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This is Vietnam's big-sky country; a place of rippling mountains, cascading rice terraces and the winnowed-out karst topography for which the region is famed. Halong Bay's seascape of limestone towers is the view everyone's here to see, but the karst connection continues inland, to Ba Be's sprawling lakes and the knobbly topped peaks of Ha Giang, until it segues into the evergreen hills of the northwest highlands. Not to be outdone by the scenery, northern Vietnam's cultural kaleidoscope is just as diverse. In this heartland of hill-tribe culture, villages snuggle between paddy-field patchworks outside of Sapa and the scarlet headdresses of the Dzao and the Black Hmong's indigo fabrics add dizzying colour to chaotic highland markets. The twisting ribbon-roads winding north from Hanoi reveal a rural world far removed from Vietnam's horns-a-honking big-city streets. If you're up for some road-tripping, this is the place to do it.

  • Departure : Daily
  • Duration : 7 Day 6 Night
  • Vehicles : Car
  • Vehicles return : Car
  • Starting place : Ha Noi
  • Destination : Mai Chau, Son La, Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau, Sapa

    Dien Bien Phu (DBP) plays a star role in Vietnam's modern history. It was in the surrounding countryside here, on 7 May 1954, that the French colonial forces were defeated by the Viet Minh in a decisive battle, and the days of their Indochina empire became numbered. 
    The town sits in the heart-shaped Muong Thanh Valley, surrounded by heavily forested hills. The scenery along the way here is stunning, with approach roads scything through thick forests and steep terrain. The city itself lies more prosaically on a broad dry plain. Thai, Hmong 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 receives daily flights from Hanoi.
    History is DBP's main attraction with the clutch of bunkers, museums and war memorials attracting mostly domestic tourists. With the nearby Tay Trang–Sop Hun Vietnam-Laos border open to foreigners, more travellers are now passing through the city too.