Discovering Indochina war sites: Top 5 places should be in your travel radar

The American-Vietnamese conflict that took place between 1955 until 1975 not only brought Vietnam but also Laos and Cambodia to the forefront of the world’s attention. What’s left behind the war is both a remark in the history and many stories which can attract thousands of history buffs to this region. If you want to discover another perspective of Indochina, a smoke and gun one, the destination list below can be your reference.

Tuol Sleng Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia 

Though it isn’t officially a ‘war history’ museum, Tuol Sleng, formerly known as S21 Prison, rose out of a period of major violence and social upheaval in Cambodia. Many argue that the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia occurred as a direct result of America’s campaign of carpet bombing the Cambodian countryside during the war with Vietnam.

Most Cambodians whose profile didn’t match the Khmer Rouge’s criteria for recruitment into the regime were sent out into the countryside and made to work extremely long hours growing rice with very little food provided. Many who were deemed a threat to the new regime were sent to designated spots to be executed.

S21 has now been made into a museum where you can learn more about the dark period of Khmer Rouge rule and the punishments handed out to those unfortunate enough to be sent there. Though this is a harrowing experience and not one for the faint-hearted, it is a must for those interested in understanding a period of Cambodian history which shapes the country to this day.

Vinh Moc Tunnels & DMZ, Central Vietnam

Vietnam DMZ was a no man’s land located at the 17th parallel which divided North and South Vietnam, but ironically it became the world’s most militarized zone. A visit to the DMZ area takes travelers to many important Vietnam War Battle sites. The area’s only major city on the coast- Dong Ha, which is on Highway 1, and easily accessible from Hue and Da Nang.

A DMZ tour usually covers famous sites likes Hien Luong Bridge, Vinh Moc Tunnels, Truong Son National Cemetery, The Rockpile, Dak Rong Bridge, Khe Sanh Combat Base, etc. Here’re some information about the highlights of this tour kind.

Located on the border of North and South Vietnam, the Vinh Moc Tunnels were originally built to shelter families from the bombing of the surrounding county. The tunnel complex is highly impressive and is a testament to the endurance and the ingenuity of the Vietnamese. Most of the tunnels are open to visitors and are kept in their original form, and there’s also a museum for visitors.

Viengxay Caves, Houaphanh Province, Laos

Hidden away in a dramatic limestone karst landscape near the village of Viengxay (also Vieng Xai) is a series of seemingly forgotten caves, used to shelter the Communist Pathet Lao forces during America’s war with Vietnam. The bombing campaign carried out by the US in Laos is now known as the ‘Secret War’ and must be one of the least-known conflicts to have involved the US since its birth as a nation.

The main reason for the US bombardment of Northern Laos was to destroy supply routes used by the North Vietnamese Army, now known collectively as the ‘Ho Chi Minh Trail’. The Pathet Lao supported the North Vietnamese and used these natural caves as a base to fight the Americans and the civil war raging at the time. Up to 23,000 people lived in the caves, which contained a hospital, school, shops, offices and even a theatre.

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

War Remnants Museum is a famous museum located in District 03 of Ho Chi Minh City, which most part of a city tour itinerary. This museum comprises several sections storing military equipment, as well as actual war site photographs, the victims of wars… As per its name, the Museum tells sad stories of the last brutal war.

The artifacts of this museum may make your visit be uncomfortable, but after all, they help us realize how fortunate to enjoy life in peace.

The Imperial City, Hue, Vietnam

The Citadel was built in 1804 by Emperor Gia Long, and though it served as the Emperor’s living quarters for quite some time, it was also the site of some of the toughest fighting of the Vietnam War. Much of the original structure was destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968, but its majestic architecture has been gradually restored with the help of UNESCO funding.

Today, Hue is a pretty city, where a substantial imperial city, as well as a collection of tombs, still stands proudly along the banks of the scenic Perfume River. On the river’s north bank are the ancient imperial citadel and residential areas, while the new commercial area, the old French quarter and the hotel district are all on the south bank. Hue’s attractions are plenty and variable, besides the famous Citadel (which is really suitable for a bicycle tour), you could go along the riverside to Thien Mu Pagoda and enjoy a special vegetarian lunch here. You also could have a short visit to Tam Giang Lagoon, a true beauty at sunset when golden water is sparkling in along with a maze of shrimp farming fields of all shapes and sizes that all fascinate travelers.

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