Around Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954, the French colonial forces were defeated by the Viet Minh in a decisive battle, and the days of their Indochina empire became numbered.
Dien Bien Phu (DBP) sits in the heart-shaped Muong Thanh Valley, surrounded by heavily forested hills. The scenery to or from DBP is stunning, with approach roads scything through thick forests and steep terrain. The city itself lies more prosaically on a broad dry plain. Thai, H’mong and Si La people live in the surrounding mountains, but the city and valley are mainly inhabited by ethnic Vietnamese.
Previously just a minor settlement, DBP only achieved town status in 1992. It became a city in 2003, and a year later was elevated to provincial capital. Expansive boulevards and civic buildings have been constructed and the airport now has daily flights from Hanoi. With the nearby Tay Trang–Sop Hun Laos–Vietnam border now open to foreigners, more travellers are passing through the city.
History is the city’s main attraction, with colonial-era bunkers and museums.