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Central Vietnam

Shopping and ancient palaces

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The Ben Hai River in Central Vietnam marks the 17th parallel, which once marked the demarcation line between North and South Vietnam. Though reunited over two decades ago, the north south division of Vietnam remains obvious. When the Ben Hai River is crossed from north to south, everything seems to improve, roads and food being the most obvious.

Central Vietnam is home to a wealth of attractions from the ancient imperial capital of Hue to the cosmopolitan shopping and the beach destinations of Hoi An and China Beach.

Less glamourously, the region is home to the Demiliterised Zone (DMZ) which was the scene of heavy fighting during the American war. This part of the country is dotted with all manner of war-period attractions, including the remains of Khe Sanh and other US bases along the DMZ. Unfortunately, little remains at most of these sites as time and scrap hunters have had their way.

The one exception is the Vinh Moc tunnels -- a breathtaking testament of the tenacity of the Vietnamese people and a far more worthwhile attraction than the far more touristic Cu Chi tunnels.

Most travellers to Vietnam pencil in Hue and Hoi An as definite "must sees" but then fail to allow themselves enough time in each town. This is particularly the case with Hoi An, where, while it can feel almost Disneylandesque at times, people are always running out of time. If you allowed just a couple of days for Hoi An, be sure to double it.

And don't forget Da Nang. It's home to more than just the closest airport to Hoi An! There's also a terrific Cham Museum, China Beach and an overall rather fun, little touristed Vietnamese city.

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Central Vietnam

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