Photo: US tank at Khe Sanh.

Things to see and do

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The Rockpile is a high, isolated mount that was an important lookout point by the Americans during the war. It's a quick stop along the road to the Khe Sanh Marine base -- not much to see, looks like any other mountain, though there are still signs of the intense defoliation wrought on by Operation Ranch Hand, the US defoliation campaign. Also, the North Vietnamese barraged it continually ... Read more about The Rockpile .

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The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a vital north-south supply route for the North Vietnamese during the war with America. It was never just one trail: there was actually a shifting network of multiple trails over a swath of land hundreds of kilometres wide, reaching deep into neighbouring Laos. The trails were the bete noire of American military strategists, but no matter what they did, troops and ... Read more about The Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Dakrong Bridge .

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This cemetery is comprised of about 10,300 graves containing the remains of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians who died in defence of the Ho Chi Min Trail. It's built on a the site of the former headquarters of the 559 Army Corps, which is named after the date it was established and the trail was opened, on May 9, 1959 -- which also happens to be Ho Chi Minh's birthday. They were charged with ... Read more about Truong Son National Cemetery .

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In January 1968, the Viet Cong launched a devastating attack on this base as a diversion in preparation for the Tet Offensive. Americans held on for three months under heavy fire, but after Tet, withdrew back to Camp Carol -- before they left, they ploughed everything that remained of their base into the ground. Most of it was dug up and scavenged for scrap by locals long before Vietnam opened ... Read more about The Khe Sanh Marine Base .

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This was the most important outpost along the famed McNamara Line, and the scene of the some of the heaviest combat of the war with America, receiving more artillery fire than any other single spot in the DMZ. In September, 1967 it was shelled mercilessly by the North Vietnamese as a diversion leading up to the Tet offensive. It was manned by 3rd battalion, 9th Marine regiment. whose troops ... Read more about Con Thien Fire Base .

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This was the largest fire-support base for the Marines, established on a hill with the elevation of 241 metres (the Vietnamese call it 241 Tan Lam). It was named after Captain Carol, the first American Marine to be killed in the area during the conflict, on a nearby ridge. In 1969 it was transferred from the Americans to the South Vietnamese Army and during the Easter Offensive in April, 1972, ... Read more about Camp Carol .

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The Ben Hai River is at the centre of the DMZ, the official dividing point between Vietnam's north and south. Again, as elsewhere, there is precious little here left over from the war -- a single bunker that was used as a defensive position against those attacking from the south. The old bridge that used to span the river remains, closed to all but foot traffic, and an elaborate, somewhat ... Read more about Ben Hai River .

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This is the only spot commonly visited north of the DMZ, but unlike the attractions to the south, it’s genuinely fascinating and unequivocally worth seeing. The Vinh Moc tunnels are an amazing achievement of human toil and engineering. With little else at their disposal but cunning and determination, the Vietnamese had constructed the tunnels to provide shelter from regular bombings by ... Read more about The Vinh Moc Tunnels .

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This was an important outpost along the McNamara Line. It's only about 6 or 7 kilometres from the South China Sea, and about half a mile south of the DMZ, so it was here that ANGLICO -- the Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, coordinated fire from the ground, air and sea. It was the first fire-base captured during the Easter Offensive in March, 1972. The base is 14 km north of Dong Ha ... Read more about Doc Mieu .

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There are a number of spots in the area that were significant during the war and may have a familiar ring to some visitors -- you may even find a map marking some landing zones with names like Razorback and Cunningham, and some hills named with numbers. Tempting, but there's nothing there any more. Even the most ambitious tour companies don’t really recommend a visit, unless you're a ... Read more about The A Sau Valley and Hamburger Hill .

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The war between Vietnam and America is, thankfully, long over but the struggle goes on between would-be tourists and would-be guides in Vietnam's demilitarized zone. Happily, the only casualties these days take the form of disappointment and a depleted wallet. If you read our companion feature, Doing the DMZ from Hue you'll know how we feel about the cheapie tours out of Hue. Our strong advice: ... Read more about The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing .



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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Dong Ha? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Vietnam.


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