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DMZ Vietnam - Demilitarized Zone

The DMZ Vietnam or Demilitarized Zone was established as a dividing line between North and South Vietnam as a result of the independence war with France (the First Indochina War). During the Second Indochina War, also known as the Vietnam War, it became the battle ground between the north and the south.

On the way to the DMZ

The area was heavily bombed in the war and many from both sides lost their lives. The remains are still visible. Houses and churches still stand with bullet holes, tanks and other artilleries are rusting in the jungle.

However the people have not forgotten the war although many say they have no choice then to look forward and try to forget their pain of lost family members. The DMZ is a living memory of the horror of the war.

Even if you are not interested in Vietnam's recent history, it is still worth to go as you will understand much more why the country these days is what it is. The easiest way to visit the DMZ is to get on a tour from Hue. Make sure you are not in a big tour bus but organize a small tour. This brings you to a few different places where the big buses don't go.

The flag in the heart of the DMZ area

In 1993 the atmosphere was still dense. At some places it felt the war had just finished. Coming back in 2011 I cycled from the direction of Vinh into the flatlands. Everywhere I saw honor cemeteries. It seemed the core area was still kept empty.

Vin Moc is of course a prime area to investigate (see below). The southern area, former the north of South Vietnam, the road to Khe Sanh were really nice. I met several really friendly people. Khe Sanh I found less interesting, just another hill village with little to keep you there except the museum. And that was more than enough to keep me busy for a while.

Souvenirs at display in the DMZ Demilitarized Zone

"Souvenirs" at display in the DMZ Demilitarized Zone

Typically most travelers do a DMZ Tour. It's the easiest way to explore the area, and it's possible to do it in a day. Tours start from Hue, 100 km south of the DMZ zone.

It's a long day as the area to visit is far. This means you have to get up at 6am and be prepared to return at 6-7pm but it's worth the effort. Check this DMZ tour for details

Tanks left by the Americans in the DMZ

Tanks left by the Americans.

Vinh Moc entranceThe DMZ was clearer of jungle for a large area and some areas are still empty. However, many areas are taken back by the jungle.

Vinh Moc Tunnels

The Vinh Moc is tunnel complex in Quang Tri, similar to the Cu Chi Tunnels near Saigon. As the tunnels were build to shelter civilians they were build wider and higher, with living quarters, wells and kitchens.

The tunnels are less extensive and worth a visit when you visit the DMZ Demilitarized Zone.

The tunnels were constructed in several stages beginning in 1966 and used until early 1972. Around 60 families lived in the tunnels; as many as 17 children were born inside the tunnels.

The tunnels were a success and no villagers lost their lives. The only direct hit was from a bomb that failed to explode; the resulting hole was utilized as a ventilation shaft. Three levels of tunnels were eventually built.

The villages in the DMZ

If you join a tour from Hue, you will most likely visit some villages in the area. Most people still live in and from the jungle in primitive circumstances without running water, electricity and other facilities.

Village in the DMZ

Village in the DMZ.

A visit here will make you even more aware about the living conditions of people in Vietnam. When you start talking with people soon you will realize that almost everybody has lost relatives in the war. The remaining question left with me was if the result in the end was worth all the suffering of the people here.

Demilitarized Zone Demilitarized Zone
Village in the DMZ Demilitarized Zone.

Personally I think every traveler to Vietnam should visit the DMZ to understand some of the pain the country went through in its struggle for independence and the choice for freedom.

The monument for all the Vietnamese fallen in the war

The monument for all the Vietnamese fallen in the war

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Map of Vietnam