Friday, 6 January 2012

DMZ Vinh Moc Tunnels

Ian, Aaron, Jason and I went to the train station to book a train to Dong Ha so that we could visit the DMZ. We had planned on getting the 10:30am train the following day but it was fully booked and we had to settle for the very early 06:30am train instead. For some reason we weren't allowed to buy the tickets there and then and were told to return at 06:00am on the day we wanted to travel.

During the bus journey from Ninh Binh to Hue, Ian and Jason met a tour guide called Mr Hoa (0905 425701) who ran tours from Dong Ha to the DMZ. Instead of booking with a large tour group we decided to book through him to avoid the huge coach crowds at the tunnels. We bartered the price for the six of us to $12 each, this included visiting 3 levels of the Vinh Moc Tunnels, the North/South divide bridge, a museum and some of the war memorials. Mr Hoa explained that he would meet us from the train station at Dong Ha and we would go from there.

We caught the 6:30am train from Hue to Dong Ha for 20,000d and were due to arrive at Dong Ha for 08:00am. The train arrived 45 minutes late and poor Mr Hoa had been patiently waiting for us all that time.
As soon as we got off from the train he immediately recognised Ian and remembered his name. He spoke good English, had a great sense of humour and he was engaging throughout the tour.

We stopped off for breakfast and then proceeded to start the tour at 10:00am, where our first stop was a war memorial ground.

Mr Hoa explained that the headstones at present are in the process of being replaced with new ones. He told us that many of the headstones have missing information about the deceased soldier and some do not have any information at all as many could not be identified.

Mr Hoa

Mr Hua also told us that some of the deceased relatives call in Fortune Tellers to determine which headstone belongs to their missing loved one(s). The Fortune Teller would then write on the back of a headstone, that he believed to be that of the missing soldier. Any information of the deceased, that the family wishes to have displayed would be written with red paint, and a new headstone would then be engraved.

Afterwards we stopped off at a couple of war memorial statues. The first monument was of two men and one woman, all facing south. The American army used to have a watch tower there during the war, this faced north and the Americans would look out for any Vietnamese troops. Now that the war was over this monument was constructed to symbolise equality and peace.

Ian pictured at the first monument

The second is of a woman and a child facing north, this symbolises a woman waiting for her husband to come home during the north/south divide when a two year border shut down was enforced.

Our next stop was the north/south divide bridge. We crossed this on foot and then stopped at the other side to look at the war museum. The whole time Mr Hoa explained the history in great detail and would answer any questions that we had.

The final stop were the Vinh Moc Tunnels. We went through 3 levels of the tunnels and didn't bump into another tour group the whole time we were there, giving us excellent photo opportunities. 
It is quite narrow and low inside and i can imagine it being a bit too cramped if you were with a large tour group. Even with just eight of us people said that they felt a little claustrophobic and hot. It wasn't a problem for me, as I'm only 5ft 2" and most of the time i could stand up straight and walk around with ease!

The entrance to the tunnel

The only time I'm slightly hunched over during my time in the tunnels

Mr Hoa explained to us that 400 people lived in the tunnels for a period of six years, with only one toilet to share and as many as seventeen children being born during this time. Food was bought up through the tunnels leading from the beach and a well was used to retrieve water. 

It was a very fascinating place to visit and difficult to imagine families actually living there, especially in the tight and damp conditions.

The damp inside the tunnels

 Families would typically share a room of this size

 The beach that some of the tunnels led to

The maternity suite

On the way back to the station we stopped off at a beach, where Mr Hoa said that during the warmer months tour groups would go swimming, as it was far too cold for that i took the opportunity to take some photos of the local fishermen landing their catch.

The tour finished at 2pm and as the train home wasn't due until 4:30pm we caught a bus for 40,000d instead.

I'm so glad we didn't book a tour through a travel agency as it was much more personal to have a small group and we had a fantastic, informative tour guide who grew up during the Vietnamese war, so he knew first hand all there was to know.


  1. Mr Hoa is fucking amazing. Did you tip him?

  2. Yes he's such a legend! I honestly cannot remember it was so long ago. I've passed on his number to a friend of mine who is keen to go on the tour so fingers crossed he still has the same number :)