Most people know of the brutal killing spree Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge inflicted on the Cambodian people in the late 70s. Fewer might be aware of their regular rampages through southern Vietnam culminating in the massacre of over 3000 people in the village of Ba Chuc. Enraged by the ongoing brutality of its neighbour’s vicious regime, Vietnam eventually stormed into Cambodia and routed the Khmer Rouge, bringing to an end the four years of hell endured by the Cambodians.

Thousands of skulls and other bones have been grouped by ages and genders, ranging from infants to the elderly, and encased in an outdoor windowed shrine.

A short walk away there’s a small museum displaying Khmer Rouge weaponry — mainly sharpened sticks, clubs and assorted knives, while grisly photos of the aftermath show how truly deranged these monsters were.

There’s a temple nearby where many of the town’s residents sought sanctuary only to be killed by grenade attacks. Guardians of the temple are keen to relate the horror that occurred here (albeit second hand, as only two people are known to have survived), and although their narrative is in Vietnamese, you’ll get the idea.victims shrine

Located between the Vietnamese border town of Chau Doc and the coastal city of Ha Tien, Ba Chuc is off the beaten track and only a trickle of westerners find their way here. If you’re coming from Cambodia you’ll need to organise a bus or a xe om (motorcycle with rider) out of Chau Doc, or a pre booked tour can be organised through a travel agent before leaving Australia.

This is a far cry from the postcard images of Halong Bay and Hoi An, but it’s another insight into Vietnam’s exhaustingly violent history.