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Once a divided nation: the river that saw it all

By Ha Thanh   May 3, 2019 | 08:10 pm PT
Hien Luong Bridge over the Ben Hai River in central Vietnam once stood as a symbol of the country’s longing for unification.
Once a divided nation: the river that saw it all

The Geneva Agreement signed in 1954, which led to France withdrawing troops from Indochina, including Vietnam, divided Vietnam into North and South with the 17th Parallel where the Ben Hai River runs through Quang Tri Province as a borderline. The division last for 21 years along with the great struggle for national reunification.

The bridge in Vinh Linh District, 550 km south of Hanoi, was built by the French colonialists in 1952 and was bombed by the Americans during the Vietnam War in 1967. It was restored and given a new look when it opened again on May 18, 2003. Hien Luong receives around 20,000 visitors each year.

Relic sites located on both banks of the river have been recognised as special national historical relics. 

- 1

Quang Tri was one of the most devastated localities during the war by thousands of tonnes of bombs and shells.

The picture shows the Hien Luong Bridge and Ben Hai River in 1961 taken from the northern bank and is displayed at the 17th Parallel and The Desire for Unification Exhibition Hall.

- 2

The monument of "Desire for a Unified Country" on the southern bank has the image of a young woman and her son waiting for her husband and other loved ones to return home.

- 3

Hien Luong Bridge’s northern end viewed from the southern bank.

- 4

Loudspeakers on the northern bank used to deliver messages from the authorities and play music for people on the southern side during the Vietnam War.

- 5

The 17th Parallel and The Desire for Unification Exhibition Hall is on the northern bank. It houses many historical images and artifacts related to the Hien Luong Bridge and Ben Hai River between 1954 and 1975, when the Vietnam War ended.

- 6

A giant speaker in front of the exhibition hall.

- 7

A wax figure of a woman stitching a Hien Luong flag. A 9x12 m flag hung on the northern bank of the Ben Hai River between 1957 and 1962.

- 8

Bronze statues of Quang Tri guerillas.

- 9

A photo of the Hien Luong Bridge taken from the flagpole.

- 10

A pottery mural at the foot of the flagpole shows various events from the war and the people’s determination to unite the country. 

- 11

The flagpole on the northern bank.

Admission tickets to the Hien Luong relic cost VND40,000 for adults ($1.7).

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