Dien Bien is the scene of the decisive defeat of French forces by the Vietnamese in 1954.
This epic battle brought about the end of France’s colonisation of Vietnam and triggered America’s involvement in the region, which culminated in the Vietnam War.
Dien Bien is located very close to the border with Laos and although it looks close to Sapa on the map, the journey by car takes 11 hours through stunningly beautiful rural landscapes.
Dien Bien seems like a quiet town. Dogs lie scratching themselves in the middle of the road, untroubled by the occasional motorbike or commercial vehicle.
The architecture here is rather odd. Narrow three- or four-storey houses with lots of fancy embellishments line the streets.
The hotel’s minibar provides the bare essentials but is ideal for thrifty travellers; free, unlimited drinking water.
A number of the battlefield positions have been preserved.
Apart from the historic battle relics there is little to attract the foreign tourist except the prospect of picking up a couple of T-shirts at bargain prices.
This article first appeared on thriftytraveller.wordpress.com