Image of: A memorial gate on the side of Ben Hai river at DMZ , established as a dividing line between North and South Vietnam as a result of the First Indochina War.

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) – The Dividing Line in the Vietnam War

This post was last updated on February 3rd, 2020 at 07:22 pm


Vietnam has endured several wars. The most famous war is the one with the Americans. This war, which lasted from 1955 to 1975, left a lot of scars in Vietnam. Just as in all other wars, terrible things have happened in Vietnam. This is still clearly visible in the Demilitarized Zone. The fact that 37% of the population here is younger than 15 confirms a horrible history.

 

The faces of the Vietnamese people here don’t show much, but the “dead” forests and abandoned tanks show a painful past. Vietnam still houses many sights about the wars from the past.

 

Museums, the famous Vietcong Tunnels, and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) are the best-known. The DMZ is located in the middle of Vietnam, just north of the city of Hue. It was the dividing line between North and South Vietnam during the war.

 

The most famous sights in the DMZ of Vietnam are:

 

 

Visiting the DMZ

The easiest way to visit the DMZ is with a tour from Hue. Hue is the closest city to visit the DMZ and there are plenty of tours to arrange from here. Look carefully at the schedule of the tour, especially the sights you will visit. The Easy Riders are a nice alternative to the normal bus tours. With the Easy Riders you can jump on the motorcycle of a local guide who shows you the well-known and lesser-known sights in the area.

 

You can also combine a tour to the DMZ with a trip from Hue to Phong Nha. Although you usually don’t visit all the sights in the DMZ on this route, it is a nice way to go from A to B with some sightseeing on the way. You can also do this yourself if you are driving a motorcycle.

 

Image of: Historical Fire Base Rockpile in the Demilitarized Zone
Reachable only by helicopter, the Rockpile was a US Army and Marine Corps observation post and artillery base from 1966 to 1969.

 

The Vinh Moc Tunnels

An entrance to the Vinh Moc Tunnels

The sights in the DMZ are depressing. The most impressive of all attractions in the DMZ are the Vinh Moc Tunnels. Smaller than the Cu Chi tunnel system, but better preserved and kept in its original state. A small, busy underground city in contrast to the Cu Chi tunnels, which were mainly used for combat operations.

 

The tunnel system was made from 1965 to 1966: on three levels and up to 20 meters deep. The lowest level served as a warehouse, the middle as a refugee area during bombings and the upper as a residential area. More than 300 people lived here for six years and even 17 children were born here. Some still live in the area and can tell some dramatic stories.

 

Hien Luong Bridge

The Hien Luong bridge over the Ben Hai River, Vietnam DMZ

Driving through the rice fields in Central Vietnam you reach the Ben Hai River. Here you will find two bridges, the new one that is open to traffic and the unused Hien Luong bridge that runs parallel to it. This Hien Luong Bridge, also called the Peace Bridge, was built by the French in 1950. The bridge crossed the border, over the Ben Hai river in the Demilitarized Zone, between North and South Vietnam.

 

Before the destruction in 1967 the original Hien Luong bridge was painted half red and half yellow, a clear physical and idyllic border between the two Vietnams. The rebuilt bridge, made with iron beams, was officially opened in 1976 as a symbol of reunification. It formed an important psychological barrier between North and South Vietnam for many years.

 

At the start of the bridge is a gate that commemorates Ho Chi Minh, the leader of North Vietnam. A little further along the Hien Luong Bridge you will find speakers that were used for propaganda messages that shout over the Ben Hai River.

 

Khe Sanh Combat Base

In Khe Sanh, perhaps the most bitter struggle of the entire Vietnam war raged. American Marines had entrenched themselves on a hill in a fort when in January 1968 about 40,000 Vietnamese started a siege of 75 days. No place in the world was bombed as heavily as the surroundings of the fort. Four North Vietnamese divisions kept the Americans firmly under control.

 

The struggle ended with the withdrawal of the Americans. It is now a museum about the events that took place. The small museum contains a photo exhibition. It is worth taking a look at the guestbook: there you will find many notes from American veterans. Next to the museum you can see helicopters, tanks, a restored bunker and part of the runway.

 

Entry Fee: 25,000 dong (about US $1.10).

 

The Con Thien Bunkers

The Con Thien bunkers, about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northwest of Dong Ha, is still a “highlight” in the DMZ sightseeing program. It was known by the local missionaries as “the Hill of Angels,” but Con Thien was a hell for the occupying US marines. It is a place where extremely fierce fighting took place, just 3 kilometers south of the DMZ.

 

Truong Son Cemetery

At the end of a DMZ tour you will visit the Truong Son Cemetery. It is located about 25 kilometers northwest of Dong Ha on the N15. The 15,000 graves contain the remains of all fallen Vietnamese in the region, ranked according to their home province.

 

In the villages around the DMZ, there is nothing else to experience and we don’t recommend spending a lot of time there. One of the nice things about this place is that the older people here like to tell stories about the war. So don’t just visit the Demilitarized Zone, but let the older residents tell you about it!

 

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