Dien Bien Phu
Dien Bien Phu (Điện Biên Phủ) is a small town in northwestern Vietnam.
Site of a major French defeat (1954) in the War of Independence which signaled the beginning of the end of French rule.
Vietnam Airlines flies from Hanoi. (60 mins)
There is also a bus going from Muang Khua, Laos, the road is under development and speed does not exceed 20 Km/h the journey takes 8 hours (May, 2010)
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:
Getting to Laos
The bus from Dien Bien Phu to Mheung Khua in Laos leaves at 0530 and costs 88,000 dong. 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 $30-40 depending on nationality. You can pay in Dong, Kip, or US Dollars. One passport photo is required, but if you don't have one they'll take a picture for you for 2,000 kip. Everyone pays 3,000 kip to cross the border, plus a 2,000 kip 'H1N1' test (they take your temperature). So 5,000 kip, plus your visa charge.
From there you continue along the unpaved road to Muang Khua. Total journey including border crossings was about 8 hours. You will have to pay 2,000 kip for a boat ride across the river (try and get some kip in change at the border station) but once across there are guesthouses and a place to exchange money at the top of the road leading from the boat ramp. 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 Luang Prabang, stopping overnight at Nong Khiaw where road travel is possible - departures depend on whether there are enough people interested in going - ask ahead at the boat ramp.