Trip Start Jan 16, 2008
117Trip End Jul 28, 2008
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Where I stayed
Arrived in Hue battered and bruised from the bus. Breakfasted and completed a walking tour of the city, visiting the massive old citadel and the towns delightful raw-dead-things and conical hats market. The hotel we stayed in had ESPN so Rob was at long last united with the sports viewing he had missed so much. As the dull someone boring vs. someone else boring 90 minutes began, I began my usual sports watching antidote and counted the right angles in the room.
A country is shaped by it history and perhaps none more so in recent years than Vietnam. Feeling it important to try and appreciate the horrors of the past 50 years worth of warfare, we embarked on a "DMZ Tour"
The DMZ was a 5km wide No Man's Land located along the Ben Hai river which divided North and South Vietnam. As so often across the world in times of conflict communities and families were divided. For someone just south of the border to write to a loved one a mere 10km north, the letter had to go south to Saigon, onto Paris, hopping across Europe to Moscow, then to Beijing before heading to Hanoi and finally south to the border!
It is encouraging to see that very few remains and relics of the war have been preserved. Bomb craters have been filled in, army bases have been pulled down. A war not forgotten, but equally not to be dwelt on. The Vietnamese spirit is to surive and move on.
It was a harrowing feeling crossing the infamous Ben Hai river and seeing loud speakers on both sides that had so recently blurted out propaganda and demands for surrender. Plunging 23 metres underground into the Vinh Moc tunnel network, it dawned on us both the extraordinary lengths humans go to survive. For 4 years a community of around 300 had lived here, added to by 17 births, to escape the US bombing campaign.
Crossing west along Highway 9 towards the border with Laos, the terrain was spectacular, although it must have been truly horrific if engaged in fierce combat. Finishing at Khe Sanh Combat Base high in the mountains, the US were forced to make a fatal retreat from here by helicopters in 1972. The remains of US aircraft and artillery lay abandoned seemingly as they had done 35 years ago. We left with powerful and moving memories of a truly devastating war.