Quảng Trị Province in the North Central Vietnam is a coastal province with a 75 km coastline and a border with Laos to the west. It is a hilly province other than the narrow coastal strip with forest on the mountain slopes whose peaks are anything up to 2,400 metres. Streams and small rivers flow eastwards to the sea and the many valleys are susceptible to flooding in the monsoon season.
It was originally home to the Cham people whose culture was much different to the Vietnamese further north. The Vietnamese took control centuries ago with the French conquering the area in the middle of the 19th Century. It was the northernmost province of South Vietnam and therefore played a major role in the Vietnam War with several American bases and constant attack by the Viet Cong. It fell to North Vietnam forces in 1975 but danger remained even after the War finished because of the amount of unexploded ordnance. There have been subsequent casualties often due to ignorance on the part of people who are unsure of what they are seeing.
How to get there
Quang Tri is 600 km from Hanoi and almost twice the distance from Ho Chi Minh City in the south. The road and rail systems within Vietnam, north to south, are fairly good while Danang at 190 km away even allows for direct international flights. In reality Vietnam tour packageswill arrange every part of your Vietnam travel. The bus services are good and generally fairly comfortable.
Best time to visit
The hot and dry south-west winds during the Monsoon from May to September contrast with the cooler wet weather between November until mid-March when temperatures can fall as far as 7C against an annual average of 24 °C. There are some beaches in Quang Tri and those interested in enjoying the coastline are probably best advised to avoid the cold weather.
Things to see and do
The main reason for visiting Quang Tri is because it was very much in the front line during the Vietnam War. Our Quang Tri travel guide has selected the following places as highlights within the Province.
VINH MOC TUNNELS
The Vinh Moc tunnels north of the Ben Hai River were built by the locals who did not want to leave their homes but were in need of protection from the constant bombing. They were begun in 1965 and when it was realised that bombs were effective down to 10 metres below ground the ‘’underground village’’ holding around 60 families was constructed at 30 metres. The tunnels were 2,000 metres in length and remained in use until 1972; they are now a tourist attraction and form part of many organised Vietnam travel packages.They are large enough for tourists to walk through fairly comfortably.
The Battle of Khe Sanh took place in the early months of 1968 and resulted in both sides claiming victory. It is still a matter of debate as to why it was seen as an important place to hold but then within months regarded as fairly irrelevant. A visit to the combat base is a popular part of tours to the Demilitarised Zone which will also include the Doc Mieu
The Hien Luong Bridge was built by the French in 1952, two years before the agreement to divide the country was signed. American bombing destroyed it at a time that it was seen as a symbol of division. It was rebuilt in 1996 and opened as a relic in 2003; it is now regarded as a symbol of unification.
Quang Tri Citadel was built in 1824 during the Nguyen Dynasty and served as an administrative headquarters. It was riddled with bullets during the war and subsequently a monument was erected to commemorate the bravery of Quang Tri’s people during the War.
There are not a huge number of accommodation alternatives within the province itself because visitors often stay further away and take daily tours to see the places that were affected by the Vietnam War. There are hotels in Khe Sanh and Dong Ha which are perfectly good.
This Quang Tri travel guide makes no apologies for mentioning the Vietnam War. It had many casualties and the impact of the War has been far reaching. However it has not impacted on the friendliness of the Vietnamese people who are happy to welcome visitors to enjoy everything their country has to offer. Certainly Quang Tri can be a solemn place but those that are interested in 20th Century history will find much to interest them.