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Returning Veteran Tours

Journeys Within guest and returning veteran, Dave, with Mr. Nam, a Vietnamese Veteran

We often work with returning veterans heading back to Vietnam to revisit the areas where they served and to see Vietnam as it is today, along with their families.  These tours are very meaningful to us and each is tailored to specific experiences, needs and desires of each veteran.  For those who are interested, we often incorporate meetings with Vietnamese veterans in the spirit of reconciliation and healing.  Our returning veterans always give us very positive feedback and we are proud to offer 10% discounts to all active duty and retired members of the armed forces.

Southern Vietnam Director Khoa with Journeys Within guest and returning veteran, Marc

Here is an example one of our favorite returning veteran tours that we put together this spring for a guest who had served in Central Vietnam:

01 May 17   Hoi An: Arrival

Arrive on your flight – Cathay Dragon CX 5224 departing Hong Kong at 17:30 and arriving in Danang at 18:20. (guest booked flight)  Your guide will meet you at Danang Airport for your private transfer of about 45 minutes to your hotel in Hoi An for check in.

Please note: May 1st is a National Holiday in Vietnam so their airports may be particularly crowded on this day.

Meals Included: None

Overnight at Little Hoi An Central Boutique Hotel – 1 Double Grand Deluxe Room

02 May 17   Hoi An: Wander the Ancient Town

Your guide, Hieu, will meet you at your hotel at 8am and together you will head out on a walking tour of Hoi An for a few hours. Visit the Ancient Town, which is home to the beautiful Chua Cau, (roofed bridge), as well as Hoi Quan, the ancient meeting places, some ancestral family homes and some of the lovely hidden pagodas. Time permitting, you have the option to head outside the Ancient Town and learn more about the Hoi An of today. In the spirit of tradition, you’ll also have the chance to enjoy the famous cuisine of Central Vietnam in a local restaurant in the old part of town. You have up to 4 hours to explore with your guide today.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner (Discuss today’s schedule with your guide.)

Overnight at Little Hoi An Central Boutique Hotel – 1 Double Grand Deluxe Room

03 May 17   Hoi An to Tam Ky and Chu Lai: Military Historical Customized Tour – Day 1

Your guide, Hieu, will meet you at your hotel reception at 8am. We will have a “then and now” file prepared for you to refer to together as you make your trip down memory lane over the next few days. Your days are at your pace and your experience will depend on the locations you choose to visit and the people you will interact with along the way.  Some of the times in transport may be longer than we would normally prefer, and so please feel welcome to request your guide for additional stops whenever you need them, and we will also have cushions in your road transport for added comfort.

We recommend that you will visit the Tam Ky area first before making your way Chu Lai and then to Tam Hoa Dock for your speedboat to your resort for check-in. Your road journey today south from Hoi An to Tam Ky will take around 2 hours, with an additional hour’s drive from Tam Ky to Chu Lai, your furthest point southwards.

Hieu will discuss plans with you in advance for your first military historical day highlights in Tam Ky and Chu Lai.  Options include: Chu Lai Airport, the Martyr Cemetery (for Vietnamese guerilla soldiers), Ky Anh Tunnels (completed around 1967 for moving medical supplies and rescue assistance for the guerilla resistance), Tam Ky City, and Chu Lai Airfield (All that remains is a landscape of bomb craters and airstrips, although in the far distance you can still make out some old airplane hangars to the east of the airstrip). Chu Lai Airfield is located south of Highway 1 near the city of Tam Ky and was of critical importance during the Vietnam War for the American military for reconnaissance and security missions. Chu Lai was not a Vietnamese town, as many thought. It was named after the Marine general officer Krulak’s Chinese Mandarin pronunciation of his initials. Approval to build Chu Lai was worked out in March-April 1965 by Defense Secretary McNamara. Chu Lai was an important base for the American Army, Navy and Air Force during the war, and one which was heavily bombed by the North Vietnamese towards the end of the war.   Uncle Ba Lai would also like to welcome you both to his home to join him for a drink and discuss the past, present and future (he joined the guerilla resistance when he was 17).

Although not related to the war, you may also be interested in visiting: Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce Factory, Khong Mieu (Confuscism Temple), Caodaism Temple, Bich Hoa Village (a former fishing village turned art village), and Khuong My Champa Temple.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks en-route

Overnight at Le Domaine De Tam Hai Resort – 1 Double Villa

04 May 17   Tam Ky: Military Historical Customized Tour – Day 2

Meet your guide, Hieu, in your resort reception area at your agreed time. Today will be a big day as you will visit Fire Support Bases and Landing Zones LZ Baldy and LZ Ross, which were based along route 611, and performed daily clearing and securing of route 535 from ambush and mines with the aim to enable the movement of supplies and personnel along the route.  LZ Ross was also a refueling point between LZ Baldy and the Hiep Duc area.  In 1965, the Killer Kane operation in Hiep Duc valley saw a high proportion of “radio men” lose their lives. Often anyone near an antenna was shot by NVA snipers. Following the operation, the valley earned the nickname “Antenna Valley” in honor of the casualties. Antenna Valley runs from the Thu Bon River to the Que Son Pass. Hiep Duc Valley connects with Que Son Valley. The area was a free fire zone and reconnaissance in the area brought in artillery or air-strikes as needed to secure the area from enemy forces. Antenna Valley is also sometimes known as Dragon Valley, and is quite hard to identify today, but take your time to explore with your guide as the main base changed location from time to time during the war between Hiep Duc and Que Son and you may discover more together with local support and your guide Hieu’s interpreting help today.  At LZ Baldy – There is still some existing evidence such as the Vietnam Army Base (former LZ Baldy US base), and you’ll have the chance to visit Provincial Road No.611, Huong An Town (the area around LZ Baldy), Vung Che Bridge, and LZ Ross which is now a strip of low mountains with a large monument to the Cam Doi area to one side.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks en-route

Overnight at Le Domaine De Tam Hai Resort – 1 Double Villa

05 May 17   Tam Ky: Military Historical Customized Tour – Day 3

Today you have a guide and driver with you to continue to explore the surrounding region. This day has been built in to revisit places you wanted to spend more time, or to catch places you missed in the previous two days. Discuss with your guide what you would like to do today.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, snacks en-route

Overnight at Le Domaine De Tam Hai Resort – 1 Double Villa

06 May 17   Tam Ky to Hoi An: Military Historical Customized Tour – Day 4

Today you will be met by your guide and driver will be transferred back to Hoi An.

Meals included: Breakfast

Overnight at Little Hoi An Central Boutique Hotel – 1 Double Grand Deluxe Room

07 May 17   Hoi An: Departure

Your guide will meet you at your hotel for your private transfer of about 45 minutes to the airport in Danang and will ensure that you arrive in time for your onward flight – Cathay Dragon CX 5221 departing Danang at 09:50 and arriving in Hong Kong at 12:45. (guest booked flight)

Meals included: Breakfast

Tour Rate:           $ 2,480.00 total for two travelers

                                $ 1,240.00 per person based on two people traveling

Journeys Within guest and returning veteran Lewis, with his wife Susan and guide Ms. Nguyen at the West Gate of Dong Du Base

Remembering the 40th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge entering Phnom Penh

It’s strange to see many of my Cambodian team and friends highlighting that today is the 40th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge entering Phnom Penh and “liberating” the country. At the time, Cambodia had been in a bitter civil war and many describe the initial jubilation of the war being over and the country being unified. Of course, anyone that knows the history of Cambodia knows that this jubilation quickly turned to confusion and then fear as Phnom Penh was evacuated, and millions died in the following years of Khmer Rouge rule.

So while I don’t think it’s a day that anyone will celebrate, it is a day to be remembered. You have to keep in mind that this was only 40 years ago, which means many in Cambodia still remember this day, many more remember the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge takeover, and still more make life choices based on this fateful day and the subsequent killings without even realizing it.

One of the most fascinating aspects of living in Cambodia was seeing the long-term effects of the Khmer Rouge regime. Many of our team still own guns, though buried and out of sight, “just in case.” There is also a fear of banks, and often money is kept under the mattress.

One stark example of how the Khmer Rouge’s policies are still influencing Cambodians today is personified by a tuk tuk driver we employed early on in our time in Cambodia. Though a wonderful young man with a great personality, it became apparent, through a couple of close calls, that he needed glasses. We told him we would be happy to buy them for him, but he refused, claiming he could see fine. Another couple of close calls later, we again insisted that we at least take him to get his eyes checked. And again, he refused. Finally, we came to realize that he had been told by his parents not to wear glasses; that wearing glasses made you stand out and was dangerous. Of course his parents hadn’t added that this was only dangerous if the Khmer Rouge came back to power.

During the Khmer Rouge regime anyone with an education was systematically killed, so wearing glasses had highlighted education and had gotten many intellectuals killed. If his parents had stated that their fear was driven by the Khmer Rouge, our tuk tuk driver would have scoffed at them and happily donned a pair of glasses. Instead it was just insinuated that wearing glasses was dangerous and bad luck, not something to be messed with.

Slowly we’ve seen these emotional scars of the war fade further and further into the deep psyche of the Cambodian people. But today, looking back on that fateful day 40 years ago, it’s important to remember the history of the Cambodian civil war, the effects of the Khmer Rouge’s rule, and the amazing progress that has been made by the country since the May 1993 democratic elections.

More sources:
Scars of the Khmer Rouge: How Cambodia is healing from a genocide
Four decades after Cambodia’s Year Zero