End: Ho Chi Minh City
Distance: 1,600km (1000 miles)
Time: 3 months
Terrain: Dirt and Paved Roads
The Ho Chi Minh Trail was the network of supply routes that enabled the North Vietnamese to reinforce and supply its troops fighting in the south of the country during the Vietnam War. It’s an intrepid web of jungle roads, hidden paths, supply dumps, tunnels, bunkers, and bridges through the jungles of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The total network covered 12,500 miles (20,100 km) and was considered one of history’s major feats of military engineering. Trucks could drive for hundreds of miles hidden under tree canopies; even bridges were submerged under the water to be invisible to U.S. planes.
Much of the original trail has been reclaimed by the jungle, especially the most secret parts through Laos and Cambodia, and even the known stretches are littered with unexploded armaments. The Vietnamese government has therefore created a route to serve as the tourist version of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Ho Chi Minh National Highway runs the length of Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).
It doesn’t loop into Laos and Cambodia like the original trail, but it does include many sections that were used to move men and supplies during the war. The paved road gives walkers (bikers, cyclists, and drivers) the opportunity to travel in the steps of the communist guerillas. Its route passes close to famous sites, including the battlefield of Khe Sanh and the ancient royal city of Hue. This marathon trail down the backbone of South East Asia also allows access to fabulous mountain scenery, simple rural communities and historic sites, including military cemeteries reminding visitors that around 30,000 North Vietnamese died on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
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