Day 1 & 2: (Thursday - Friday , 27 - 28 March, 2014) – Enroute
Report to Los Angeles International Terminal by 8:30 p.m. and proceed to ticketing counter. Depart for Taipei and lose one day crossing the International Dateline.
Day 3: (Saturday, 29 March, 2014) – Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
After a short layover in Taipei, we depart for Vietnam. We arrive at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhut Airport (once the busiest airfield in the world) and proceed through immigration, retrieve our bags, and clear customs. We depart the airport and head into the center of the city (still called Saigon by most Vietnamese) and visit the War Remnants Museum; Reunification Hall (Old Presidential Palace); Norte Dame Cathedral; the Old Post Office; and the former US Embassy area which now houses the new US Consulate. This evening we enjoy our Welcome Dinner.
Meals: B (in flight) /L/D Hotel: Hoang Hai Long
Day 4: (Sunday, 30 March, 20) – Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
We rise early and head to Tay Ninh Province to visit the Cao Dai Holy See Temple and observe the noon ceremony. After lunch we explore the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Hoang Hai Long
Day 5: (Monday, 31 March, 2014) – HCMC to Da Nang to Hoi An
A short morning flight takes us north to the busy port of Da Nang. During the Vietnam War, the Air Base here was one of the busiest airports in the world. We assemble our bikes and set off along the coast on a warm-up ride. We ride south along My Khe Beach and China Beach leading to the Marble Mountain Air Facility, a US helicopter base during the war. China Beach was an in country R & R facility used by US troops. In view are the Marble Mountains, striking hills rising from the flat coastal region - these are home to caves and Buddhist shrines and are famous for their stone-sculpture industries. Continuing south, we ride on to Hoi An, a beautiful well-preserved ancient trading port which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its temples and architecture show the different cultural influences of its time, while the lovely Japanese covered bridge is unique. Luckily for Hoi An, its importance waned long before the Vietnam War and it was left isolated and untouched. It's a lovely place to wander and explore, and we spend the night here.
Cycle approximately 25km or 15 mile
Day 6: (Tuesday, 01 April, 2014) – Hoi An to Hai Van Pass to Hué
Our first full day of cycling beckons! After a hearty breakfast, we cycle back towards Da Nang and head further north. We visit Red Beach 2, the site where American Marines first landed in 1965. We then ride over Nam O Bridge, a crucial bridge in the fight for Da Nang, and over the steep Hai Van Pass. This is our first major climb and if it's a humid day will be hard work! Hai Van Pass has been a vital military strategic foothold for centuries, and was used by French and American armies in the Indochina War and Vietnam War; bunkers and fortifications dot the hillsides. Continuing north, roughly parallel to the coast, we reach the imperial city of Hué. We have a short drive for part of this route, to avoid a very busy stretch of road.
Cycle approximately 120km or 75 mile
Day 7: (Wednesday, 02 April, 2014) – Hué to A Luoi (Hamburger Hill) to Khe Sanh
Leaving the coast behind us, we head inland into rural countryside. Vietnam is a very long, thin country, and we traverse it today from the coast almost all the way to its border with Laos, and then ride north. It's a long day, so we drive the first busy section out of Hué. This is an area of beautiful dense jungled hills, and it's easy to imagine how supplies coming via the Ho Chi Minh Trail travelled undetected. This area - around the A Shau Valley and A Luoi - saw some fierce fighting in the late 1960s. Probably the most famous is the Battle of Hamburger Hill (May 1969) which saw many casualties on both sides for an outpost which was controversially abandoned by the victorious U.S. soon after. We visit the site and pay our respects. Now riding north, roughly parallel to the border, we cycle through stunningly beautiful countryside. This area was heavily napalmed during the War – an estimated 69 tons of napalm were dropped during the Battle of Hamburger Hill alone – and it’s astounding how well nature has recovered. The road we take was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail; this was not one continuous road, but an extensive network of paths. We come to Da Krong Bridge, famous for being the 'start' of the Trail; it was destroyed many times but always re-built. Despite heavily bombing the area, the supply route was never cut off. We continue to Khe Sanh, where we spend the night.
Cycle approximately 80-100km or 62 miles; Drive approximately 1.5 - 2 Hours.
Day 8: (Thursday, 03 April, 2014) – Khe Sanh to DMZ to Dong Ha
Our day starts with a visit to Khe Sanh Combat Base, a US jungle outpost close to the Laos border and scene of a major siege and battle in 1968. There is a small museum here, and you can still see bomb craters in the ground. We have a talk by our guide and hold a small ceremony to pay our respects. We then visit the nearby sites of Ta Con airfield and Lang Vei, scene of another battle in 1968 in which the besieged and defeated US Special Forces survived against the odds and escaped thanks to a daring Marines rescue mission. We then ride east, leaving the Laos border behind us, cycling through forested hills, coffee and banana plantations. The De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) lay along the 17th Parallel, which marked the divide between North and South Vietnam. Situated along the DMZ were a string of combat bases, observation posts and air fields, remnants of which still remain. We visit sites including The Rockpile, Camp Carroll and Dau Mau Base as we ride towards the town of Dong Ha.
Cycle approximately 70km or 43 miles.
Day 9: (Friday, 04 April, 2014) – Dong Ha to Vinh Moc Tunnels to Dong Ha
Today also focuses on the DMZ, but our route takes us north of Dong Ha, crossing the Ben Hai River and the 17 Parallel. We ride to the Vinh Moc Tunnels, an incredible complex of tunnels that were dug by local people to evade the constant US bombing of the area. The tunnels include kitchens, wells and a 'hospital', as well as living quarters for roughly 60 families. The tunnels, which are at a depth of 30m, are still in very good condition and saved the villagers' lives. After visiting them, we ride south again, returning over the Hien Luong Bridge (also known as the Peace Bridge), where there is a striking memorial to the victims of the War. Back on the southern side, we proceed to the Truong Son National Cemetery, a vast burial-ground with over 10,000 Vietnamese graves - many of them nameless - for the soldiers and civilians who died protecting the Ho Chi Minh Trail. After paying our respects here, we visit other sites including the US base at Con Thien. We return to Dong Ha.
Cycle approximately 90km or 56 miles.
Day 10: (Saturday, 05 April, 2014) – Dong Ha to Quang Tri to Hué
Leaving Dong Ha, we ride south on flatter roads again, passing more towns and villages than we have seen over the past few days. We stop to visit Ai Tu airfield and Quang Tri; the 1972 Easter Offensive ‘Battle of 81 Days and Nights’ for the Citadel here is famous for the huge amount of ordnance dropped by the U.S. We also visit Long Hung Church, a Catholic Church in which NVA troops sought refuge as part of the battle, to no avail. It has been left as it stood after the battle, with scars from grenades and bullet-holes, and is a poignant place to hold our ceremony. Continuing south, we head towards Hué on the section of road known as the ‘Highway of Horror.’ Thousands of local refugees – most of which were old people, women and children – were cut down by communist NVA troops when they were trying to flee south. We stop at Truong Phuoc Bridge, where the worst of the slaughter occurred, and pay our respects to mark the atrocity. Continuing south, we return to Hué. The Battle of Hué (1968) was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the War, and we spend the remainder of the day visiting strategic sites around the city before hopping off our bikes one last time.
Cycle approximately 85km or 53 miles.
Day 11: (Sunday, 06 April, 2014) – Hué to Ha Noi
This morning we take a short flight up to the bustling northern city of Ha Noi. You'll have free time to wander the tangled streets that make up the Old Quarter, visit Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum or simply sit and watch the world go by from one of the city's many cafés! We meet again in the evening for a huge celebration of our achievements.
Day 12: (Monday, 07 April, 2014) – Ha Noi
This morning we visit the Ho Chi Minh House; One Pillar Pagoda; Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton); the War Museum; and the John McCain Monument. Before dinner tonight, we enjoy a visit (mission permitting) to the Marine House, home of the U.S. Marine Corps Security Guard responsible for the protection of the U.S. Ambassador and the American Embassy.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Chalcedony
Day 13: (Tuesday, 08 April, 2014) – Departure
After breakfast we stop at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We then cross the Red River and its dikes before arriving at Noi Bai Airfield (heavily bombed during the American war) for our flight to Taipei. Departing from Taipei we gain a day enroute to the continental United States by re-crossing the International Dateline, arriving in Los Angeles at approximately 2:55 p.m. this same day.
Meals: B/L/D (in flight)