We’ve now cycled well into frontier territory, the Demilitarised Zone that divided north and south Vietnam, that was the site of so many battles and carpet bombings with the use of napalm and defoliants. The landscape to either side of the road has no jungle forest, bamboo or large areas of arable farming and appears to have been wiped clean or smoothed over exclusively with new rubber tree plantations and timber forestry. It is completely different from anywhere else in Vietnam.
The swirling rivers we cross on high new bridges often, to one side or the other, have the remains of an older bridge, disused and no longer connected by a road, left marooned over the waters, bits of old concrete simply left behind beneath us. In the distant forests and at road junctions there are lookout posts. We’ve not seen these before and as they are both dilapidated and unused wondered too whether they are vestiges of the area’s war torn past.
We visited the Truong Son Cemetery where 10,036 graves lie and 25,000 men and women who died building and defending the Ho Chi Min Trail are commemorated. War cemeteries are always particularly moving places and this was no exception. Rows and rows of gravestones dutifully record when known the names, date of birth, death, enrolment and rank of the buried. So many people died and so young.