Tour the Vietnam Battlefields with a Vietnam War Vet

Asia

Chinese tank on the yard of Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam

Vietnam is a special country. You may think the people are a bit reserved on first encounter, but meet them on their own terms and they’re very welcoming and display an immense pride in their country. The landscape in Vietnam is beautiful, from the karst mountains amidst the rice paddies in the north to the beaches in the country’s centre to the jungles of the south. It’s also draped in history, specifically the unfortunate history of the Vietnam War, which remains a tragedy, but is also inarguably one of the most significant wars of the past 70 years. For history buffs, few wars hold as much sway over the imagination.

While the history is not happy, it is fascinating, and the best way to truly explore the tragedy and consequence of the Vietnam War is in the company of a person who served during it. On a battlefield tour through Vietnam with Goway, you’ll travel in the company of Chuck Searcy, a Vietnam War vet who has spent more than 20 years working to restore Vietnam from wounds of the war. The 10-day Vietnam Revealed tour puts a human face to the war and shares stories from both sides of the conflict, taking you through a beautiful country that’s still shaped by the actions of decades past.

Suggested Itinerary: 
10-Day Vietnam Revealed – Battlefield Tour: Hanoi to Saigon

Visit the battlefields of the Vietnam War

Tour the country with a Vietnam War vet

Every country that has seen war has its share of battlefields and historical artifacts preserving the past. Visiting these spots of past conflict offers us a chance to learn about the way the world has come to be, and most importantly, reflect on the consequences of mistakes of the past.

The Vietnam Revealed battlefield tour lets you do just this on a trip across Vietnam. It’s a small-group tour with one departure date that takes you across the country in a deluxe coach to explore key locations from the Vietnam War. It includes accommodations, daily meals, and all tips and fares, so you don’t have to worry about planning any of the smaller details of the trip while you’re on it. Furthermore, it takes you through Vietnam in the company of Chuck Searcy, who has lived in Vietnam for more than 20 years and is a war historian, in addition to tour guide and advocate for peace.

Vietnam War helicopter on display at the former site of Khe Sanh Combat Base, Vietnam
Vietnam War helicopter on display at the former site of Khe Sanh Combat Base

Chuck Searcy’s remarkable life story

Chuck Searcy was one of the millions of young Americans who enlisted in the US Army in the late 1960s in order to serve his country. He was deployed to Saigon as an intelligence analyst between June 1967 and June 1968 and eventually returned to the US to become a student and anti-war activist. After working as a newspaper editor as well as in Jimmy Carter’s presidential administration, he returned to Vietnam in 1992 as a tourist, finding himself once again drawn to the country he served in. He moved there permanently in 1995 as a representative of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and began working with restoration efforts in the country.

He helped launch Project RENEW in Quang Tri Province, an organization that has cleaned up more than 50,000 bombs along the former DMZ and that has helped people suffering from Agent Orange and other consequences of war. He continues to serve as International Advisor for the program. Chuck is also the vice president of the Vietnam chapter of Veterans for Peace, a co-chair of the NGO Agent Orange Working Group, and a recipient of Vietnam’s highest honour for foreign citizens, the National Friendship Medal. He’s the ideal person to tour the battlefields with, as he lived through the war himself and has worked tirelessly to detail its history and undo the damage it caused.

Chuck Searcy, Vietnam-Revealed
Chuck Searcy

The Best Places in Vietnam to Learn About the Vietnam War

Hanoi, the national capital and former centre of North Vietnam

The 10-day Vietnam Revealed vacation takes you north to south in the company of Chuck Searcy to explore the history of the war and learn about efforts to restore the country and foster peace between America and Vietnam.

The journey begins in Hanoi, the capital of the country and the former centre of North Vietnam. If you’re unfamiliar with the details of the Vietnam War, you need only know that following the end of French colonial rule, the country was separated in two. North Vietnam was a communist nation supported by the Soviet Union and China, while South Vietnam was capitalist and supported by the United States and other western powers. Since the end of French rule, the North and South were at odds with each other. What we commonly refer to as the Vietnam War began when the United States ramped up military support of the South in 1964, sending over two million Americans to Vietnam to combat the Communist North. The war raged on until 1973, when the US retreated and a peace deal was brokered. That peace was short-lived, however, as the North took Saigon in 1975, ending the war and unifying the country under one banner.

In Hanoi, you’ll meet your tour group and Chuck Searcy, who’ll get you up to date on the country. Start with a tour of Hanoi that’ll introduce you to the city’s past and present. In the Old Quarter, you’ll admire gorgeous colonial architecture that serves as a window into the city’s French past. You’ll then venture to infamous spots like the Hanoi Hilton, where John McCain and other American POWs were held captive, as well as the Army Museum, which showcases the Vietnam War from the perspective of the North Vietnamese.

Suggested Itinerary: 
10-Day Vietnam Revealed – Battlefield Tour: Hanoi to Saigon

Old Quarter architecture in Hanoi, Vietnam
Old Quarter architecture in Hanoi

The former DMZ and the Tet Offensive in Hue and China Beach

After getting acquainted with Vietnam in Hanoi, fly to Hue to explore Central Vietnam. During the war, Central Vietnam was home to the Demilitarized Zone that separated the North and South. It was also known as China Beach, where Americans would enjoy the warm climate and sandy beaches while on leave. The region also has a historical significance that dates back further than the Vietnam War. The city of Hue used to be the home of the Nguyen Emperors that ruled the country in centuries past.

On your battlefield tour, you’ll explore both the medieval and modern war history of Hue. Start by learning a lesson about the infamous Tet Offensive of 1968, which saw Hue devastated by a surprise attack from the North. The offensive was a turning point in the war, proving the incapacity of the United States to hold the northern forces at bay. You’ll relive the battle in the company of Nguyen Dac Xuan, a cultural researcher who survived the battle back in 1968, as you visit his home as well as the Dong Ba Gates. You’ll also visit the former MACV Compound and the old Shell Gas Station, which were used by the American forces stationed here. Then journey back in time with a trip to the Grand Tomb of Emperor Thu Duc and the Thien Mu Pagoda, one of Central Vietnam’s most significant Buddhist structures.

Thien Mu Temple and Pagoda, Hue, Vietnam
Thien Mu Temple and Pagoda, Hue

You’ll then venture into the former DMZ to explore this 5km strip of land that separated North and South Vietnam following the First Indochina War. Visit the former American military base at Khe Sanh and head into the Vinh Moc Tunnels, which were constructed to allow local villagers to survive the bombardments above ground. In the afternoon, stop at the Quang Tri Provincial Mine Action College to learn about Project RENEW, which works to safely defuse bombs found throughout the region. While in Quang Tri, you’ll also stop off at the Old Citadel, which was the site of the devastating battle of the Easter Offensive in 1972.

Before leaving Central Vietnam, you’ll have time to visit the colonial port of Hoi An, which sits an hour south of Danang along the coastline. The small city is one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist spots, with a pedestrian-only shopping district, many attractive restaurants along the river, and historical landmarks like the Japanese Covered Bridge.

Chua Cau Japanese bridge, Hoi An, Vietnam
Chua Cau Japanese bridge, Hoi An

The former South Vietnamese capital, Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City

Before closing out your tour across the battlefields of the Vietnam War, you’ll venture into the heart of the former South Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City. The city was known as Saigon before the fall of South Vietnam and many tourists and westerners still call it Saigon to this day.

The first stop on your exploration of the city is Pho Binh Restaurant, a seemingly-inconspicuous pho restaurant where the leaders of the Viet Cong secretly met to plan the Tet Offensive. You’ll then head to the Reunification Palace, which was the palace of the president of South Vietnam prior to the fall of Saigon. Today, the palace is a museum that leaves the building intact as it was on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnam tank broke down the palace gates and the south surrendered. You can still see this tank midway through the broken down gates today, as well as a South Vietnamese helicopter on the palace roof.

Venture to the west of Ho Chi Minh City to the Cu Chi Tunnels to explore an extensive series of tunnels set up by the Viet Cong to plan raids in the south and connect to supply lines across the Cambodian border. These tunnels blend into the jungle floor and are virtually invisible in places. You can crawl through the tight tunnels and learn about Viet Cong efforts to stymie the South Vietnamese war effort from this jungle base. You’ll then explore the Mekong Delta and visit Ap Bac hamlet to meet a Viet Cong veteran and learn about a battle that took place on a nondescript farmer’s field.

Cu Chi Tunnel entrance, Vietnam
Cu Chi Tunnel entrance

Then return to Ho Chi Minh City to tour colonial mansions and the lavish former home of Henry Cabot, who served as US ambassador to South Vietnam. Cap off the day with a statement to American and Vietnamese reconciliation. Take part in a food workshop hosted by war veterans that showcases both western and traditional Vietnamese flavours to create a culinary statement of friendship and peace. You’ll then say goodbye to Chuck and your fellow travellers and return home the next day.

Ho Chi Minh City view at night, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City view at night

This tour of the Vietnam War takes you across this beautiful country to both learn about its tragic history and experience its vibrant landscape and culture. It’s an essential history lesson in the company of people who fought on both sides of the conflict and a statement of the power of reconciliation and peace.

This is truly a one-of-a-kind tour on a Goway trip to Vietnam.

Suggested Itinerary: 
10-Day Vietnam Revealed – Battlefield Tour: Hanoi to Saigon