Dong Ha

Dong Ha

For all your DMZ tour needs

Quang Tri province is the location of the former demilitarized zone (DMZ), the temporary dividing line between North and South Vietnam. Ironically, the creation of this armistice corridor was a fateful step towards the Second Indochina War and within a few years the DMZ became ground zero for a series of intense, bloody battles. Dong Ha, the provincial capital, is the closest base for travellers who want to tour the DMZ.

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In the wake of France’s loss at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, at the Geneva Conference in July 1954, representatives from France, Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Laos, Cambodia, and North and South Vietnam made agreements that the French would withdraw their troops from northern Vietnam and the country would be temporarily divided in two until elections, at which time a president would be decided and the country reunited. The Ben Hai River was designated as the boundary, which runs along the 17th parallel to the Lao border, with a five-kilometre buffer extended on either side becoming the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The ceasefire was supposed to buy time for both sides to withdraw troops. Instead, it bought time for both sides to shore up their might and for outside governments to manoeuvre and interfere. Spoiler alert: the elections never happened.

Crossing the Dakrong Bridge. : Cindy Fan.
Crossing the Dakrong Bridge. Photo: Cindy Fan

Quang Tri saw some of the heaviest fighting and suffered the greatest concentration of firepower of the entire Vietnam War. Marines gave the DMZ the wry nickname “Dead Marine Zone.” Not surprising, Quang Tri is the province most highly contaminated with unexploded ordinances (UXO), with bombs still killing or maiming people every year. To learn more, a stop at the Mine Action Visitor Centre is highly recommended. It has informative displays about the issue. Find it at the Kids First Village off of Ly Thuong Kiet Street, near the intersection with Hung Vuong; T: (053) 3567 338; visitorcenter.quangtri@gmail.com; landmines.org.vn/visitor-center. It’s open Mon-Fri 08:00-17:00, Sat-Sun by ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,300 words.)

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