Dien Bien Phu Museum
This museum won't be the highlight of your visit, but it does offer an account of the battle from the perspective of the Vietnamese soldiers who faced down one of the largest forces then seen in South East Asia.
Those on a group tour will probably be happy to have a guide around that speaks their language and can explain what they are looking at, as although everything has English and French captions, it's lacking a story to guide you through. Also, curatorial rigour may be lacking — a careful eye might detect some errors, such as the American military outfits passed off as French in one of the displays.
Some of the photojournalism is interesting, particularly the classic photo taken of three, weary French soldiers surrendering in front of a crashed transport vehicle. Among the artefacts, maps and diagrams are a number of items that are little more than 'trophies' really, being shown off to prove how hastily the French had to abandon their position — the Bathtub of General De Castries has little historical value, but is cheekily displayed, as if to comment on the foppishness of the French leaders as compared to the Viet Minh leaders, men of the people, all, who bathed in a icy cold water from a stream, along with their troops, and were happy to do so.
There's a video playing with cinema seating but unfortunately it's only in Vietnamese.
Outside the museum, a number of military transports and heavy artillery pieces have been set up, some Vietnamese and some captured from the enemy. It was the presence of these big guns that took the French by surprise and all-but guaranteed a Vietnamese victory. Also quite telling, the wreckage of several planes that were shot down, in a big pile, with a wing prominently displayed bearing the U.S.A insignia. This demonstrates the link, as far as the North Vietnamese were concerned, between the two Indochina wars, and substantiates their claim that the US was the chief force behind an imperialist 're-colonisation' effort both times, despite it's 'cynical' claim to be fighting for freedom and against Communism.
There's a building to the side of the main hall containing a small collection of historical and cultural items, but there are few English captions.
Opening Hours: 07:00 - 11:00 and 13:30 - 17:00 daily