Bien Phu is a comparatively new town established in the middle
of the 19th century to help to rid the area of incursions
by bandits from Siam, Laos and China. Its remote location
in the extreme northwest of Vietnam deterred both visitors
and development, apart from becoming a French garrison during
the colonial period.
town rocketed to international prominence when the Viet Minh
troops under General Giap overcame the beleaguered French
forces in 1954, the decisive battle that ended nearly a century
of French occupation of Vietnam.
Dien Bien Phu has begun to expand rapidly following its designation
as Lai Chau's provincial capital and the Vietnam government’s
policy of encouraging ethnic Vietnamese families to move to
the area. Nevertheless, despite a boost from tourism stimulated
by the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the
town is still little visited.
is a reasonable road, but the five hundred kilometre journey
takes most of two days, assuming an overnight stay. A flight
to Dien Bien Phu is the most practical means of travel if
time is limited.
are few hotels in this area of the northwest, and none above
our ‘local’ standard.
major attraction is the battlefield, its associated museum
and relicts, and more recently, the largest statue in Vietnam
erected to commemorate the 2004 anniversary. However, for
the adventurous visitor, it is an attractive centre for majestic
scenery and an access point for encounters with Lai Chau Province’s
wide variety of ethnic minority groups that have hardly been
touched by tourism.
road journey from Dien Bien Phu to Sapa will take through
some of the best scenery in Vietnam. Rough roads, very basic
hotels and few amenities deter the tourists and leave the
forests, waterfalls, terraces and the many minority villages
in a pristine state waiting for the serious traveller.
Ho village is definitely worth a 20km detour. The track runs
across vertiginous mountain sides and is not for the faint-hearted,
but rewards the traveller with spectacular views of near perpendicular
terracing and majestic forests. The area is home to Red, White
and Flower H’mong and Dao ethnic minority communities. Those
that have the good fortune to arrive on Sunday morning will
find a wholly authentic local market.
Duong has even more colourful ethnic minority communities
– White and Flower H’mong, Dao Khau, Giay and White and Black