Legacy of Conflict: The Indochina War Trail
The people of Indochina have seen many decades of disturbances. Colonialists, communists, and despotic leaders have all tried to exploit the wonderful people and their fertile land. Today, new generations are moving forward and borders are once again open to the public.
Clients with a special interest in the battles that took place in the area can now join Khiri Travel’s Indochina War Trail. We have crafted a 19-day itinerary along landmarks of various wars. On the trip there are also many opportunities to appreciate peaceful achievements, past and present.
We start our tour in Luang Prabang, Laos and travel to Vietnam and then Cambodia. The tour presents poignant insights into the Mekong region’s recently troubled past.
In Laos we visit Xieng Khouang province, known to most people for the mysterious Plain of Jars. This area has suffered a lot in the Indochina/American War. Phonesavanh is one of the most heavily bombed places in history. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, Xieng Khouang was the center of a kingdom of the Hmong (Meo). In 1832, it was conquered by the Vietnamese, who annexed the whole region. The town was again totally destroyed during the Vietnam (American) War and only rebuilt in the late 1970s. We take time to visit a village working to improve themselves almost 40 years after the end of the war. Using scrap metal from exploded bombs, villagers make spoons and bracelets to sell.
On the way to the border with Vietnam, we reach Viengxai. During the secret war the Pathet Lao leaders had their headquarters in the caves surrounding the town. Visit the cave of one of the Pathet Lao leaders who later became the first President of the Lao PDR. The underground cave city here is testament to the survival instincts and tenacity of the local people.
In the northern hills of Vietnam we visit minority villages. This is also the area where during the Vietnam War the Ho Chi Minh Trail ran. A museum with military equipment, uniforms and personal possessions of American soldiers remind us of those days. There is a GI helmet emblazoned with the slogan, “Tiger Sharks Kill for Kicks,” reminiscent of the Oliver Stone flick Full Metal Jacket.
Hanoi houses the Vietnam Military History Museum, Air Force Museum, and Hoa Lo Prison, which was originally built by French colonialists in 1896. We also take a cyclo to explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter and visit a famous water puppet show.
Via the beautiful Hai Van pass with scenic vistas of the hills and sea, we then travel to Hue. The seaside town was the border between North and South Vietnam before re-unification in 1975. The area saw lots of action during the Vietnam War. Guests can view a few of the important places such as Truong Son Cemetery, Dakrong Bridge (also part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail), and the Vinh Moc Tunnels. Like the tunnels of Cu Chi near Ho Chi Minh City, the Vinh Moc subterranean network provided refuge for Vietnamese communist-nationalists.
Hue is also known for its Forbidden Purple City, the political, cultural and religious center under the Nguyen dynasty.
In Saigon we visit the Reunification Palace (the former residence of the presidents of South Vietnam before 1975) and the War Remnants Museum. We take in a museum dedicated to the hiding of secret weapons. The cellar was dug in 1967 to conceal weapons and explosives for the 1968 attack on the Independence Palace. An exhibition explains the planning and implementation of the mission.
We can also take clients to explore the bedrooms, meeting rooms, and smokeless kitchens of the extraordinary guerrilla tunnel complex of Cu Chi.
Cambodia’s darkest period was under the regime of Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge. The Tuol Sleng Prison and Choeng Ek (Killing Fields) are the existing remains of the devastating horrors that prevailed during the ultra-radical Marxist-Maoist movement. Back in Phnom Penh, we take a traditional cyclo tour past the capital’s landmarks and on to Battambang. Thousands of landmines were scattered around the area, devastating agriculture. Today the province is slowly recovering as the land is freed up. Here we visit the ‘killing caves’ in Phnom Sampeau. We also take a ride on the bamboo train, a unique contraption that was initially built by the French to transport goods.
Siem Reap is a highlight in every itinerary because of its impressive Angkor era temples. Even during the Khmer Rouge regime, tourists came from Bangkok to visit Angkor Wat. From here, we also make our way to the final stronghold of the Khmer Rouge in the tiny village of Srei Noi.
The area was a frequent battleground and home to Ta Mok. He was the chief of the Khmer Rouge’s armed forces and final leader of the organization after Pol Pot’s arrest. In a simple dwelling in the nearby mountains of the Dangrek Escarpment, Pol Pot was kept under house arrest in 1997. After his death he was cremated a few meters away.
During this tour, Khiri Travel will give clients a variety of experiences indicative of Indochina’s bloody history. But we also celebrate continuity from a more peaceful time and help guests appreciate abiding cultural highlights, old and new, as we strive to give a fuller understanding of local life and history across the Greater Mekong region.
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