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Exploring the DMZ

by becca on October 6, 2009

Nate and I took a small tour to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Central Vietnam. It was just us, a couple of German guys, a driver and a Vietnam War vet as our guide. We had hoped to feel brought back in time understand a bit more what the war was like, but instead we saw a few underwhelming sites and learned a lot about our guide, who worked for the US military as an interpreter for 10 years. That night however, we continued our exploration at the DMZ bar, where they were celebrating – get this – the last day of Oktoberfest.

To begin the day, we headed north of the Hue, first to a memorial for the “Highway of Horror” where in 1972 when the North took Dong Na, the northern most city in Southern Vietnam, all military and civilians fled south to Hue via a single highway. The NVA then began firing bombs along the path – thousands were killed and the clean up of the destruction and dead bodies wasn’t attended to until the area was secured days later.

Next was a delapidated French Catholic Church that was bombed by the US and left in ruins as a testament to the tragedy of war. The plaque at the site made it very clear who was to blame.

A cemetery honoring only North Vietnamese forces was next. No such cemetery exists for the Southern (opposition) forces.

Then on to the highlight of the day – the Vinh Moc tunnels – where an entire fishing village lived underground during parts of the war when that area was getting the shit bombed out of it by the US. The tunnels go as deep as 23 meters and something like 17 kids were born underground.

Finally we closed down Hue at the DMZ Bar, where we met up with Fabian and Sebastian, the guys on the tour with us, and Marcus, Simon and Jo, who we met in Ninh Binh. We were entertained by a break-dancing show and the fact that every beer earned you a souvenir of a bottle opener, lighter, or pen. This sounds so simple, but was quite entertaining. The entire city was shut down for the night when we stumbled back to our hotel at 12:55am. Not a single person on the street, only a few New York sized rats.

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