The Demilitarised Zone (‘DMZ’) was the site of some of the fiercest and bloodiest battles during the American War and a time spent in this scarred region provides important insight in to Vietnams’ modern history. From Hue you simply head north, passing through now-tranquil villages and crisscrossing infamous battle sites, to the ’17th parallel’, where you can to visit underground tunnels and bunkers at Vinh Moc.
As you head off in the morning, you break the journey at La Vang Cathedral, which despite its years of turmoil remains an important pilgrimage site for Vietnam’s Catholics. Its then a short hop on to the first of the battle sites – Quang Tri Citadel, where in 1972 a fire-fight raged for 81 days. There is a small, but powerful museum where photographs, war remnants and artillery can be seen. Continue up Highway 1 across the Hien Luong Bridge, over the Ben Hai River which demarcated North and South Vietnam. This area saw some of the heaviest fighting during the war. Doc Mieu Firebase, which lies just north, played a pivotal role in the South’s defence and for a while, this was the command post for calling in air strikes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The journey on to the Vinh Moc Tunnels once you leave Highway One, passing through quaint villages and skirting along stunning and utterly undeveloped beach. The small village of Vinh Moc found itself tragically positioned in one of the most heavily bombed areas of Vietnam and, in order to escape this bombardment the villagers constructed approximately 2 miles of underground tunnels which they used as a refuge to survive the bombings. Unlike the Cu Chi Tunnels near Saigon, these passageways are considerably wider and there is more to actually see here. Most visitors are comfortable passing through. From Vinh Moc drive to Truong Son National Cemetery where the remains of some 15,000 Vietnamese soldiers and civilians have been laid to rest, sadly many tombstones bear no name.