Dong Ha and the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ)

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One of the most interesting things you could do in Dong Ha is to join a quality tour, led by either Vu, a military historian or Vinh, who was an ex-ARVN military intelligence interpreter veteran from the war. Vinh is 70 years old, and apparently, at one stage, he even interpreted for Colin Powell when he was a two star general! These highly informative tours are also very popular with American veterans.

It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like on either side of the DMZ, which is the area around the former border between North and South Vietnam, where some of the bloodiest battles occurred. Since most of the war remnants have been removed, the guide told their stories with the help of old photographs. Other than historical facts, the most interesting stories are, not surprisingly, the personal ones such as villagers Vu knows who actually lived in the Vinh Moc Tunnels, or his personal struggles with his own family who was politically divided, and a father who became an alcoholic after the war and his complete refusal to talk about what happened.

Vinh Moc Tunnels

Unlike the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City, which were built to provide refuge and as a defensive advantage over both the French and the Americans (the tunnels were extended during the Vietnam War), Vinh Moc tunnels were built by a village in response to unrelenting American bombing. The villagers did not want to leave their hometown, and more than 90 families disappeared into 3 levels of tunnels running almost 2km in all, and continued to live and work while bombs rained down around them. The tunnel system included family rooms, toilets, washrooms, assembly rooms, storage, kitchens, escape tunnels and even a maternity ward. According to our guide, 250 people lived in the Vinh Moc Tunnels for 5 years and 22 babies were born during this time.