This page records the October 2016 Long Tan Trek Tour.
(Last updated 15 December 2016)
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The Grand Hotel is centrally located, handy to the city centre and had recently been refurbished.
War Remnants Museum
...and we ended up at the
the while aware of the organised chaos called Saigon Traffic.....
There were several Powerpoint presentations thru the Tour, each on a decisive battle we'd cover the following day
One of the map/diagrams of the battle of Long Tan...
The 'Pearly Gates' - the entrance to 1ATF after the public road
had been diverted (after 1967).
On an old helipad half-way up Nui Dat ('SAS Hill'),
Dave, briefed the Tour on the layout of
the 1ATF base.
The Trek route took us from the Nui Dat base to the Long Tan rubber plantation. through grasslands, plantations, crops and even through the backyards of homes built since the war...
The opening shots of the battle were fired by 11 Pl Sgt Bob Buick as he crossed this road in the plantation at this spot...
Some of the caves require a trek through the hills...
...but once there, they're worth the visit..
...many being really only the dirt excavated from between huge boulders.
After leaving Vung Tau for BaRia, we visited a monument
dedicated to one of the last battles of the Third Indo-China War:
The 50th Anniversary Long Tan Trek Medallion, given to each "Trekker":
Marble Mountain -
with caves used as
secret wartime VC hospitals - now serves as a Buddhist sanctuary area.
The mountains are surrounded by marble carving factories and merchants, but the marble is now all imported.
The silk factory shows how silk is processed and turned into paintings, table linen etc.
...and the old (destroyed) bridge at Lang Co.
On the afternoon off, some visited the heritage listed
'Freedom Bridge' is the old Bailey Bridge spanning the Son Ben Hai (river) which was the actual demarcation between North and South Vietnam.
The "Rockpile", with "Razor-back" visible to right rear. Rockpile was owned by the US, Razorback by the NVA.
Khe Sanh has a great indoor and outdoor museum (seen in both photos here). They're assembling more displays at Khe Sanh - maybe to become a major tourist site?
Both Da Krong and A Shau valleys offered spectacular views of rivers between huge mountain ranges.
The streets of the Old Quarter were always crowded and busy.
But most streets have merchandise 'themes', so it's fairly easy to find whatever you're looking for.
Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum isn't open to the public in October or November...
The visit to the War Museum was interesting and included an animated diorama on Dien Bien Phu - good preparation for the trip there tomorrow...
...and the visit to the infamous 'Hanoi Hilton' capped off the day's activities.
A briefing on the current state of POW-MIA searches was given to the Tour group by the US Marine "JPAC Detachment 2" office in Hanoi.
The large Viet Minh cemetery is well tended and offers visitors a view of the human price of the First Indo-China War - thousands of names are recorded by home Province and most of the grave stones are un-named.
A second-hand tank on Hill A1 provided the opportunity for a (primarily) ex-3RAR Kodak Moment.
Vietnam's largest bronze statue sits on top of the main "Dominique" hill, overlooking Dien Bien Phu town.
The French memorial at DBP is one of only two foreign war memorials on Vietnamese soil - the other one being the ANZAC memorial cross at Long Tan. This French plinth is actually a memorial to various French units rather than to the Battle itself.
A visit to DeCastre's bunker, which has now been better protected by having a cover placed over it...
DBP now has a new Museum which is one of the better museums in Viet Nam. It is just across the road from the Hero's Cemetery and is well worth an hour or two to visit.
On the way back to the airport, we stopped for a quick look at the famous Bailey Bridge - still in daily use more than 60 years after it was put there by the French.
Spectacular and peaceful - Ha Long Bay well deserves its World Heritage listing.
Only the huge limestone caves could entice us off the boats and onto dry land...
...because even the shopping was on the water !
Our thanks to:
And as we get other
Finally, a big vote of
thanks (again!) to National Network Travel's
All the best...
Di and Dave's 2016 Long Tan Trek Tour departed Australia in Monday 15 August with 62 passengers (23 ladies and 39 gents), with ages from 17 to 88 years old. Of these 62, 19 continued on to the Decisive Battlefields Tour to the Northern parts of Viet Nam. Here's the Tour Flyer and the full itineraries of both Tours:
The 2016 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 booked in to the Grand Hotel - the tour uses 4-star hotels where
The city tour ended at the Ben Thanh markets, with the afternoon...
That evening we had a 'welcome dinner' and then a fairly early night for most.
There's nothing of note remaining of the 1ALSG site,
as can be seen in this photo taken of the development on the "Back
which is where the 1ALSG was. The Badcoe Club site is now a 5-Star
Hotel, the "Imperial":
After an evening briefing on the Australian presence in
Viet Nam generally and on the Long Tan battle in particular...
Next stop was a visit to the Nui Dat Kindy. Our
visits to the Kindy are always appreciated - not least because we always
bring long-life milk and presents for the children...
and despite the refusal of access by the authorities, we decided we would
continue the Trek until actually STOPPED...
We made it to the North-South road where 11 Platoon fired
the first shots of the Battle (...so much for the so-called 'Ambush
Here, the police arrived and ordered us not only to not proceed further towards the cross site but to leave the area immediately.
On the busses on the way out of the area Dave pointed out the places where the APC reinforcement column with A/6 aboard contacted the enemy at 600 and 1000 metres from the main battlefield, on their way towards D/6.
For a view of the battlefield as seen from the top of Nui
Dat 2 looking South, please see the 2014 Trek tour Report:
Of course, everyone was disappointed that we had not been able to access the Long Tan cross site or actually walk the battlefield, but the planned service for tomorrow - the 18th - had still not yet been cancelled.
So, back to Vung Tau and the Palace and the Grand.
- - - = = = = = = - - -
By the morning of the 18th, the news was that the service at the cross had been cancelled and that the numbers permitted to visit the cross site would be severely limited. Knowing this but thinking that a group containing seven of the actual Battle Vets might be granted access, we continued our touring until late morning when we drove to Long Tan.
On the way, we stopped off at some shops in BaRia to get some supplies
for the Ba Ria Orphanage. This was set up many years ago in a joint
arrangement between the local authorities and the AVVRG (see website at
Leaving the Orphanage, we visited the BaRia Watertower - scene of heavy fighting in Tet '68.
We then bussed to the Long Tan cross site access road. There, we met the roadblock and
We waited at the road-block for over three hours as our case was put to the authorities, but were denied access. In the "Bunfight Report", we prove that, while some visitors were given access (at least one group after paying a bribe), the site was actually deserted at the time of the proposed-but-cancelled service.
There was nothing to do but return to Vung Tau and hold
our own private service in a function room at the Palace Hotel:
Following the service there was a little time to explore Vung Tau...
...before going to the Friendship Dinner that evening (the 18th). Unfortunately, the authorities had also all-but cancelled this function. It was originally planned to be a banquet where Australian and other guests could meet and mingle with former NVA and VC soldiers - an informal meeting designed to strengthen the bonds between former enemies. Hanoi prevented many (if not most) of the local area former soldiers from attending but permitted a group from 33Regt to attend.
The result was that the function did not come up to the expectations of the organisers or the guests. The banquet was good but the former enemy guests had one brief photo-session before leaving the event earlier than expected and several fairly-obvious Vietnamese undercover police or other authority remaining to watch proceedings. All-in-all, a huge disappointment.
- - - = = = = = = - - -
Not having been able to get to the Long Tan cross on the
17th or the 18th, we arranged an "early morning call" for the 19th and bussed to the
cross site early, before the police cordons were in place.
Former D/6 Company Commander and officer in command of the
battle, Harry, was not with the group at the cross. After the
"Friendship Dinner" failed, he had a private arrangement to meet a few
former NVA officers out of the public eye:
After taking the photos at the cross, the police arrived and the Consulate staff loaded us back onto the buses to continue our touring.
That evening, 19 Aug, there was to be a concert featuring
Little Pattie and other Vietnam-era entertainers. For one reason or
another, the authorities once again permitted the banquet to proceed but
canceller all the planned "entertainment":
Next morning it was
We drove through Long Tan village and south to the Horseshoe feature just to the North of Dat Do.
Access to the former FSB
is no longer permitted as it is now a working quarry. Just to the
South of the Horseshoe, we stood on the road which was formerly part of the
minefield and had a view up a rice paddy to the Horseshoe itself::
A short drive through the nearby town of
Dat Do took us to a monument dedicated to Vo
a 19-year-old woman who resisted the French and was made a martyr when they
executed her in 1952:
From Dat Do, we moved to the 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". Tour member, Mike R, was
in BHQ, 6RAR second tour at the time and filled the Trek Tour group in on
the events from notes he brought with him.
After this we attempted to get to the area of 6RAR's
Operation Bribie which was nearby but to which
access had previously been denied. The guides took us in the general
direction but Dave, who had been at that battle, was sure the site pointed
out was not the actual site. The Battle had taken place just off the
rice fields and not completely in the thick undergrowth as in the area
Resuming the Tour, we then moved to the LZ which is the
subject of the now-iconic photograph of the VN War. It is where
elements of 7RAR were flown out of their Operation Ulmarra (26 Aug 1967).
The site used to be on the outskirts of Lang Phuoc Hai village but is now
part of its suburbs:
... a "Kodak Moment" on the spot where 7RAR flew out of Operation Ulmarra in August 1967 - this has become one of the iconic photos of the ANZAC's War and the once-clear area is now suburbia...
After this, it was lunch at the Tropicana.
Looking out from the entrance, that's the southern slopes of the
Long Hai's, which was our next stop... the Minh Dam Temple:
The more adventurous souls decided to spend a little time
...and then to Ba Ria for a short boat ride to
Cat Lo wharf...
The next day, 21 Oct, it was goodbye to Vung Tau ...
As we bused north from Vung Tau, towards BaRia, we stopped briefly at the monument we'd seen when boarding the boats the day before. It is a monument set up to celebrate the victory over the last of the ARVN resistance when Saigon fell in 1975. In the campaign, many soldiers and civilians had withdrawn from the fighting onto the Cap St Jacques peninsula and the sea port of Vung Tau.
Some of the final battles in 1975 were over the road and bridges to Vung Tau:
After this, we drove through BaRia to Bien Hoa where we
stopped at the DONG NAI MUSEUM, where the first
priority was to get a group photo...:
...and then to the area of the large battle of
Balmoral. The Balmoral battle site
is now a rubber plantation. The lighter area beyond the old rubber used to
be the clearing in front of D Coy. The layout of the Battalion
position was explained, along with an account of the actions:
We then moved on to the site of FSB Coral, where we paid
our respects at the NVA memorial plinth and lit joss sticks for the
And thence to Cu Chi for a
riverside lunch and a tour of the tunnels..
That night, 21 Aug, we had a 'Farewell Dinner'
For those staying on, it was onto a flight to DaNang...
from here on: UNDER CONSTRUCTION
From Saigon, the "Decisive Battlefields Tour" had a great flight to Da Nang airport.
A quick transfer to lunch, and then to
Marble Mountain. It's a steep staircase
to climb (and to descend again later), but it's assisted now by an elevator
to about half-way up. All agree it's worth the effort...
A short trip south took us to world heritage listed
for two nights. On arrival, we visited a silk factory...
A cyclo ride is the best way to view the old city:
Mr Dung (pronounced "Yoong" if you're curious - that's him on the bicycle)
led the way...
The next day was a 'day off' - to recover from the hectic first week and prepare for the hectic week to come. A little relax and a little sightseeing, and we were ready for more.
We returned to Da Nang, one of the largest
American and South Vietnamese bases
during the War. First, a visit to China Beach (a Wartime R&C
Then it was up over the Hai Van Pass
- (that's it in the hills behind Mick and
Ian in the photo above). A
concrete pillbox on either side of the road (both seen in the pic below) were
part of the defences installed by the French, but the Pass had been defended
as far back in time as records exist:
We then continued around the mountains to
(another huge Marines' base, mostly for river and coastal patrol boats). While there, we looked at what's left of
the original bridge and the fortifications which protected it during the
Then it was on to Hue, and, after lunch, a relaxing Dragon Boat cruise up the Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda...
The next morning we walked the area of heaviest fighting
south of the Perfume River - concentrating on Tran Cao Van (Street), where
we had a quiet moment for the marines who died while re-taking the city...
and a group photo to remember it all by...
The photo at right was taken
In the afternoon we moved north of the River, to the Citadel, where the main Tet 1968 resistance was experienced.
lot of restoration work in progress in the Citadel...
The afternoon was free time for shopping and
The next day we bussed north to the DMZ. On the way
we stopped off at the Long Hung Catholic church (which is kept in its 1970's
condition as a war memorial to the fighting in Quang Tri),
Quang Tri Citadel, Dong Ha
(the logistics centre for the DMZ), and then to Cua Viet (the river-mouth sea port).
We then visited several key locations of the long DMZ
campaign including 'Freedom Bridge',
Gio Linh, Cam Lo Bridge,
Con Thien (Hill of Angels),
Camp Carroll, Rockpile, and on to
That night, we stayed in a hotel in Lao Bao - on the
border with Laos.
First thing in the morning, after viewing the border crossing point, we then
visited the Lang Vei monument
(a Russian-made amphibious tank first used by the North in the South in the NVA victory over the
Lang Vei Special Forces
returned to Khe Sanh and the old airfield base - scene of the 77-day siege in 1968.
At A Luoi, we tried for a view of "Hamburger Hill" - scene of a major US action that, with the 1968 Tet Offensive and Khe Sanh, triggered the change of US policy that ultimately ended the War. Weather conditions in the valley rarely permit a good view of this mountain massif... (see the 2011 Tour Report for a view).
On return from the A Shau valley, we overnighted in
next day bussed south to Phu Bai, Hue's airport and a huge base and
Intelligence collecting facility during the war. A short flight to
Hanoi gave us enough time to explore the Old Quarter, where we stayed.
The next day we toured some of the city's sites including the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Army Museum (which displays the tank that breached the Saigon Palace Gates in 1975), the 'Hanoi Hilton' and lots more.
There was free time in Hanoi to take in a drink or two at one
of the leading hotels in Hanoi - the Sofitel Metropole...
...before we flew, next day, to Dien Bien Phu for a day and a night,
staying at the new Muong Thanh Hotel.
That afternoon we drove into the hills to see General Giap's bunker
complex, from which he commanded the DBP battle.
On the way back, we passed two wonderful monuments... The first was to
all who worked in the DBP campaign - from planning to surveying to road
construction to supply to fighting - not to forget the command elements.
The second was dedicated to the artillery crews - set on a hillside to
remind the viewers of the task the Viet Minh had to get the guns into their
positions in the hills. That's the monument at top left of the
panoramic view of the valley.....
Next morning we visited the Viet Minh cemetery,
Hill A1 (Part of "Elaine"
defences), the French memorial and General
De Castre's bunker...
At the end of another hectic week plus, we flew back to Hanoi and drove directly to Ha Long Bay for a spot of R&R.
The World Heritage site features sheer limestone cliffs
plunging into calm green waters. A relaxing day on a boat wrapped up
what had been for all on the Tour an energetic, yet informative 9 days:
From Ha Long to Hanoi and flights home. All of the hotels were either 4/5 star or the best available in the more remote areas. Most meals and all gratuities had been included, so hands only went into pockets for personal purchases or personal tipping and drinks.
Along the way, documentaries, presentations and discussions covered most of the significant events or places to be visited or seen. The Tour included some "surprises" not listed in the itinerary - but each of which were very much appreciated by the Tour. members.
And we met some great people along the way...
The Tour was well accepted by those on it. A selection of passenger comments follow - more may be added as they are collated:
Hi Dave and Di,
You just have to look at our group photo
to see that ours was a very special group of people!
Thanks for sending the photos on to all of us
so fast with all the names,
( great for me as I am not so good at remembering!! )
(We) had a wonderful time,
a memorable trip for us both, thank-you again...
We have some special photos, and memories,
which we can share with family and friends.
All the best for the remainder of the Tour, and safe traveling.
Hi Dave and Di,
Luke especially enjoyed himself,
interacting with everyone,
He loved chatting to you Dave,
Thank you Dave for sharing your
very personal experience
We are also, all of us, very
fortunate to be able to experience this
Also, thank-you Tina, love your
Thank you too, to Judi, National
Network Travel Melbourne Australia,
Thanks again Dave and Di,
Thank you again for all your dedicated work.
Thank you Dave and Di...
Di and Dave,
Hi Dave and Di.
Your selection of hotels was excellent.
Dave's battlefield briefings on the evenings prior to
visiting the various sites
The free day in Hanoi was very welcome.
The final two days of R&R at Halong Bay was a delight.
I have often remarked how quickly people bond and make
Thank you, Dave and Di and Judi.
Greetings Dave and Di,
Thank you to Dave, Di and our local
Just terrific to see some square -
My thanks also to Judi for all her
assistance pre tour.
Thank you Di for the great read in the fab notes that you
I have had a lovely email from Michael R,
My wife and I joined both the 2014
Long Tan Trek
Thanks again for a great trip Dave &
The ANNUAL Tours - the Long Tan Trek and the Decisive
Battlefields Tour - have been planned with very much the same content and
sequence as these 2014 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 includes a two-night stay at Hoi An and
two nights in Ha Long Bay - BOTH World Heritage listed locations.
(...keep going - there's more below...)
*** The Group Photo taken at the Saigon Opera House, Oct, 2012... ***
*** The Group Photo taken at the Reunification
Palace, Saigon, Oct, 2012... ***
*** The Group Photo taken at the Long Tan Cross, Oct, 2012... ***
*** The Group Photo taken at the War Museum, Hanoi, Oct, 2012... ***
*** The Group Photo taken at The Marines JPAC Det 2 Office, Hanoi, Oct, 2012... ***
*** The Group Photo taken at General Giap's HQ,
Dien Bien Phu , Oct, 2012... ***
(who has a photo of the group at Giap's HQ?)
----- =====THE OUT-TAKES ===== -----
"How much for a ride back to the hotel?"
Is texting on a motorcycle
Wombat tells Verity and
...until Luke told them of HIS
Mr Nguyen was hoping that no cars
Di was sprung at the Medallion
One day I'm gonna grow up...
Streetside pedicure and manicure
Teddy Bear's wedding...
The Saigon Police Department decide
Paul M proves that life imitates art...
Jim - that's the pot
Desperate Dave steals a kiss
Not quite sure what Luke and
The brochure for the
...and the other brochure
Michael H makes a personal fitting
MOST of the meals were
Got a pic and a caption? There's room for more - your photo next..?
----- =====DI's FAVOURITE PIX ===== -----
Di's favourite shots: