Best day trip so far (Khe Sahn)

Trip Start Apr 07, 2012
Trip End Nov 14, 2012

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What I did
Khe Sahn

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Khe Sahn

Last night (Monday, 13 August) we arrived here, as we are here for just one day, we booked a trip to the DMZ; it was fully booked, I (and Dave) didn't really fancy another boat cruise with the herd, so we booked a private car to do the same trip to the DMZ

It was an early kick off, so I was up at 5; 30 am, a decent breakfast of fresh bread and banana jam and decent coffee

Our car arrived and we set off, mmm, the driver didn’t speak much, maybe he was shy, 2 hours later, still no word from him, so I asked if we were going to stop at all, I got a blank look, he don’t speak English, jeez my Vietnamese was as good as my Chinese (and Dave’s)

I asked him to call his office, they translated in the end, what a carry on, the phone was backwards and forwards, didn’t make a blind bit of use,

Well we drove on to this bridge, a very nice bridge, still didn’t know what was special about it, but I found a scrap of concrete with history about it, the original was destroyed by the US in 68 and this was the replacement, they are quite proud of it

The original was one of the major supply routes from Laos into Vietnam, so it must have been a great target

It was the Dakrong Bridge

While we were waiting for the bridge to clear of tourist we had a look in the local restaurant, not much to look at, but hey they got pigs, 3 of em, they would have looked good surrounded by apple sauce, but they were still alive and grunting

The kitchen was something else

It was back in the car for more interesting silence from our driver

We saw the 'Rock pile’ it was just that, a rock pile, it wasn’t worthy of a photo, so we didn’t bother

It was onto Khe Sahn and the museum

We got there and paid our entry, all of a sudden they were on us, the sellers, but these were different, they had dog tags, American, medals from the Viet cong, old badges, coins, bullets, empty rounds from assorted weapons, 5.56mm, 7.62mm, .50, mortar rounds, all kinds of stuff, I
still passed on it all though

Considering the amount of fighting that went on in this area, there isn’t much to commemorate it

An APC, a burnt out tank (anything worthwhile removed though) A Chinese tank (I think)

A Huey, a Chinook (just shows how long this has been in service), a C 130 Hercules, early model and a museum

I snapped all I could outside, including the scrap of various aircraft/helicopters, and a couple of nice Bonsai’s

Even the museum was rather subdued, photos of war heroes, photos of American prisoners, the ‘liberation’ army taking Khe Sahn, they called it the Khe Sahn hell, and just going by the photographs it was well named

There were various maps and medals laid out and various ‘bits of booty’ that was captured, rifles, MG rounds, grenade launcher, helmets, pilots domes, mortar rounds

It was just rather small and didn’t really portray the struggle

The fields around Khe Sahn are now used for growing peanuts, seeing the women raking them out in the shadow of a burnt out tank was rather a strange sight

After that is was back to the car

It seems it was time for our driver to eat, so I guess we will as well

It was soup for Dave and coffee for me, dunno what the driver had but it didn’t look like something I would be eating, any time soon

It was back on the road again, we were off to see Doc Mieubase (never heard of it)

We got there, it was a wrecked tank, I mean just a wrecked tank, across the road was a war cemetery, this was worth a look, so off we go,

It is the local liberation Army graves, a huge centre piece adorns the place, the usual sentiments on it (they gave their lives for liberation)

Just wandering around there was quite something, just rows and rows of graves, I did notice something, they all had the same inscription on them, and very few actually had a name

I just couldn’t get over how much it looked like other war graves; okay the names may be different, but so similar

We met a bloke outside who spoke English, as it turns out, these graves may only contain a portion of a body, they are all unknown warriors, there had been some attempt at finding a name for some in here, but so many are just unknown

It was quite something walking around there

It was back in the car (the A/C was a relief)

On our way to, The Vinh Moc tunnels we saw a stone mason knocking up these stone markers, thought it was worth stopping for a few photos, some are quite ornate

After that we went off to, The Vinh Moc tunnels

The Vinh Moc Tunnels

We arrived there; it really didn’t look much, just a ticket office and a few stalsl selling fruit juice and water

We wandered down the track, there were stands of bamboo around, and there were even a few fruit trees around and even the odd villager with timber or grass houses

We saw an entrance to tunnel number 11, but we couldnt go down there

So it was onto the track again, they certainly hid these tunnels well, there were bomb craters all around though and quite a few large gun emplacements, I guess that was to have pot shots at the US navy

We found the museum, it wasn’t much to look at though, and funny they won the war but treated the victory so differently

At the entrance there was a display of various bombs dropped, (UXB and defused)

There was a large bronze plaque confronting us when we entered the museum

A heavy MG, and a large map of the tunnel structure, it really was quite extensive and covered a large area, it housed 600 people atts height, that included soldiers, families, men women and children, they were all involved somewhere, if they weren’t on fighting, they carried food, ammunition, water (they even had a well in the tunnels, along with hospital, kitchen and a school)

We met a funny looking bloke who was to be our guide, he didn’t speak at all just grunted and pointed, he was born in the tunnels

We went down steps about 3 meters, and through the entrance, they were bigger than I thought they would be, but still had to bow your head, they were really cool down there, and plenty of air movement (I suppose with 600 people there had to be)

these tunnels are 15-20 meters deep

There was lights down there, the originals, it cast quite a light down there, we walked up and down steps, along corridors, saw the kitchen, the hospital, even a large area which was used to plan attacks on the US, they showed us the bomb shelter that was used when the USAF when earthquake bombs were used, it went down another 30 meters, incredible

We just follwed our guide, it was a long way around these tunnels, I dont know how they found their way around, even with the lights on, it must have been horrible in the dark with bombs and shells crashing above you, this place could easily become a mass grave

We were coming to another exit, all we could see was a glimmer of light, so we headed for it, it was an incredible sight to see, there was a green corridor, and it led out too the most beautiful beach I had ever seen, looking back the exit couldn’t be seen (you should see that in the photos)

On the beach, there was a bloke with what looked like a coracle, stacked up with lobster pots and fish traps

We gave our little guide a tip, he didn’t speak during the show round, but he told us everything, it was an incredible view of the tunnels (it must have been hell with 600 people crammed in there and being bombed and shelled)

We went to see this guy on the beach, the beach must have been 2 miles long, maybe more, it was pristine, the water fantastically blue and it was me and Dave and a bloke with a round boat on it

He greeted us with a big smile, he was clad in shorts and a sheet of plastic and a floppy hat, he was just launching this round boat (it is a coracle in Wales and the UK)

It was quite novel watching him, he just shoved it out past the first was, wrapped the single oar to the front, tied it down with a few twists and he was away, it looked like he should have been going backwards, but he asn’t, he went forward, and with the minimum of strokes, and at quite a
pace, I was so amazed watching him, the surf filled my boots, we just watched him  go out from the shore

We made our way out of the tunnel complex,

In my view this was worth the extra, we saw another group, I don’t think they went down the tunnels, just saw the entrance, but I felt privileged to have seen them and met someone who was born in them and survived (even though he was a funny little bloke)

We stopped for a really cold OJ and a sit down), that tunnel complex is miles long, 38 miles to be exact, and we only saw a small portion of them, about 2 miles

Our driver was waiting for us (I think he had a kip, the front seat was down and the A/C off) , so we had to wait while the car cooled down a bit, (the seats were too hot to sit on)

That was about it for our day trip, it was worth it, even with a driver that didn’t speak for 7 hours

We set off for Hue

Dave had this idea he wanted to see a Vietnamese grave yard (god knows why) so it was eyes peeled on the way back, there were plenty, just usually a ditch, canal or river separating us

We eventually found one, so we got the driver to stop and off we went snapping gain , it was weird, taking photos of graves, but they were the a most ornate I had seen, I took all I wanted (actually the battery in my camera died)

I was waiting for Dave, the driver wanted to move, he didn’t want to get stuck in traffic (fair enough),
Dave was gone quite a while, I was beginning to wonder if he had found something he fancied and was trying it forsize, but nope, he had wandered of miles up the road and was making his  way back to us and the car

We were really going to Hue this time (I hoped) it weren’t to be, we saw a fish market so had a quick stop there, it was funny, all women trying to flog us fish, squid, octopus, dried fish, clams, oysters, sardines, eels, if we were staying somewhere decent I would have bought some and asked the kitchen to cook it for usbut a back packers hostel isn’t going to be knownfor its haute cuisine)

We were really going back to the hostel this time, the look and the drivers face told us there would be no more stops

I didn’t mind, I’d had a good day out, now I wanted something eat



As it turned out, we had the best of days, they had their boat trip, some had gone sightseeing, looking for things that weren’t there, missing pagodas, walls that had gone and just sights that were no longer sights


It was a shame we were only here one day, there is a lot to see and do here, if you put yourself out a little, we did and had a great day out

I think some people were quite jealous of our trip out and what we had seen, it beat a river and a few pagodas I reckon

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Peggy on

Glad you followed your instinct. River trips are often disappointing. Your day sounded spot-on.

mmbcross on

What an amazing day out. Probably one of the highlights of your odyessy. Incredible how many lives were lost..for what?

travelmonster on

Looks like you had a great day.

Jim on

mmboss said "Incredible how many lives were lost..for what? "
Some seem to feel they are the police of the world- its all about freedom, but we wonder if they are right, and the ' why ' will always be asked. From what little we know this was a terrible war. A good write up Dve, and I am pleased you found so much.

Anne on

Well that was amazing to see those photos
and glad you had a great day

Linda on

Hard to believe what you said about those cute pigs. How could you?

rossport on

Thanks for the insight to one of the centuries terrible disaster on both sides as the old saying goes the only winners in a war are the dead as they are out of the mess

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