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Dong Ha, Hue Overview

Steeped rich in the blood of the Vietnamese War soldiers, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) holds enormous historical significance and is a must-see for enthusiasts of the Vietnam War. Dong Ha, the capital of the Quang Tri province, being the closest city to DMZ naturally attracts quite a few tourists. Apart from the proximity to DMZ, Dong Ha has its own share of history and quint relaxing restaurants and cafes - a tourist’s paradise.

The DMZ consists of two major sections - the northern corridor that leads up to the Vinh Moc Tunnels and the Ben Hai River and the east-west corridor that takes you to the Ho Chi Minh trail. The Ben Hai River was a temporary dividing line between the north and the south parts of Vietnam, with a 5km demilitarised zone on either side. Northeast from the river is the Vinh Moe Tunnels, which were used as bomb shelters by civilians during bomb raids. The east-west corridor consists of Route 9, the defensive line of the US Marines. If you move north, you will get to see the Con Thein Firebase, the most important US Marine base, located 3km from the DMZ.

Truong Son National Cemetry in Dong Ha Vietnam
The Truong Son National Cemetery in Dong Ha is Vietnam's Largest Cemetery (Source)

Further from Con Thein is Truong Son National Cemetery. The largest cemetery in Vietnam, Truong Son houses close to 10,300 bodies of Northern Soldiers and civilians who died during the war. You can also visit the Rockpile ? a 240m high karst rock which served as a US Marines observation point. Dong Ha also plays house to the Mine Action Visitor Center which does an excellent job of elaborating on the region's issue with unexploded bombs left behind from war.

History of the DMZ

Ben Hai River near Dong Ha Vietnam
The Ben Hai River was the seperating line for the DMZ after Vietnam split into North and South (Source)

After the Geneva conference in 1954, the French and the Viet Minh came to an agreement and they separated the two parts of Vietnam. The Ben Hai River was the separating line and an area of 5 km on either side was a Demilitarized zone (DMZ). Five years after its establishment, Northern Vietnamese broke the peace by creating the Ho Chi Minh trail. In 1966, the violence in the DMZ began to escalate. The South backed by the US Marines collided with the North. The South had the advantage of numbers but the north had the intricate network of underground tunnels.

Dong Ha during the Vietnam War in 1967
Dong Ha was a major Military Zone during the Vietnam War (Source)

During the war, The American troops built a barbed fence, and called it the McNamara Line, along the river to keep out the northern army. However, it proved to be futile. After a long bloody war with a number of different explosions rocking the country, the US forces withdrew in 1972. One month later, the Northerners made progress and the border was pushed by 20 km and around three months later, the south was completely defeated.

The Vinh Moc Tunnels

Vinh Moc Tunnels in Dong Ha Vietnam
Vinh Moc Tunnels in Dong Ha were used to shelter villagers during the Vietnam War (Source)

The Vinh Moc Tunnels in Dong Ha were used for villagers to live in during the Vietnam War, especially between 1968 and 1972. It was a network of some two miles of tunnels and the heavy clay in the region made it possible to dig deep - to levels where the carpet bombings by the US forces could not affect daily life. The tunnels were not purely for civilian purposes, however and were also used to transport weapons and other equipment, brought in from Con Co Island, a North Vietnamese base off the coast near Vinh Moc in the South China Sea. Village life went on in the tunnels normally - with only a few brave hearts venturing out for food, as the US troops shot at anything that moved in the region.

DMZ Tours from Dong Ha

There are a number of DMZ tours that can be availed at Tam's Café in Dong Ha. These tours cover various attractions and range from VND 800,000 - VND 900,000 per person. Tours maybe overpriced but there is lack of alternate options due to lack of awareness.

Dong Ha Hotels

Sai Gon Dong Ha Hotel
Saigon Dong Ha Hotel, one of the best places to stay in Dong Ha (Source)

Dong Ha is a pretty small town and there are not a lot of fancy hotels to stay at. However there are a few decent options for a well-seasoned traveller to bunk up for a day or two. Sai Gon Dong Ha Hotel (VND 773,000 per night) and Muong Thanh Grand Quang Tri Hotel (VND 783,500 per night) are the best places to stay. Apart from these options, you can also choose lesser known ones such as Phung Hoang Hotel (VND 450,000 per night) and Golden Hotel (VND 500,000 per night).

How to Reach Dong Ha

Hue to Dong Ha: Hue is just 70 km south of Dong Ha and is well-connected to Dong Ha by road and rail. There are frequent local buses to Hue. Buses depart every 15 minutes starting at 06:25, departs every 30 minutes from 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM. It costs VND 38,000 - VND 44,000 and takes 1.5 hrs. You can also book a private coach in any bus at Tam's café or Sepon Travel. These coach buses stop and pick up passengers only on request.

Danang to Dong Ha: Danang is also quite well connected to Dong Ha. It is 170 km south of Dong Ha and is extremely well connected by road and rail. Danang also has an international airport. Dong Ha has buses that depart to Danang every 25 minutes from 6:10 AM - 5:00 PM. A ticket costs around VND 72,000 - VND 88,000 and the journey takes about 5 hrs. Dong Ha is four hours away from Danang by rail. Both Northbound and Southbound trains stop at Danang and Dong Ha. Some of the northbound routes include - SE8, SE6, TN2, SE4, SE20 and some of the southbound routes include - TN1, SE1, SE3, SE7.

Tips for Visiting Dong Ha

Vinh Moc Tunnels in Dong Ha show how Vietnamese lived during War
Carry a flashlight to explore the Vinh Moc Tunnels of Dong Ha (Source)

Read about the Vietnamese War before you visit DMZ so that you experience the complete charm of the area, carry a torchlight, a hat, sunscreen, a water bottle and plenty of loose money.

Khe Sanh Base at Dong Ha Vietnam
Dong Ha is a Good Place to Explore the History and Effects of War in Vietnam (Source)

Visit Dong Ha to get a glimpse into the catastrophic effects of the Vietnamese war and the persistence of the Vietnamese people. Explore the DMZ and understand its massive historical significance in the Vietnam War, as it was the border between North and South Vietnam.

Photos of Dong Ha

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