Xe Quit has always been one of our favourite stops on our 3-day Mekong Delta programme; – the dense, lush, impenetrable jungle with monkey shrieks and exotic bird squawks and the swampy, dark waters full of unidentified splashes and ripples just sum up how we’d always imagined the exotic-soundi0ng Mekong Delta to be in the days when it was just a name in a book or TV report.
Yet these days with drainage, intensive agriculture, forest clearance and an increasing population there aren’t too many areas of the Delta still like this. (Which is certainly why it’s become such a refuge for the region’s wildlife.) We’re assuming that back in the late 60s or early 70s when Xeo Quit was an important Viet Cong base and command post much of the surrounding area was still like this, (or it would have stuck out like a sore thumb!) Known to the swamps’ inhabitants as ‘base of the peoples’ hearts‘ Xeo Quit was long suspected by the US and ARVN forces to be a Viet Cong base and bombed on numerous occasions yet somehow managed to remain undiscovered until the end of the war.
There are no Cu Chi style tunnels and underground hospitals and lecture rooms etc – you can’t burrow into a swamp – and Xeo Quit’s defences consisted of a few shallow fox holes and dugouts covered with camouflaged reed rooves. Must have been an horrific existence; up to your ankles in disease-ridden swamp water with snakes, leeches and malarial mosquitoes, sleeping in mud holes and, if you’ve visited Cu Chi and cringed at the awful conditions, then this must have been a lot worse!
Xe Quit is just across the river from Sadec – famous as the setting for Marguerite Duras’s semi-autobiographical, colonial period, novel The Lover (set in 1929 and written in 1984. It was also made into a film of the same name in 1992) – and just off the highway between My Tho and Can Tho so relatively easy to access and it’s surprising that very few foreign tourists actually turn up here.
The visit begins with a canoe tour of the site by way of tunnel-like streams cutting through the dense jungle with the in-house guides/paddlers wearing their black Viet Cong pyjamas. Yes kitsch but fun, though the warnings to not get out and walk are neither!
Yes, seriously rickety canoes which look like they date to the 70’s but we’ve never fallen in yet and anyway there’s only about a 1ft of water, though we wouldn’t like to say what might be lurking in those murky shallows!?
When you’ve completed the atmospheric boat trip and left a bit of a tip for your Viet Cong guide you can then do the loop backwards by following a concrete pathway through the swamp which allows for a different perspective and closer look at some of the dug-outs and bunkers. each way’s probably roughly 30 minutes allowing for time to linger.
There’s also a conveniently placed restaurant just opposite the entrance with decent and reasonably priced grub. fascinating historical site and even if you don’t give a monkey about history it’s well worth checking out for the jungle visit alone. We include Xe Quit on our classic 2-week Hanoi to Saigon and our Vietnam and Cambodia Overland tour. A fascinating and unusual destination!