A temporary wooden bridge has been built to connect the main road with the border guard station in A Nong commune in the central province of Quang Nam.

The original bridge had been washed away by floods last year, isolating soldiers living in the station, which is located in Tay Giang district, 700m above sea level.

The mountainous commune, about 200km from Tam Ky city, hosts one of several stations along the border with Laos.

The difficulties of access and homesickness have not prevented soldiers from preparing to celebrate Tet (Lunar New Year) away from home with double the usual portion of meat, fish and vegetables that are produced at the station itself.

"We are making banh chung (glutinous square cakes), pork pies and other offerings for New Year Eve. The festive atmosphere helps soldiers who are living away from their native places feel that they are at home," said station chief Lieutenant Colonel Tran Thanh Hai.

"We also invite local people to welcome the New Year with us."

The deputy head of the station, Captain Nguyen Duc Thanh, said the station maintains a livestock farm with pigs, cows and goats that provides enough meat for the soldiers, while a garden and an aquaculture farm provides sufficient vegetables and fish.

Le Thanh Phong, a soldier from central Nghe An province, said he enjoys Tet holiday because he has the satisfaction of discharging an important duty.

"It's my task. We keep control and patrol the country's border to ensure a peaceful Tet for people. We feel good when people celebrate the New Year with fun and happiness," Phong said.

"I was homesick the first year I was here. My hometown is 700km away, but now the station is my second home."

A Nong commune is also home to 600 people of the Co Tu ethnic minority.

Party Secretary and Chairman of the A Nong People's Committee Alang Bao said Tet was a time for local people and border guard soldiers to get together at night and enjoy a camp-fire party.

"It's an annual rendezvous. The station invites us to celebrate New Year with soldiers who are away from their homes. We also ask them to join us in celebrating the festival in our villages," Bao said.

He added that Tet was a cross-cultural celebration in the commune with the participation of Co Tu people and soldiers who are members of the Kinh majority community.

"Soldiers from the station always help local people in farming, schooling and recovering from damage caused by floods and storms," Bao said.

He said the solidarity between soldiers and local residents strengthened the defence of the country's border areas and ensured a peaceful existence.

The station also presented gifts for the poor families in the commune from its food reserves, he said.

Station head Hai said that at present, automobiles can only access the station by crossing the stream during the dry season, but this was impossible during the rainy and flooding season between August and October.

He also said that they are looking forward to a better year "because we expect a new bridge to be built soon".-VNA