6am headed for just south of the DMZ, arriving at 9am for a quick breakfast and it was back onto the bus headed for the Vinh Moc tunnels just north of the Ben Hai River. The people in the area lived in this amazing labyrinth of tunnels for 5 years, coming out during the day only to fish and farm, the longest time they spent in the tunnels was 10 days straight (without coming out). They had three levels of tunnels, the deepest ones going as far as 23m down, all of them only large enough for one regular height Vietnamese (we were all crouched over like the hunchback of Notre Dam). The tunnels were thought out to the point that they had rooms for entire families that were as big as a queen sized bed, a maternity room where 17 children were born, a bathroom, storage rooms, and meeting rooms, as well as a second bunker within the first bunker system. It was truly amazing what these people managed to survive with and do while under constant attack from the Americans trying to prevent the Viet-Cong from advancing further south.

After half an hour or so of wandering around in the tunnels and visiting the on sight museum dedicated to the people who survived the ordeal we carried on back across the Ben Hai river with a few stops at a memorial statue and the ‘Rock Pile’, which was a tall rocky mountain used by the American Marines as a helicopter and artillery base. After this we had a brief lunch before continuing on further inland to see the Ho Chi Minh trail and the Khe Sanh Combat Base. The Americans used the base as they thought it was a wise tactical point, until they realized that the area was covered in heavy fog half the year and wound up being destroyed by the cleaver Viet-Cong who were able to hid in the bushes and perform sneak attacks. We then visited a memorial to the Ho Chi Minh trail alongside a now paved road which was once used by the Viet-Cong to travel into Southern Vietnam.

After a very long day we returned quite tired to our guesthouse. Our last day we spent being quite lazy as the heat had reached closer to 45 degrees Celsius, we mailed off a package and spent the afternoon wandering the streets aimlessly until 5 when we caught our last night bus (14 hours) to Hanoi.

We have one more destination in Vietnam; we plan to spend at least 5 days in Hanoi before heading into China via Hong Kong!.

Source: Travelblog



Copyright 2010 Travel Indochina - All rights reserved

Address: 6 Thach Cau street, Long Bien district, Hanoi, Vietnam.
+84 943 728 901