Revisit the Vietnam War in Da Nang

A region closely associated with the Vietnam War, Da Nang's tumultuous past lives on in these historical sites.

By Michele Koh Morollo for Yahoo! Travel

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The fourth largest city in Vietnam, Da Nang is located midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and is graced by both majestic mountains and yellow sand beaches. While Da Nang may not be as lively as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, its laid-back vibe and pristine beaches are a definite plus for those looking for more relaxing and peaceful destination in Central Vietnam. Its proximity to the UNESCO sites of Hue and Hoi Ann also make it a good enroute stop for visitors to the region.

Close to 3,000 years ago, Da Nang was the seat of the Hindu Champa Dynasty until the Vietnamese invasion of the region in the 17th century. Da Nang was also the first point of invasion in Vietnam for the French and American colonial powers, so one can glimpse the vestiges of many colonial buildings here. One fifth of all US military men in Vietnam were based here, making Da Nang one of the most heavily defended cities in South Vietnam before it fell to the North in 1975. Plenty of remnants of the Vietnam War are found in Da Nang and a walk on one of if its beaches on a windy evening can almost bring to life the ghost of those dark and frightful years. The memory of the Vietnam War is so much a part of Da Nang's history and today, visitors can learn more about the war by visiting some of these sites.

China Beach

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Some of Vietnam's most haunting and isolated beaches are in Da Nang. One of the most famous sites associated with the Vietnam War is China Beach, a former R&R destination for American G.Is. Now, the beach is home to a litter of guesthouses and shops selling marble statues. On the way to China Beach, visitors can also see the ruins of a military base with abandoned helicopter hangars. During the war, the city was home to one of the busiest military airbase that saw an average of 2,995 air traffic operations a day.

Tuy Loan Communal House

About 15 kilometres southwest of Da Nang City is the 300 year-old Tuy Loan Communal House. With its dragonhead roof beam, ornate floating clouds, pumpkin and flower interior details, this particular communal house was recognized as a historical and cultural relic in 1999. In Vietnam, communal houses are used for the worship of deities and gods, which are thought to protect the village. What makes this communal house unique is that during the Vietnam War, it was a place where the local Vietnamese people congregated to show their solidarity by opposing the Americans and the puppet regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.

Marble Mountains

Comprised of five limestone outcrops isolated from the surrounding plains, the Marble Mountains was an area that saw many battles. Each of the five mountains is riddled with grottoes and caves and many of them is now used as shrines and pagodas. On the walls of the some of these cave are bullet marks, which resulted from heavy gunfire during the war. In one of the caves, a bomb left a large hole on the ceiling. A hike to the top of these mountains offer gorgeous views of the city, as well as China Beach.

Hai Van Pass

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Travelling between Da Nang and Lang Co, one will cross the Hai Van Pass, a road built on a spur from the Truong Son Mountain Range, which extends to the coast. Located north of Da Nang, this high mountainous road was a strategic hilltop lookout point for both Vietnamese and American troops during the war. Visitors can see wartime bunkers that were constructed and positioned so that servicemen could monitor and control the traffic from both the South and the North. The Hai Van Pass was a sought after real estate during the war, because whoever controlled it, controlled the country at the time.

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