To better understand Vietnam’s history, there are some significant Vietnam War sites you can visit.
Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi
The Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi – also known as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ – was used for American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. The most famous prisoner is the former senator and former presidential candidate John McCain. Parts of the prison can be visited. The information in English is extensive, audio guides are available.
Ho Chi Minh Trail
The Ho Chi Minh Trail is a complex system of 1,600 kilometres of paths, roads and rivers that connected North Vietnam with South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Whereas large parts of the original Ho Chi Minh Trail have been reclaimed by tropical nature, 1,200 kilometres of road have merged into the Ho Chi Minh Road, which runs from Hanoi to Kon Tum. Along the way you’ll pass the war-soaked Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), numerous memorials and small-scale local museums. You’ll meet different ethnic minorities and cross the jungle-covered Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
During the Vietnam War, North and South Vietnam were separated by the Demilitarized Zone, also known as the DMZ. The DMZ lies roughly between Phong Nha and Hue, near Dong Ha. The area is about 10 kilometers wide and 100 kilometers long – about 5 kilometers on either side of the Ben Hai River. The stretched out Vietnam is at its narrowest here.
In the DMZ you’ll find the Khe Sanh army base, the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail, the sprawling Truong Son cemetery, the Hien Luong bridge over the Ben Hai River, and of course the Vinh Moc tunnels, an impressive three-storey underground network where people lived during bombardments. At most of the sights in the DMZ there is little or no English information available.
Cu Chi Tunnels
Near Ho Chi Minh City are the Cu Chi tunnels, an underground network of dangerous booby traps used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War to outsmart US soldiers. At the entrance of the tunnel complex, English-speaking guides present themselves for a guided tour. The Cu Chi tunnels can be visited in combination with a tour through the Mekong Delta.
Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
In the middle of Ho Chi Minh City lies the Reunification Palace. On 30 April 1975, a tank of the NVA crashed through the gates of the Reunification Palace, then still called the Independence Palace. This event heralded the end of the Vietnam War. In July 1976, following negotiations, North Vietnam and South Vietnam were merged into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Saigon was given its current name: Ho Chi Minh City.
Near the palace you will also find the War Remnants Museum. This museum focuses on the American participation in the Vietnam War. The impressive collection of the museum consists of a large number of photographs and props divided over a number of thematically decorated rooms, such as the effects of the poisonous Agent Orange and the My Lai Massacre. The English information and signage are excellent, both at the Reunification Palace and at the War Remnants Museum.