Friday, 19 November 2010

Into Vietnam...

We never quite made it to Savannahket, it was getting late so we chose to stay at a small guesthouse just at the junction of Route 9E - The road leading East to the Vietnam border.

Its a long but easy drive to the Vietnamese border, we arrive at the town of Xepon just after lunch. This town is historically significant, it saw quite a lot of fighting towards the end of the Vietnam war when U.S and ARVN forces invaded Laos as part of operation "Dewey Canyon II" . I've been meaning to spend a little time here to visit the numerous sights, but we're in a rush so it'll have to wait until next time..

The sun has vanished and its starting to rain - As expected, the exit process from Laos is a piece of cake. The customs guys have no idea how to formally stamp my Carnet de Passage document, to show that the car had been properly exported. So.....they just stamp every page....Something for me to try and unwind back in the UK. Paul at the RAC, if you're reading this I did try and show them what to do, honest!
At the Vietnamese border post we're met by our guide Phuoc - He takes care of all the entry formalities, in less than an hour we're enroute through the old DMZ to the city of Hue.
Similar to China, driving your own car in Vietnam takes a lot of planning - Our tour company "Haivenu" begun the painstaking process of obtaining all the relevant permissions several months ago. The number of Western registered vehicles drives into Vietnam each year probably stands at about 5, you really have to want to do it. Once granted entry, you must follow a lead vehicle and cannot deviate from your nominated route.

Our route takes us past the former U.S Lang Vei special forces camp and onwards to the site of the old Khe Sanh U.S Marine Corps base. A historic site situated on high ground along route 9. For any readers that arent familiar with this place, if you're interested in military history its worth reading up on:

This is probably the 5th time that I've been to this place - It always has a sad feel to it, but seemingly especially so in the prevailing low cloud and rain, weather which plagued the place when it was active. Neither of us can believe that we've actually driven here from London, crazy!

The rain has turned from drizzle to heavy downpours. We take a look around the base museum. Its deserted all but two U.S veterans who are busy recalling the time they spent based on the surrounding hills during the war, very interesting.
Back in the car and onwards to Hue, probably our favourite place in Vietnam for so many reasons. Its a night drive but Jerry is up to the challenge and is coping well with the latest onslaught of loony drivers..

We arrive in Hue for the early evening and head straight to the best curry house in Vietnam..."Omars" near to the Imperial Hotel, a fine curry and the coldest Huda beer in town!

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