Dien Bien Phu might be a small town and not very well known, but it has a few attractions that are worth seeing, which might help you to get to know the culture and the history of Vietnam.
1. The Dien Bien Phu battle museum
7 May 1954 is a significant date for Vietnam. On that day Vietnamese soldiers won the final battle with the French and gained their own independence.
The Museum is located in the centre of the town. Not many visitors come here, so you have all the space to enjoy it.
The exhibition starts with a life size Ho Chi Minh figure and a huge Vietnamese flag, which both make a great impression. Almost all of the artifacts have signs in French and English. There are photos, maps, and some curiosities, such as the French general's bed or a bicycle, which was capable of carrying 330 kg of ordnance.
Visitors can also watch a short film about the battle.
Everything has a slight communist sound to it, but it is well worth a visit.
|The entrance to the Museum|
|One of the exhibitions|
2. The cemetery
The cemetery of the Vietnamese soldiers, who died in the battle, is located opposite the Musuem. It isn't very big, but it is one of the best preserved and looked after cemetery I have ever seen.
Each of the graves has burning incense, there is no rubbish lying around, the grass is short and well maintained. The centre point of the cemetery is a large monument, commemorating the battle.
|The main monument in the cemetery|
|The graves in the cemetery|
This I found by a total coincidence. I was actually looking for bunkers, which are mentioned in the Lonely Planet. I didn't find bunkers, but I found this:
|A perfect escape from the noisy Dien Bien Phu|
|A Vietnamese invention|
To get there, you need to pass the bus station and continue towards the opposite direction, from the town centre. Turn right in one of the side streets and walk the unpaved road.
4. The streets
Dien Bien Phu is not very big, so walking around won't take you long, but try to forget your maps and GPS and roam the little streets. The houses located away from the main road have a colonial character, with wooden shutters and small yards in the front.
|The main street|
Other attractions include: A1 hill - where the French defences used to be and Bunker Headquarters - the former French command bunker.
If you are interested in visiting the town, spend there at least 2 days and allow yourself time to suck in the very patriotic atmosphere.
Note: there are not many western style restaurants in the town. I only found one, which had a decent coffee and some snacks. You will need to put up with whatever is served in the traditional Vietnamese bars.
There is no night entertainment, so your evenings might consist of sitting in the hostel and sipping your beer there. There is at least one supermarket and a large food market.