Trip Start Jan 18, 2006
86Trip End Dec 17, 2006
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I am in the town of Hue after taking an overnight bus from Hanoi. I met an English guy from York on the bus and we have been sharing a room so as to save some money---amazing how that happens when you are traveling ("Hello, nice to meet you. Would you like to share a room?" We arrrived at about 6am and after finding a hotel I left him and booked a motorcycle tour of the city. The tour was quite infomrative and interesting with highlights including the hill and bunkers overlooking the Perfume River from which the Americans fought against the N. Vietnamese during the Tet Offensive in early 1968. When I asked the guide if fighting had occurred in the city he said that the fighting had been limited to the outskirts. I was suprised by this since Hue was the sight one of the bloodiest battles of the Tet Offensive and was acutally held by the N. VIetnamese for a period of 20 days before it was liberated by US forces
Another highlight was the time I spent riding through the rice paddies where work was just beginning on planting the summer rice. The sight of hundreds of people, most of whom were older women, performing back breaking work almost entirely by hand in 90 plus degree heat was truly astounding. It was then that I started to understand on these people had repulsed major armies from the Chinese, French and Americans.
Another part of the tour which I enjoyed was the visit to the Buddhist Monastery where I was fortunate enough to listen to them chant/pray before their afternoon meal
During my second day in Hue I booked an all day tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which divided Vietnam from 1954 when the French were defeated to 1975 when the Americans were sent home. The area just south of the DMZ was the scene of some of the bloodiest battels of the conflict. Since I have always been interested in history and have a family member who served in the Army during Vietnam I was quite keen to visit a number of the sites in the DMZ even if there is now little more than a museum or marker to distinguish them from the numerous other hills and fields in the area. After the war anything of value such as steel or cement was collected by the locals for resale. Such salvage operations for bullet casings, dog tags and other small reminders of the war still continue to this day which when combined with the large number of unexploded ordinances has led to 5,000 people being injured or killed in the DMZ since 1975. The tour took us to the Vinh Moc tunnels which stretch about 6 miles and were used by the Viet Cong and villagers to withstand the massive artillery and aerial bombardment of the area in 1966. We also visited Khe Sanh Combat Base where 500 Americans died trying to hold the base against a 75 day siege by the N
During the DMZ tour I met a guy from Barcelona named Pau. We are planning to meet up in the town of Hoi An which is the next stop of the trip. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it can be to meet people while traveling. If only it were this easy back home.
Hue itself has left me less than impressed since much like many cities in Vietnam it looks to have been built within the last 20 years with its endless rows of concrete buildings many of which are designed with gaudy looking Greek columns. On top of that the touts are constantly asking you if you are interested in a motorbike, rickshaw ride, pair of sunglasses, a lighter some of which feature a picture of Osama Bin Laden and the Twin Tours etc etc. Calls of "You buy something," or "Where you go?" are almost constant.