If relentless American bombing didn’t get him, it would take a North Vietnamese soldier as long as six months to make the grueling trek down the jungle Ho Chi Minh Trail. Today, you speed along the same route at 60 mph, past peaceful hamlets and stunning mountain scenery duringVietnam adventure tours.
Many sections of the old trail, actually a 9,940-mile web of tracks, roads, and waterways, have been reclaimed by tropical growth. But a main artery has now become the Ho Chi Minh National Highway, probably the country’s best and the largest public works project since Vietnam War ended 30 years ago.
The highway, more than 745 miles of which are already open to traffic, begins at the gates of Hanoi, the capital, and ends at the doorsteps of Ho Chi Minh City, which was known as Saigon when it was the former capital of South Vietnam.
In your adventure Vietnam, you will see the route passing battlefields like Khe Sanh and the Ia Drang Valley, skirts tribal villages of the rugged Central Highlands and offers easy access to some of the country’s top attractions – the ancient royal seat of Hue, the picturesque trading port of Hoi An and the South China Sea beaches.
You can begin your Vietnam adventure tours in the newly rebuilt city of Vinh, along one of the trail’s main branches. Here in “Vietnam’s Dresden,” every building but one is obliterated by U.S. Bombing, which attempted to stop the flow of foreign military aid through the city’s port. American pilots also suffered their greatest losses of the war over its skies.
Although it’s still a trail of tears three decades after the guns fell silent, Ho’s road looks decidedly to the future and has attracted tons of tourists coming to Vietnam for adventure tours. The government says the highway will stimulate the economy in some of Vietnam’s poorest, most remote regions, relieve congestion on the only other north-south road, National Highway 1, and increase tourism revenue. Besides conventional tours, several companies offer mountain biking along sections of the trail and expeditions on Russian-made Minsk motorcycles out of the 1950s.