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DMZ (Demilitarised Zone) and Vinh Moc

Vinh Moc Tunnels  © Andrew Smith
Vinh Moc Tunnels © Andrew Smith

Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was split into North and South along the 17th parallel. The Ben Hai River was selected as the temporary demarcation line. A three-mile (5km) strip of no-man's land on either side of the border was known as the DMZ or Demilitarised Zone.

It was bombed into a desolate wasteland, riddled with land mines and surrounded by barbed wire during the war. The area surrounding the DMZ and the land in between was the worst affected, and the amount of explosives, napalm and chemicals used, including Agent Orange, has left the once heavily forested land with stunted growth and infertile soil. Historical sites and landmarks include the Hien Luong Bridge spanning the river, entry to the Ho Chi Minh Trail that bypassed the border, the American firebase at Con Thien, U.S Marine base at Khe Sanh, and the Truong Son War Martyr Cemetery dedicated to the thousands who died on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. A guided tour is strongly recommended as there are no signs and the area still contains unexploded landmines.

Vinh Moc is known for the extraordinary complex of tunnels constructed by the villagers as an underground village in which to shelter from American bombardments. Faced with the total destruction of their village in 1965, they dug an underground network consisting of three layers starting at a depth of 33ft (10m) with room for 300 people, including wells, a school, clinics, storerooms, observation posts, ventilation shafts and a maternity room where 17 babies were delivered during the war. A section has been restored and is open to visitors and there is a small museum at the entrance. To fully appreciate the history of the site, its best to hire a guide.

Address: Vinh Thach, Vinh Linh, Quang Tri

Transport: It is best to organise transport through a tour operator.

Admission: Dependent on a tour operator.