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DMZ Vietnam-Happy 4th From the DMZ

Yesterday, I awoke early to take a trip to the DMZ in Vietnam.

I went to the DMZ in korea just a month or two ago, so this wasn't my first DMZ tour-this was different of course.

The bus to the DMZ was a long two hour ride. On the van was myself, a 50ish or so couple from the Netherlands, a 50 ish/60'ish New Zealander with a younger Thai girlfriend, a woman from Hong Kong, a 20ish girl from Germany, a Korean guy who didn't speak much English-and coincidentally, the two I shared a room and tour with from Boston University. After about 1 1/2 hours, our tour guide got on the bus. He was a very nice man, very passionate about his trade-it was just hard to understand him as his very broken English was very very fast.

The first part of the tour was a Rockpile visible from the road-which at one time held a US Marine Corps base, It is actually a 230m high karst moutain, and was a base for long-range artillery. It was interesting but not overly exciting as it looked like any other mountain.


We then saw the Dakrong Bridge-which was a bridge on the Ho Chi Manh Trail It was built in the late 70's-80's. for the Ho Chi Man trail-used to get supplies from the north to south. It was originally built in 1958 to facilitate trade. The bridge was new-it used to be a flimsy bamboo bridge. Again, not much to see, but it was interesting. The guide mentioned that Hamburhger hill was nearby, a name somebody gave because all of the mangled bodies we're mixed together like hamburger, supposedly.


After the bridge, we saw the Khe Sanh Combat Base, which was the site of the bloodiest battles of the war. It is now an interesting museum, with lots of pictures, and captured American Aircraft on the ground. It was earily quiet.


We then saw a minority village, where all of the houses are raised above the ground, as farm animals are raised beneath the houses. The kids are all of Laotian decent, and are very poor. All of their expenses are paid by the government.


After that, we went to lunch at some cafe in town, which served mediocre food and had an unsmiing server at high prices. Like many tours, lunch wasn't included-but we stopped at a restaurant with nothing else around-so that is where we ate.

After lunch, we drove to the Vinh Moc Tunnels, which we're buried underground, and are where 90 families lived for years during the war. There are wells, kitchens, and bathrooms, in addition to meeting room/schoolrooms for the kids, and places for them to play. Families stayed completely underground for up to 10 days. It felt claustrophobic and I had to bend over a good amount of time to walk through the tunnels.


It was an interesting day. What was most interesting was the tour guide, who explained all sort of little facts-such as that in the tunnels, the cooking was done in the morning-so the smoke combined with the morning mist, and couldn't be spotted. And that the ventilation hubs we're made to look like bomb craters. He mentioned that Vietnam never surrendered because they knew that American men missed their wives and girlfriends and would eventually get tired-while they kept going on. He also mentioned that Americans counldn't handle the mud, swamps, and heat-while the Vietnamese we're used to it.

He shared facts of Vietnam-like how woman could drive motorbikes-but not cars, and how the north and south still felt a rivalry (and not necessarily a friendly ones). He mentioned that those from South Vietnam who we're for the old South Government, can get government jobs, but would never be promoted, and how the northers could tell the differences from the southerners (although he didn't explain how). I also learned how under communism, religion was outlawed, but was once again allowed starting in 1986.

Very interesting. I liked how the older folks amongst us we're fascinated and we're asking questions, while the 20ish somethings , including the duo from Boston University, looked thoroughly bored.

I came back, rested for a while, and then went to dinner to a vegetarian restaurant.

Posted by DavidPearlman 20:15 Archived in Vietnam

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