Dien Bien Phu
Dien Bien Phu (Điện Biên Phủ) is a small town in northwestern Vietnam.
Dien Bien Phu was the site of a major French defeat (1954) in the War of Independence which signaled the beginning of the end of French rule.
By Air - Vietnam Airlines flies from Hanoi (60 mins).
By Bus - Buses depart from different stations. Decent sleeper buses leave from Hanoi's Mỹ Đình station around 5.30 pm: the journey takes about 12 hours and costs 375,000 dong (Sept 2013). Some travel agents will not book this for you and you may have to book directly at the My Dinh bus station. Booked directly
Dien Bien city center is pretty small and you can easily walk around. There are men standing around to provide a moto ride if you need.
Although of great historical interest to military buffs, there are few if any sights as such. It is a useful stop and transport connection though on the way to other destinations in the area.
There has been recent refurbishment of aspects of the French defences as more tourist are showing interest:
The Him Lam Plaza on Tran Dang Ninh where it meets the river contains a supermarket, a market area with restaurants in the back, and a bar near the river.
There are various cheap to moderately priced restaurants on Nguyen Chi Thanh (labeled Muong Thanh on giant sign where the street ends on both sides).
Eateries next to the bus station may have higher prices (e.g. bowl of pho for 50.000vnd). Make sure you ask the price before eating something. Hung Ha Pho (directly across from bus station) serves a nice bowl of Pho for 30,000vnd.
There is however a nicer cafe with more reasonable prices out of sight of the bus station. Walk out of the bus station and cross the road and turn right then at the T-Junction go left and it's the first cafe you see. Prices should be better there and the views are quite nice of the nearby mountains.
There are several karaoke places dotted along the main roads. After that your best bet is trying to sit down at a local restaurant and drink with the locals.
Not much (if any) in the way of western bars.
Cheap, flophouse like accommodation can be found across from the bus station at Nguyen Huu Tho/QL12 and Tran Dang Ninh for 100,000 - 200,000 dong. Most of these places have a mix of shared and private bathrooms, cheap restaurants underneath and enough holes for air and bugs to flow through. Not much English is spoken.
A half step up are the guesthouses and hotels on Tran Dang Ninh and the river intersection a few blocks away from the bus station for 200,000 - 250,000 dong. Air conditioning is more common but wifi is still a mixed bag.
There are a variety of hotels and guesthouses on Duong 7-5/AH13/QL 279 near the interaction with A1 hill at Hoang Van Thai and a bit north of that.
Avoid Nha Nghi Thu Diu, opposite the bus station. Bed bugs, no hot water as promised and really rude people.
Him Lan resort is 5km from the center. The place is a typical big vietnamese resort. Has got a swimming pool(closed in winter), restaurant, hot water in the room, lake and nice views.Internet connection isn't stable.Prices are from 650.000 to 850.000.
The bus from Dien Bien Phu to Muang Khua in Laos leaves daily at 05:30 and costs 115,000vnd (Feb 2014), or you can go directly to Udomxai for 235,000 dong (On December 28, 2013 it was possible to board a 7:00am bus to Mung Khua from DBP). Be sure to get there even earlier and claim a seat although you will likely be sharing your seat with a local, or sitting on a pile of goods piled in the aisle. As a rule, the "bus is never full." Bring water and snacks. It takes about 2 hours to reach the Tay Trang Vietnam exit customs, which is fairly straightforward. From the Vietnamese border station it is another 6km to the Laos border checkpoint. Visa-on-arrival is available and costs $30-42 depending on nationality plus 10,000 kip visa fee, 10,000 kip extra on weekends. You can pay in Dong (poor conversion rate), Kip, or US Dollars. One passport photo is required, but if you don't have one they'll take a picture for you for $4. Everyone pays 10,000 kip for stamp, 10,000 kip extra on weekends, plus a 5,000 kip 'H1N1' test (they take your temperature). So 10,000-25,000 kip, plus your visa charge.
(Update Feb 2013) The road is now paved and good quality all the way to Muang Khua and should only take around 2 hours from the Laos-Vietnam border. It arrives at the main junction in the centre of town (there are 2 ATMs) and there is no longer any need to get a ferry. You can take a tuk-tuk to the bus station (5,000kip) and then connect to Odoumxai for 35,000kip, 2.5 hours. You should consider taking the boat ride down the fairly narrow and very scenic Nam Ou River towards Nong Khiaw where road travel is possible - departures depend on whether there are enough people interested in going - ask ahead at the boat ramp.Citizendium:Dien Bien Phu