History of Ho Chi Minh Trail
Ho Chi Minh Trail is the name of the road system built by North of Vietnam at the Vietnam War. The function of the road is for North of Vietnam to support National Liberation Front in the South Vietnam to fight against South Vietnam Government. In details, the road system was the blood vent for the war where foodstuff, petrol, weapons, vehicles, military supplies, and armies have been transported for decades. The road was started in 1959 and had continued its grand mission till the fall of Saigon in 1975.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail first started from the Quang Binh and Nghe An (just provinces adjacent to the DMZ) to all destinations in the South Vietnam. The starting points were convenient to be ready for the hard-working journey to the South. Later, it was extended to the North. Therefore, a system of road from North to South in the West site of the country now has been named Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail was famous as it was one of the most severe battlefield in the world. The Northern solders with is suppliers has walked in the trails hidden under tree canopies. The American and South Vietnam army tried to bomb and destroyed the trails daily to stop it. Therefore, millions of people has died here. Many hundred thousand of families has been impacted by Agent Orange. Consequently, many hundred thousand of children was born with deformed bodies. The sad stories have not been stopped here yet through the war has finished nearly half of a century.
Today it is a highway across lovely beautiful towns, endless great plantations, unique hill tribal villages, and majestic stunning landscapes. We would like to help you some information as follow to prepare for touching this unseen beauty of the world. Your trip along Vietnam can be with other parts of the country. Nevertheless, a call at one of these can be a great idea if you wish to stay away from crowd and enjoy a deep cultural and landscape discovery of Vietnam.
Beautiful landscape along Ho Chi Minh Trail
Pu Mat National Park
Pu Mat National Park is around 30km West of Ho Chi Minh Trail, right in between Hanoi and DMZ. The park is over 90 000 ha, making the biggest one in the North of Vietnam. The diversity of flora system here has made it a world biosphere reserve acknowledged by UNESCO. Furthermore, the fauna makes another fame for the park. Sao La, red-shanked douc and Northern white-cheeked gibbon are the animals uniquely found here. Many big communities of elephants and tigers are also recently recorded. What is more, among over 250 bird families founded here, 22 are on the way of extinction. You will find unique birds here like rheinarte d’Annam.
Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
This park locates right in the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The transportation to here is easy with half day driving from Hue. There is also a big system of homestays, resorts and hotels. There are more and more travellers coming here for the special beauty of nature. Nonetheless, the previous travellers are ones who want to see again real sites of Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park now is famous for many records. It has a biggest cave in the world that you know it is called Son Doong. There are many underground rivers that their lengths are at top levels of the world. The trips to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park can be the trips into Son Doong Cave, the boat trip into Phong Nha Wet Cave, a climb into Paradise cave, the exploration of filming site of Kong Skull Island.
Of course there are many opportunities to see real Ho Chi Minh Trail there with roads, ferry stations, bomb craters, etc among that spectacular of nature.
Lak Lake is the second biggest freshwater lake all around Vietnam. Locating at the height of 400m above sea level, Lak lake was a mouth of a grand volcano crater. The fame of this is also from the beautiful rain forests around and the hill tribal villages living at the lake.
The trip around Lak lake can be a trekking into the rain forest, or meeting elephants which are castles of hill tribal villagers. Travelers can also enjoy the boat rides with its special feature. The whole boat is made from one tree only.
This is a hill tribal village which was once famous around Asia for its record of hunting elephants at the middle of 19th century. A walk thru the village and visiting some stilt houses will give you an understand the special culture here. Here and there you can see elephant at the back yards of the still houses. Calling at the tombs of elephant hunters or learning some local herbal medicine are also common things to do as walking here. However, don’t forget to try your balance skill at some suspension bridges over angry streamlines.
Dray sap Waterfall
This is one of the biggest and the most beautiful waterfall in the South of Vietnam. The waterfall is 30km South of Buon Ma Thuoc city, the capital of highland Vietnam. In fact, there are several water falls here like Gia Long Waterfall, Draysap Waterfall, and Dray Nur Waterfall. Seeing all of this will be a deep look into the nature of waterfall land of Ho Chi Minh Trail. Covering these waterfalls is a special rain forest. It is so green in raining season and a bit dried at dry season.
Can Gio mangrove forest
This mangrove forest is in Hochiminh city, around 30km South of Saigon center. The transportation to the forest needs to cross Saigon river by ferry. And this is also a great point to see daily local life here.
The mangrove forest now is a travel destination for any who loves forest activities. These can be trekking in the mangrove forest, seeing salty crocodile, watching bird sanctuary, or having sampan into peaceful parts of the forest. Nevertheless, this was a fierce point at the war time. Viet Cong has used this mangrove forest for their guerrilla war. The forest is thick and can cover above. No trail can be found from bird view of the air crafts. Therefore, a big amount of Agent Orange has been used here at the war time. The chemical is washed away now but it is really fantastic to have a visit and understand more stories at the war especially around Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Historical landmarks at Ho Chi Minh Trail
This DMZ separates Vietnam into to from 1955 to 1975. This marks a black page of Vietnam history of war. Therefore, all the battlefield tours in the central Vietnam include this as a must-see spot.
The place is a river, right in the national hight way 1A. There is a metal bridge with half in blue and the other half in yellow. In fact, the Ho Chi Minh Trails does not go thru this bridge. However, this is the worthiest place to visit at the DMZ. A walk thru the bridge connecting two sites as well as the visit to the sites can bring you a lot of stories of those days.
Truong Son military cemetery.
There were millions of solders died at both North and South Vietnam armies. Also, the DMZ was one of the fiercest places in Vietnam where the number of soldiers is the highest. Therefore, there is a central cemetery here named Truong Son military cemetery (plus hundreds of other cemeteries adjacent). Over ten thousand of graves bring a horrible feeling of war.
The DMZ and Truong Son military cemetery are the sites can be combined in one day. More time will allow the Pphong Nha cave boat trip plus a visit to the Vinh Moc tunnel as introduced below.
Vinh Moc tunnel
In Vietnam, we are famous for Cuchi tunnel in the South where over 200km of tunnel was made under ground for the guerrilla technique fighting. Moreover, there are a lot of other tunnels were made around the country. Vinh Moc tunnel seem to be the second most famous along all.
The tunnel system here is only over 2000m long. Nevertheless, the tunnels here are big that people can stand up as walking insides. A big system of fighting and living under ground here was built at the war time.
In addition to DMZ, the cemetery, the tunnel, there are also many attracting spots along Ho Chi Minh Trails near this place. That can be hot mineral springs where showering there can bring a strong body. There are also famous battlefield sites like Khe Sanh, Cam Roll, Ta Con or Doc Mieu. Those are simply grass hills or fields but contains big stories of Vietnam war on this land.
Other Impressive highlights on Ho Chi Minh Trail
Hill tribal villages
In Vietnam we have 53 minority people. They locate mostly along mountain ranges where Ho Chi Minh Trail goes thru. These people have different languages, cultures, clothes, life etiquettes and believes. Visiting those village will bring great surprises to you as revealing a so different world.
At the hill tribal villages near Kon Tum, Pleiku or Daklak, don’t forget to enjoy their dance by the fire with Gong music. This music has been acknowledged by UNESCO as immaterialism World Heritage. The music has been preserved by only transferring from fathers to sons for thousand years.
Tomb house is culture of some hill tribal villages in Pleiku and Kontum. There is a grave yard at the west site of every village there. The tombs are not massive or long-lasting decorations. However, the rituals at the tombs, the spectacular sculpture, as well as the presents for the death are the best to see. A walk to such a tomb yard, in addition to the visit to a village, is then a marvellous discovery of culture.
Vietnam is the world six biggest exporter of tea in the world. Tea are good at hills and high elevation land. Therefore, there are many tea plantations along Ho Chi Minh Trail. The beauty of tea plantation is unbeatable as these are often vast, green, and at spectacular view of hills. Along the trail, there are many and many places you can find these plantations. However, you can see a lot more at North of Phong Nha cave, South of Daklak and Pleiku province.
In addition to tea plantation, there are also huge plantation of rubber trees. There are even more rubber than tea along the trail. Rubbers are easy to plan. Having a talk with workers collecting rubber latex is a a great experience.
Rubber plantations locates nearly everywhere along the trail. You can find them in Daklak, Pleiku, Kontum, Hue, Phong Nha, Quang Binh, etc
Have you ever imagined Vietnam is the second biggest exporter of coffee in this world? And of course, all of them are planted along Ho Chi Minh Trail. The coffee plantations are also at vast hills. It is fantastic to ride along hills and see its pure white flower blossom with great smell. When the fruits are ripe, the talk to the fruit collectors can be amazing experience too. Furthermore, in this kingdom of coffee, you never can miss the surprised stories like weasel coffee. You also can call at some shop in Buon Ma Thuoc and enjoy coffee with local people. This drink will amazes you because that is a new procedure of coffee processing and a pure spirit of admiring coffee there.
Black pepper plantations
When driving along trails across hills and villages, you might wonder a new kind of ivy appearing at many places. Those are the very black pepper plantations. You can stop at any plantation, having a walk into it and talking with the harvesters. The trip should be very educational for children to see black pepper production and how the local life is.
The trip along Ho Chi Minh Trail is mostly at the mountain ranges. Therefore, the trail always goes up and down with hills. This is the reason why there are many and many spectacular hills there. Some of the hill there are impressive. The dangers are rare as government has made the road very well with great safety care.
Activities along Ho Chi Minh Trails
The culture discovery at the Ho Chi Minh Trail is one of the best things to do in Vietnam. This is a true touch to Vietnamese culture. You always find the destinations are not touristy at all. Along with driving thru the spectacular landscapes, you will visit many houses of many different hill tribal villages. Those will bring a big surprise to open the window of you how to see a different world.
The only drawback of these tours is the long distance to drive. You might need to drive 4 hours per day along the trip.
To see more and feel more, you can follow some of the foosteps of Mrs. Porper
- FIRST HIT TO HIGHLAND VIETNAM TOUR – PORPER STORY #5
- VIETNAM RAIN FOREST AND HILLS OF PLANTATIONS – PORPER STORY #6
- KONTUM, TOMB HOUSES AND TRIBAL VILLAGES – PORPER STORY #7
- ON THE WAY TO HOI AN ANCIENT TOWN – PORPER STORY #8
- SURPRISE IN PHONG NHA CAVE TRIP- PORPER STORY #13
We can say that all national parks of Vietnam stay along Ho Chi Minh Trail. Those parks are rain forest guarded by local authorities. The systems of fauna and flora is those rain forests are super great to observe. Hence, the trekking at these parks will bring a lot of benefit in health, tree and animal knowledge as well as great fun.
Furthermore, travel in Vietnam is not well developed yet. Then the most common activities you can find at these parks are trekking. So, don’t forget to trek there and find the best values you can expect.
Cycling Ho Chi Minh Trail
This is a great place of cycling. The first warning is that the route is very hilly all the trip. However, the reward is worth of that. There is no better way to enjoy coffee, tea, rubber, cashew nut plantation better than having a bike a riding thru those. The trail is also less traffic than other road so you will find it fantastic for hilly challenges.
Though all of them are mountains and hills, you will find the views are different. Hills in the South are more fertile with red soils. The mountains are full of coffee and tea. As you are in the central, more rice farms with far-away hills are the great landscapes. And from Phong Nha up to North, the spectacular of Karst topography plus rain forest and tea plantations will make the view changed.
Battle field tours
As we have mentioned, Ho Chi Minh Trail was once the fierce sites for fighting at Vietnam wars. There were many battlefields that names are still in the minds of veterans today. Finding ways backs could be a great recall of memory for the veterans and families. It is also great to come back and say hello to the fighting fellows who has been laid down on the land.
That could be Dakto in Kontum. There are names there might recall all the old memories. Let’s take a visit to Đakto – Tan Canh monument, where the Gallery 2 tank involved battles. Continue to Dakto airstrip, the hill 42, and have a patrol back to the Hill Charlie and Rocket Ridge from the Phoenix airstrip. If you have more time, don’t forget Camp Enari, high point 601 (sloping skulls), camp commando, Ben Het, 42 artillery regiment 22, Kleng Plei airport, B15-B12 MACV.
Further down to the Central Vietnam, we will recall Danang Airport, My Khe Beach, Lo Giang, Marble Mountains, Nam Ô, Hue Citadel. And on the way back to Ho Chi Minh Trail again, how about DMZ, Khe Sanh, Huong Hoa, Cam Lo, Rockpile, Camp Carroll, Hamburger Hill.
All above is our brief description about things you need to know about Ho Chi Minh Trail today. If you have any more question, please don’t hesitate to send us yours. We would like to help if we can.