Viet Nam Tours -
The Long Tan Trek Tour Report - 2013
This page records the October 2013 Long Tan Trek Tour.
(Last updated 23 December 2013)

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http://nntravel.com.au

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http://avvrg.org.au

 


[
All but 2 photos used in this
Report were taken by
the 2013 Tour members -
thanks..., Di and others.
]

 

Tour guide 'Tina' welcomes
Bruce to Saigon.

The Majestic Hotel is centrally located, riverside and retains its elegant charm and quiet luxury - a perfect place to start the Tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tour Guide 'Wombat' with Debra and John in front of the Heritage-listed Post Office.

The War Remnants Museum

was on the visiting list...

...and we ended up at the
Ben Thanh markets...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Huge B-52 bomb craters still pock-mark a rubber plantation near the site of Balmoral (remember, this crater is now more than 40 years old). They still dwarf the sightseer and are still very impressive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We paid our respects at the Shrine
and the memorial plinth...

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The Palace Hotel hung out their welcome sign - that's Patrizia in front of the hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the map/diagrams of the battle of Long Tan...

 

 

 



The three ladies on the tour - Debra, Di and Patrizia - watched as the men got on with all their boy-talk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The Trek goes through bush and mud - you need long pants, shoes you don't NEED to take home and a good sense of humour !

 


Along the way we met up with Jason Fenech, ex-6RAR and East Timor vet.  He's currently living in Vietnam, in the vicinity of Long Tan.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The place on the north-south road where the first contact of the battle occurred.

 

Dave stopped regularly to give the then-current status of the battle and what was happening at the 1ATF base.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A wreath was laid on behalf of the Tour Group, National Network Travel and the AVVRG.

 

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Ms Huong stands on what was the minefield, now a road. The rim of the Horseshoe is in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Almost all meals were included: set-menu with buy-your-own drinks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the caves require a short trek through the hills...

...but once there, they're worth the visit..

...many being really only the dirt excavated from between huge boulders.

 

 


The boat ride gives the Tour a feel for riverine ops conducted by the Aussies in the mangrove swamps.  But don't worry - it's smooth sailing - and no one shoots at us.



Hydrofoil jetty at Vung Tau.

The Hydrofoil is a 90 minute trip up (or down) the Saigon River, between Saigon and Vung Tau on the Cap St Jacques Peninsula.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



But then it was time
to say "goodbye"...

Photo: Bob (2010 tour)

Our thanks to:
James, Ian & Patrizia, Gordon & Bruce and Di  and their cameras for their photos.

And as we get other
photos we'll add and acknowledge them too.

Finally, a big vote of thanks (again!) to National Network Travel's
Judi Gifford,
 who you've all talked to but most haven't met:

"
Thanks, Judi - it wouldn't have happened without you!"

All the best...
Dave & Di Sabben

 -------------- LONG TAN TREK TOUR 2013  --------------

Di and Dave's fifth Long Tan Trek Tour departed Australia Tuesday 8 October with 14 passengers, including 9 Viet Vets and 2 ladies, and with ages ranging from the 40s to a fit, young 80.

                           
    The Flyer for the                    The Itinerary for the       
     2013 Tour                          2013 Tour
(18 pages)

==============================================

The 2013 Tour flew Singapore Airlines from several State capitals to Singapore, where the Tour Group assembled.  From there, a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC, but we'll call it 'Saigon').  We were met at the airport and booked in to the Majestic Hotel - the tour uses 4-star hotels where available:
 
The first day took in a tour of Saigon, including a group pic in front of the Opera House

followed by some of the best city buildings like...

...the Peoples Committee Hall... ...the Notre Dame Cathedral... ...the Post Office... ...the Reunification Palace (see group photo taken there below)... ...the War Remnants Museum... ...and the city tour ended at the Ben Thanh markets...

... with the afternoon free to shop - or maybe just enjoy a drink at 'The Rex'...

The day ended with a slide presentation on Coral/Balmoral in preparation for tomorrow's outing.  This was followed by a 'welcome dinner' and then a fairly early night for most.  Next day, it was a bus north from Saigon to the area of the large battles of Balmoral (now a working rubber plantation)...

...and then to the site of Fire Support Base (FSB) Coral....

...where a shrine marks the largest of the battle's mass grave sites and a plinth remembers the NVA forces as 'martyrs' to their cause.

Then it was on to lunch.....  After which we called in at the Dong Nai Museum to view the original Long Tan Cross.  The Cross had been loaned to the AWM in Australia for most of 2012 but was returned in April 2013 and was again on display.....

A statue of Ho Chi Minh graces the entrance to the Dong Nai Museum.  On the first floor, Bruce, Gordon and Dave stand beside the original Cross put in place on the Long Tan battlefield by 6RAR (second tour) on 18 August 1969.

After viewing the original Cross, we bussed down Route 15 to Vung Tau.  There's nothing of note remaining of the 1ALSG site.  However, we swapped the bus for individual cyclo's around where the Badco Club used to be and had a great ride around Lighthouse Hill to the Palace Hotel...

Patrizia, Ian, Gordon and Debra ready for their cyclo 'adventure'.

After an evening briefing on the Australian presence in Viet Nam generally and on the Long Tan battle in particular...

...we bussed to the hill at Nui Dat, where Dave and others explained the base layout and the NVA's intentions for a huge attack on the base set for the night of the 18th of August 1966.

Next stop was a visit to the Nui Dat Kindy.  The kids were expecting us... The promise of toys and long-life milk in exchange for a song or two made everyone happy.  (We also made a drop of a similar amount of long-life milk to the Ba Ria orphanage the following morning...)


Fresh milk is not in the Vietnamese diet so ling-life milk is much appreciated, especially out of the major towns.  The Tour Group also brought with them books, pens etc as gifts to the Kindy.  A big thank-you to the Tourists for these freewill gifts!

After the Kindy, we started the Trek...


Changed conditions mean we can't follow the actual path D/6 took on the morning of 18 Aug 1966, but we are able to follow the general path and we get to see lots of different country along the way - padi fields, bush tracks, farms and lots of mud and bush!

Lunch was at the Long Tan rubber plantation crossroads.

Rick, James, Patrizia, Jim, Davo, Gordon & Don, with James and Gordon missing from the second photo.

After lunch, with the rain threatening, it was on with the battlefield Trek...

One of the first "surprises" of the battlefield is just how spread out we were.  Here, Dave put some of the Trekkers into an Infantry Section 'arrowhead' formation, with at least one tree row between men, often two tree rows.  The result is that a 10-man Section could cover 100 yards of 'front' - very dispersed!

As usual, the comments were that it was the highlight of the whole Tour - the Long Tan battlefield looks VERY similar to the way it looked in 1966. The walk was timed to be as long as the actual battle took - some 3.5 hours.  We walked to all the places where the D/6 soldiers experienced significant events during the battle - the initial contact, the first and final Company positions, the left hook by 10 Platoon, the right hook by 12 Platoon, the place the Company took the ammo resupply and, of course, the place of the heroic stand by 11 Platoon.
 

Along the way, Dave described what was happening in "real time" "sitreps" - that is, since the Trek took the same time as the battle, those on the tour "experienced" the timings of the events, the delays and the sequences in detail - what took ten minutes in the Battle took ten minutes for the Tour. And those on the tour were able to ask questions and get details along the way.

At 600 and 1000 metres from the main battlefield, Dave also pointed out the places where the APC reinforcement column with A/6 aboard contacted the enemy on their way towards D/6.

Very little of the topography has changed in 44 years, tho' the slight rise that D/6 used for its final redoubt is now a slight depression.

The Tour ended the Trek at the Cross - the site of the gallant 11 Platoon action - at 5:00pm, in time for a short ceremony and photos:

There's a larger-sized copy of both these photos below. *
Frank Paton, one of the Scheyville Graduates in the photo above
wrote a 2.5 page report on the Trek for the Scheyville magazine.
Read his
REPORT HERE - Thanks Frank.

Then back to Vung Tau and the Palace.  On the next day, the Tour visited an AVVRG-supported dental clinic at Long Tan to leave some gifts for distribution to the local folk...
 

We then visited the Horseshoe and stood on what was formerly the infamous minefield - now rice paddy...

...before venturing into the Light Green to the vicinity of the mine incident on Operation Mundingburra (on day 3 - 21 July 1969) which gave rise to the song "I Was Only 19".
 
A track through the close bush of the "Light Green" - so named because the sand-coloured ground gave the area a lighter colour in air photographs than the red-soil-based "Long Green".  Evan (Tim) watches on, against the thick secondary growth behind him.

Lunch was at the beachside "VC Retreat", currently undergoing refurbishment...

After this, it was a visit to the Minh Dam temple in the Long Hai's.


Most of the more venturous souls went to the caves, passing along the way a reconstructed VC arena.  Originally it would have been dirt and logs with full overhead cover but now re-done in cement...

 
...and then to Ba Ria for a short boat ride to Cat Lo and back to the Palace...

 
...for our last night in Vung Tau.

Next morning it was goodbye Vung Tau and hello hydrofoil to Saigon...

...where some elected to do more sightseeing and shopping in Saigon while most opted for the visit (after another lunch!) to Cu Chi...

Davo, Patrizia and Tina each demonstrated the old 'spiderhole' trick. 
  

After another 'Farewell Dinner' in Saigon, at which we handed a Trek plaque to each 'Trekker', we had a final night at the Majestic.

Next day was a free day in Saigon until time for the bus from the Majestic to the airport and RTA (Return to Australia).

The Tour was well accepted by those on it.  A selection of passenger comments follow:

*

What a great week!  Really good job both of you.
You've got it [the Trek Tour] dead right.
Enjoyed your company, and your very professional tour.
My compliments also to Judi - all contact
with the tour was smooth and professional.
I will be recommending the trip widely.  Cheers,
Gordon

*

Thank you for trekking with Mick.
He hasn't stopped talking about it...
Kind regards,
Mick's wife (Lynette)

*

The trek will happen again in 2014 and I highly recommend
the experience - moving, interesting, varied, good value
and also a great deal of fun.

Frank P

*

Rick is a man of few words - he didn't say all that much,
but the two bottles of superb red wine
hand delivered to our doorstep upon return spoke volumes!

(Thanks, Rick)

*

Take care and again thanks for the life changing experience
of trekking LT with Dave and Di and a great bunch of mates/friends
where I have made a few friendships for life...
You have a very professionally run tour right down to
the travel agency and Judi (and staff).
Take care and thank you so much for the memories. 

Davo

*

We made it home safely and
thoroughly enjoyed our journey with you and Di.
Patrizia sends her regards and has many stories to tell
her school colleagues about her adventures.
We had a great time!
Ian & Patrizia Kelly

*

It was a great tour...
Evan (Tim)

*

Did the 2013 Long Tan/Australian Battlefields tour.
Good tour, professionally conducted.
Bruce Read Lt.Col.RAAC (Ret)

*

...as soon as I heard about this venture,
I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of it...
F.P.

*

Hi Dave and Di.
Just a short note to say thank you very much for the opportunity to join you on the Trek.
The various activities we did and the localities we visited were first class.
I canít see how anyone could possibly pick fault
with anything we did or attempted to do. (Creek jump.)
What you present is in real time and in an environment that is really beyond your control.
If people want a perfectly controlled presentation then they should consider visiting Disneyland.

I appreciate that the behind-the-scenes organisation and changes of plans
must be demanding on your time and yet you still manage
to keep a smile on your face and interact with your guests on a personal level.
I enjoyed the company and friendship I shared with each and every one on the tour.
We got along very well and nobody appeared to be disappointed with the various activities.

I would describe the Trek as exceeding all my expectations in every respect.
The hotels were first class and the activities
including the kindergarten and orphanage were very worthwhile.
I have taken the time to contact all my fellow trekkers
and have thanked them for their company and friendship.

My one suggestion for the Trek: Donít change a thing!
Thank you both.

James French

*

As a non-Vietnam veteran, I was initially concerned that the tour
might be oriented towards Vietnam veterans (nothing wrong with that!)
in a way that excluded interested people who are not Vietnam veterans.
This was definitely not the case
and I appreciated the way that you made the tour work for everyone.
I have recommended it unreservedly to several friends.

Ian M


*
Di and I would like to thank all the folks who took the time
to contact Judi or us and pass great compliments on their
experience of the Tours.  Thanks to All - Dave and Di

*

The 2014 Tours - the Long Tan Trek and the Decisive Battlefields Tour - have been planned with very much the same content and sequence as the 2012 and 2013 Tours.  In the south, we've added an extra night in Vung Tau giving a free day to revisit old haunts, and retained the Cu Chi visit.  And in the north, we include a two-night stay at Hoi An and two nights in Ha Long Bay - BOTH World Heritage listed locations - AND have added an extra night in Hanoi.
Please visit the 2014 Tours webpage:
VN Long Tan Trek Tour 2014.html
to download a Flyer and/or an Itinerary.
 

(...keep going - there's more below...)

 **********************************************************************


***   The Group Photo taken at the Opera House, Saigon, 9 Oct, 2013...   ***

**********************************************************************


***   The Group Photo taken at the Reunification Palace, Saigon, 9 Oct, 2013...   ***


**********************************************************************


***   The Group Photo taken at the Long Tan Cross, 11 Oct, 2013...   ***

**********************************************************************

***   OTU Scheyville graduates group photo taken at the Long Tan Cross, 11 Oct, 2013...   ***

**********************************************************************

----- =====THE OUT-TAKES ===== -----

 

Patrizia wasn't impressed when her cyclo driver insisted on a TWO dollar tip!

 

Neither was Dave impressed when he looked back on the Trek and saw everyone facing in a different direction.

 

 

 

James warned all the golfers to beware the greens traps on the
Cu Chi golf course.

 

They liked the size of the holes on the tees... until they took a closer look...

 

 

 

 

Tina noticed that everyone had gone looking for a 'happy tree', but she gave her commentary anyway...

 

 

Di wondered if the idea of pedicures in fruit shops might take off in Australia...?

 

 

Davo (Coke), James (canned beer), John (bottled beer) and Debra (water [yeah!, that's what we said too!]) said "you can only jump in if you have a different drink..."

 

Rick was astounded when, at 8 o'clock next morning, the Rolex knock-off he'd bought at 8 o'clock the night before finally showed the correct time!

 

 

The optional street-side buffet breakfast didn't seem to attract much business at all...
 

Spot the
"Weasel Coffee".  If you don't know about it, 'Google' it - you might be surprised.

 

 

 

 

When Gordon was asked "if the bus broke down and we needed to walk back to the airport for our departure, what would he do?"
He immediately showed leadership and set the trend for all the other Trekkers...
(Needless to say, the bus didn't break down!)

  

  

Got a pic and a caption?  There's room for more - your photo next..?