Last stop Vietnam

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  , Huyện Ðiện Biên,
Sunday, February 20, 2011

For most people Dien Bien Phu is merely an overnight stop on the way from Sapa to Laos as its 36km from the Laos border. However, as it actually has quite an interesting history itself, effectively being the site of the last battle in the war with the French before colonial rule ended in the '50s, we decided to spend a day there. 

The French had a huge base here to try and stop the Viet Minh moving into Laos. They thought it was impregnable but they effectively got surrounded and pounded out with the Vietnamese dragging heavy artillery by hand through the jungle into the hills around the town. It was a 50 something day siege and defeat meant the French gave up any hope of reestablishing control in the area after WWII. There's not a huge amount left from the battle, a few guns and tanks but one of the hills has been kept as it was covered in trenches and barbed wire which is pretty cool. The museum is fairly good with the usual biased photo captions and a cool 3D map with green and red LEDs all over it to show the progress of the battle. ‘Good guys’ in red.

There is also quite an impressive monument which must be relatively new as it doesn’t make an appearance in the Lonely Planet, providing great views over the town and surrounding rice paddies – the perfect place for sunset pictures :)

I think we have mixed views about Vietnam.  Everything was really enjoyable but nothing really stood out as amazing like it did in Cambodia, except for maybe the trek in Sapa.  I think the main problem was the attitude of a lot of the people, which is a lot less friendly than we experienced in Cambodia.  Having been here 4 years ago I was a little shocked because my memory is that they were very much like we found the Cambodians.  Unfortunately I guess that’s what dealing with arsy tourists does to a country, and I Cambodia will probably catch up on that front.  We did have a great few weeks and it would be on the list to come back to, especially the south as we missed that. Maybe it’s not a great idea to go back to places you liked first time around as they’ll never be the same. Thailand 10 years after I was there last time should be interesting then!
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