Area: 9,562.9 sq.km
Population (2010): 504,500

Extremely mountainous, Dien Bien is one of the newest provinces in Vietnam, having been split off from Lai Chau further to the north. The province features some of the most exhilarating mountainous terrain in all of Vietnam. 

The provincial capital, Dien Bien Phu, is mostly a mix of ethnic Viet Kinh (the majority ethnic group of the country) and White Thai, with other minorities inhabiting the outlying areas, but is best know for the battle of the same name which pretty much marked the beginning of the end — or more like the end of the beginning of the end — for the French involvement in Vietnam.

The long, wide valley that encloses the town was the scene of a fierce, 57-day siege on French positions that decisively ended French rule in Indochina, and, in doing so, inspired anti-colonialist, revolutionary movements around the world and set the stage for some of the most pivotal events of the second half of the 20th century.

Now little remains of the battlefield itself — the trenches, barbed wire, encampments, and battlelines that once criss-crossed the terrain have long since been erased to make room for development and agriculture. But a handful of war vestiges have been carefully preserved, constituting a series of exhibits that tourists can view and learn from, with or without a guide, in the course of a day.

This is, by far, the chief reason any tourist ever visits Dien Bien Phu at all, and for French travellers looking to get in touch with that important, decidedly chequered, chapter of their history, a stop here is de rigeur. But for most other travellers, a trip to A1 Hill and the museum will offer all the coverage of the event that they need.

Aside from the history on display, Dien Bien Phu presents little more that a sprawling, dusty, nondescript border town.

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