Day 1 & 2: (Sunday - Monday , 6 – 7 March, 2016) – Enroute
Report to the International Terminal by 9:00 p.m. and proceed to the EVA Airlines ticketing counter for flight to Taipei. We lose one day crossing the International Dateline.
Day 3: (Tuesday, 8 March, 2016) – Taipei to Ha Noi
After a short layover in Taipei, we depart for Vietnam. At Ha Noi's Noi Bai Airfield, we proceed through immigration, retrieve our bags, clear customs, and board our motorcoach and cross the Red River and its dikes to explore the Ha Noi environs. We visit the Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton) and the John McCain Monument. Afterwards we enjoy our Welcome Dinner.
Meals: B (in flight) /L/D Hotel: La Casa
Day 4: (Wednesday, 9 March, 2016) – Ha Noi
This morning we visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh House, and One Pillar Pagoda. Mission-permitting, we will stop at JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) for a command briefing on their efforts. We then enjoy a fabulous lunch at the Lotus Buffet Restaurant. Next is the fascinating War Museum with its Dien Bien Phu exhibit and American artifacts. 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: La Casa
Day 5: (Thursday, 10 March, 2016) – Ha Noi to Hue
Early this morning we head back to Noi Bai to catch our flight to Phu Bai Airfield. Upon landing, we explore the Recon Radio Relay site (Hill 180) at Camp Hochmuth. We then head north of the airfield to a ferry site across from Thon Hoa Da Tay village. Returning to Highway 1 we enter Camp Eagle, home to the 101st Airborne in I-Corps. Here we search for the 101st HQ bunker. Continuing north, we enter Hue City (the old Imperial Capital of Vietnam) and begin our study of the 1968 Tet Offensive battle for Hue. The Battle of Hue was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war, and we spend the remainder of the day visiting strategic sites around the southern city. We follow the actions of 1/1 and 2/5 covering, among others, the football stadium, the former MACV Compound, Tran Cao Van Street, Joan of Arc Girl's High School, Hue University, Treasury, Public Health Building, Provincial Capital Building area, and the Church of the Redemptress. Famous for its university, this town, known for open and radical thinking, is also home to the high school that graduated Ho Chi Minh, General Giap, and President Diem. We then arrive at our hotel (which was the ARVN BOQ during the war) on the southern bank of the Perfume River.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Huong Giang
Day 6: (Friday, 11 March, 2016) – Hue to Lao Bao
Very early today, we head west on Route 547 stopping at FSB Birmingham and FSB Bastogne. Our next stop is the A Shau Special Forces Camp. We then stop in A Loui, turning west and make a very special visit to Dong Ap Bia (Hill 937) better known as Hamburger Hill, where we gear up for the climb. Taking our time and plenty of water, we make the ascent to the top of this vicious May 1969 battlefield, which resulted in a horrific number of casualties on both sides. This mountaintop outpost was controversially abandoned by orders from generals in Saigon soon after the victorious Airborne troops won the fight against deeply-entrenched, hard-core NVA soldiers. On Dong Ap Bia, we remember the brave soldiers and medics and air crews who were involved in the fight to wrest control of the mountain from the NVA. We pay honor and respect to those who died here. 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. Back on Highway 14 (now called the Ho Chi Minh Trail Highway) heading north, we soon leave the A Shau Valley and plunge deep into the Da Krong Valley. Highway 14 (Route 548) was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail (the HCM Trail was not one continuous road, but an extensive network of ever-changing roadways and footpaths spanning four countries). Despite heavily bombing the area, the NVA supply route infiltration network was never completely cut off. This is an area of beautiful dense jungled hills and it’s easy to imagine how troops and supplies traversing the Trail travelled somewhat undetected. Continuing north, roughly parallel to the Laotian border, we pass through stunningly beautiful countryside. Emerging from the valley, we cross the Da Krong Bridge and head west on Route 9 to Khe Sanh Combat Base where we spend ample time exploring. Khe Sanh Combat Base was a U.S. jungle outpost close to the border with Laos. It grew into a major military base and airstrip under LBJ and was the scene of a 77-day siege in 1968, as well as many vicious hill battles in 1967-68. Our last stop is Lang Vei Special Forces Camp, overrun in the first-ever NVA tank assault. Co Roc Mountain soars to the heavens just across the border. Tonight we stay in the Laotian border town of Lao Bao in somewhat Spartan accommodations.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Sepon
Day 7: (Saturday, 12 March, 2016 – Lao Bao to Hue
This morning we head east on Route 9, (the main U.S. supply route from the coast to Khe Sanh). Vietnam is a very long, thin country, and we traverse it today from its border with Laos all the way to the coast. On Route 9 we come upon other sites that were of military importance during the war, including the Hairpin, Ca Lu, and Vandergrift Combat Base (LZ Stud). Our first stop is the Rockpile where we gear up and hike to the northeast side of the Razorback. Crossing the Khe Gia Bridge, we make our way to FSB Gio Linh (Forward) Alpha 2 which overlooks the DMZ from the Republic side. Continuing north, we come to Hien Luong Bridge (also known as the Peace Bridge) which crosses the Song Ben Hai (this river was the only true physical demarcation between the North and the South). Now in North Vietnam, we explore the tunnel complex in the artillery village of Vinh Moc. The Vinh Moc Tunnels are an incredible complex of tunnels that were dug by local people to evade the constant US counter-battery 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 saved many villagers’ lives, and are still in very good condition. We then head south, arriving back in South Vietnam on the new beach road along the Tonkin Gulf, turning west at the Song Cua Viet inlet. We travel along the north side of the Song Bo Dieu and Song Cua Viet passing through My Loc, Mai Xa Chanh, and the Dai Do battle area until reaching Highway 1, we turn south and cross the Dong Ha Bridge (destroyed by Capt. John Ripley which stopped the initial NVA advance during the 1972 Easter Offensive). This section of Highway 1 (between Dong Ha and Quang Tri City) is known as the ‘Highway of Horror.’ During the NVA’s 1972 Easter Offensive, thousands of local refugees – most of which were old people, women, and children trying to flee south – were mercilessly slaughtered by communist NVA troops and artillery. The north side of the Quang Tri Bridge is where the worst of the massacre occurred, because massive numbers of people were trapped because the downed bridge prevented escape. After a stop at Ai Tu Airfield (Quang Tri Airbase), we enter Quang Tri City, and visit Bo De School, which provides a shocking and violent reality of the ‘Battle of 81 Days and Nights’ for the city and its Citadel. The battle is infamous for the huge amount of ordnance fired by both ARVN and NVA forces. Returning to Highway 1 we stop at Long Hung Church, a Catholic Church in which ARVN troops sought refuge during the 1972 Easter Offensive invasion from the North and in which NVA troops sought refuge as they retreated during the ARVN counter-attack. The church has been left as it stood after the battle, with scars from grenades, rockets, and bullets. Our last stop of the day is Camp Evans.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Huong Giang
Day 8: (Sunday, 13 March, 2016) – Hue
Today is a much-deserved free day to relax by the pool or you may want to roam by yourselves the streets and shops of this historic city. Lunch and dinner are on our own.
Meals: B/_/_ Hotel: Saigon Dong Ha
Day 9: (Monday, 14 March, 2016) – Hue to Hoi An
This morning we bid Hue goodbye and head south on Highway 1. Our first visit is Camp Eagle, home to the 101st Airborne in I-Corps. We pass by Dam Cau Hai, one of the largest lagoons in all of Southeast Asia encompassing 112 square kilometers. Next is a stop for a rest and photos at Elephant Pass, followed by a special stop at a 101st Airborne railroad site. At Lang Co fishing village, we walk across the bridge separating Dam Lap An from the sea. We then head up the breathtaking Hai Van with a stop at the Pass of the High Clouds to explore old French and Chinese bunkers and take in a view of Da Nang and the bay. The Hai Van Pass had been a vital strategic military foothold for the Chinese for centuries, and was used by the French during France’s Indochina War and by the U.S. in America’s Vietnam War. Bunkers and fortifications dot the hillsides here. Continuing down the Hai Van to sea level, we visit Red Beach II where the Marines made their first amphibious landing, in March 1965. We pass through Dog Patch as we enter Da Nang City and make a quick photo stop at China Beach on the South China Sea. After we drive through the MMAF (Marble Mountain Air Facility) area we stop at a marble carving shop. This area is famous for their stone-sculpture industries. The Marble Mountains are visually-striking hills that rise from the flat coastal region – these mountains are home to Buddhist shrines and numerous caves. We climb to the top of the largest mountain and explore the VC hospital area located deep within. Our last stop is a wood-carving and silk shop as we arrive in Hoi An. Hoi An, a beautiful well-preserved ancient trading port, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its temples and architecture show the different cultural influences of its time and its lovely Japanese covered bridge is unique. Luckily for Hoi An, its importance waned long before the War, and it was left essentially isolated and relatively untouched.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Hoi An Trails
Day 10: (Tuesday, 17 March) – Hoi An
Today is a well-deserved free day. You can relax by the pool or you may want to roam by yourselves the streets and shops of this ancient port city, formerly known as Faifo, where Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese traders once walked. The town ceased to be an important trade harbor when its inlet shoaled and the port was moved north to Da Nang. Shopping is excellent here and is one of the best places for tailor-made clothing. There are literally hundreds of amazing little shops in this town. Lunch and dinner are on our own today. Be sure to take the free shuttle into town and sample some of the many local restaurants and night spots.
Meals: B/_/_ Hotel: Hoi An Trails
Day 11: (Wednesday, 16 March, 2016) – Hoi An
This morning we travel south to visit Chu Lai. We visit Hill 43, Chu Lai Air Base, Ky Ha Helicopter Base, and enjoy lunch on Crescent Beach. Dinner is on our own this evening.
Meals: B/L/_ Hotel: Hoi An Trails
Day 12: (Thursday, 17 March, 2016) – Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
After a leisurely breakfast, we head to Da Nang Airfield for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by most Vietnamese). As we depart Tan Son Nhut Airfield, we pass by the old ARVN National Headquarters, MACV HQ, and the U.S. Army's 3rd Field Hospital and head into the center of the city. We visit Reunification Hall (the old Presidential Palace), Norte Dame Cathedral, and pass by the former US Embassy location which now houses the new U.S. Consulate.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Asian Ruby
Day 13: (Friday, 18 March, 2016) – Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Early today we visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. Next we arrive in time for the Noon Ceremony at the Cao Dai Temple. We will lunch at Ms. Tuyet’s restaurant, and before returning to Saigon, we will stop at Nui Ba Den (the Black Virgin Mountain).
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Asian Ruby
Day 14: (Saturday, 19 March, 2016) – Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City
Leaving every early today, our first stop is Cha Tam Church where South Vietnam President Diem had fled and disguised himself as a priest during the 1963 coup. It was from this place that Diem was captured, taken away, and murdered. We then travel south to the town Tan An and then on to My Tho in the Mekong Delta where we enjoy a boat trip on the Mekong River to visit Thoi Son Island (Coconut Island), local houses, and workshops. Tonight all hands are required at our very special Farewell Dinner.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Asian Ruby
Day 15: (Sunday, 20 March, 2016) – Departure
After breakfast, we are free to relax or take a walk along old Tu Do Street (now Dong Khoi Street) to explore fascinating little shops where you can discover special gifts to bring home. At noon we transfer to Tan Son Nhut Airfield for our flight to Taipei. Departing from Taipei, we gain a day enroute by re-crossing the International Dateline, arriving in the continental United States this same day.
Meals: B/L/D (in flight)