Ho Chi Minh Trail (Laos)
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Nov 26, 2013 2:09 AM Last Post By: Peteralanlloyd
Apr 3, 2013 6:08 AM
Ho Chi Minh Trail (Laos)This is a kinda long shot, but does anyone have any information about the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos (not interested in the 'new' trail in Vietnam). I need information about the route, the road conditions and the accommodation. I am looking for information around Sepon and the three southern provinces of Laos.
Apr 3, 2013 11:57 AM
1Libraries are full of information, but what I don;t think you will find is any tourist industry being established in the south to "show off" the HCM trail. Search around and you'll find plenty of rusted wartime vehicles and artillary units, jungles (and some people) still twirked from agent orange, and one of the earth's poorest regions.
Places like Sekong and Salavan and Attapeu all have "tourist information centers" (sometimes there even staffed with an English speaking person!). They can help set up a tour for you to see what you may find relevant or interesting. Expect $30/day for a guide/translator, and then vehicle cost (motorcycle rental is cheap; car is expensive, as in $100/day). You will find no established pre-set tours (or much of anything else that caters to westerners). Which is what actually makes the area so wonderfully Lao.
Road conditions: Really bumpy and dusty when dry. Slimy, perhaps impassable, if it rains. Some roads are far worse than other roads.
What info are you seeking?
Apr 3, 2013 4:31 PM
2Interestingly enough when we were in the Savanakhet airport waiting for a flight to Vientaine last December a small plane landed and about a dozen people got off, mostly Americans and a few Australians. After asking about, we found the flight was from Sepon and most of the people were in the tourist industry scouting potential new markets in Laos. The had all gone to Sepon to look into marketing the HCM trail for tour potential.
Apr 3, 2013 5:32 PM
3These guys would know where it is, if they don't, hopefully they would know someone that does. If you find the information, post the details back here. After a quick search I got the link below, not sure if it's the trail you want.
Edited by: dandru
Apr 3, 2013 11:51 PM
4Accommodation is in the towns in the area, nothing else really. Xepon and Densavanh (at teh Vietanmese border) both have guesthouses. This is easiest way to access the former trail, you can just hop off the local bus and see the tank wrecks out there, local kids point them out to you.
If you really want to get on the trail you will need your own set of wheels, easiest way rent a scooter for a week or more in Savannaketh.
You will have to sleep with locals if you get away from those little towns there are for overnight trips.
Met in Xepon a whole bunch of Americans and Australians as well, but they were all military, excavating some potential MIA sites there.
Apr 4, 2013 12:31 AM
Apr 4, 2013 1:51 AM
6When I was in Hoi An in early 2008 the guy that moto taxied me from danang station to my hostel offered a two day, one night tour up to the HCM Trail for $50 all inclusive. This included a section into Laos, although there were Korean companies building big tunnels so I'm not sure it'll be there now. There was talk of doing something more in Laos, with the help of some forest rangers tasked with preventing illegal logging, although they'd have to get them off the booze first!. The two day trip ended in Hue and is highly recommended - if it's still going! Ask for Minh at My Chau guest house in Hoi An.
Apr 4, 2013 7:27 AM
I was in Sepon in December. At Ban Dong, some 20 kilometers or so to the east of Sepon, there's a brand new museum dedicated to the war. The opening ceremony for the museum was a couple of days after I turned up; I was only allowed to have a look around the outdoor section of the museum, where there's an interesting collection of tanks, aircraft, and other vehicles left over from the war. The museum should be properly opened by now, and should be one of the best places in Laos to spot old war material.
Old Sepon - a pleasant walk from the modern town of Sepon - doesn't have much to see, but there are some obvious bomb craters there, and a couple of buildings still standing with obvious damage from the war. I walked from Muang Phin to Toumlan, and there should be a lengthy trip report of that experience on the Thorntree. I'm not sure if it's a specific route of the old Ho Chi Minh Trail (there is a destroyed bridge along the way), but it was certainly the closest I ever got in Laos to feeling like a Vietnamese soldier.
I spent a few days in Attapeu, though I didn't visit anything war-related there. Any old Ho Chi Minh trail stops there are likely to be well out of town and require private transport. The modern city is very Vietnamese: certainly the most Vietnamese-influenced place I've been in Laos.
Apr 4, 2013 8:54 AM
Apr 12, 2013 9:29 AM
9Whilst there are very few organised tours based around the Lao HCM trail, there are plenty guesthouses in the area between the Viet border and Savannakhet, pretty much in every small town along the road between Seno & Lao Bao/Dansavanh.
A HCM trail tour is advertised in the savannakhet tourist offfice, but it is an old remnant of a previous aid project and no longer exists (if it ever did).
However - As for "Lao HCM route"', it was never a fixed single route - more a network of forest tracks, many of which have reverted to forest decades ago. My inlaws live 40km west from Sepon and remember those days clearly, but don't know of any open tracks. In Laos it only takes one wet season to have vegetation grow 6 foot high, so, unless routes are maintained annually, it doesnt take long for them to dissappear.
If you are more interested in the general route rather than the actual route, you could spend a week or 3 travelling from Sepon area down through Saravan & Attepeu using roads that weren't there for the most part during the 60's, but still hear some interesting stories if you are lucky.
Nov 26, 2013 2:05 AM
10If anyone's (still) interested in this topic, I was in Sepon yesterday and managed to arrange a tour to see the helicopter wreckage and UXO at the Vietnamese-Lao mounment in Muang Phin, then we drove to Sepon Old Town to see the bullet-scarred wat, the remains of the bank vault, and a massive B-52 crater (the biggest I've ever seen) behind the school in Old Sepon.
When I walked to the nearby Sepon river I saw a lot of metal boats made from drop tanks (which carried extra fuel) from jets flying bombing sorttes over the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
We then drove on to Ban Dong, to see the road bridge the Russians built in 1975, and, just after (and not in the guide books) a piece of the original HCMT along the dirt road leading from the bridge and NOT the famous fenced-off bit, 19Km away, which our driver refused to take us to.
We went to the Ban Dong museum, which has some great exhibits from the battle of Lam Son, and all that cost $50 for about 5 hours. Ask at the reception of the Vieng Xay Hotel for Mr Tuy, who lives nearby.
Even if you don't do all that, Sepon has 2 interesting war sights - the old French bridge which was bombed by B52s - there's still an aircraft-bullet scarred brick support standing in the river, next to the new bridge, and a visit to the nearby UXO compound is fascinating - a lot of bomb craters and some amazing photos of their work, 3 minutes walk from the main road, and there's some defused UXO in the grounds.
Best - and most sobering - bit for me was talking to two very old women in a wat, who'd lived in caves for 9 years during the war.
If you want to see photos of either many types of UXO in the jungle, along the Ho Chi Minh Trail or the HCMT itself, type either phrase or both) into my website engine http://peteralanlloyd.com/ and you won't be disappointed!
Edited by: Peteralanlloyd
Edited by: Peteralanlloyd
Luang PrabangBook now
(5 star Hotel)
From US$200.00 per night
(5 star Hotel)
From US$213.00 per night
Luang PrabangBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$78.50 per night