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Dien Bien Phu


The main road through town and on to the Tay Trung border is mostly called 'Duong 7-5' commemorating the date, May 7, 1954, when the French said, Adieu for the last time. It's easy enough to find, especially at night when it's illuminated by some rather fun, multi-coloured columns of changing lights. But street address -- not so easy to find: sometimes they go by the phuong, or 'ward' they are in. The stretch between the market and heading towards the border is in Phuong Muong Thanh. Heading from the market towards Tuan Giao, the road is in Phuong Him Lam. After you cross the bridge from the market to the bus station, you're in Phuong Thanh Binh. And many places have no address at all. Needless to say, navigating by addresses here can be tricky. You can orient yourself by finding the market, which is at the three-way intersection described above, and has a tall red and white radio tower just across from it.

Things are pretty spread out, so if you don't want to spend all day walking around, you'll be making good use of the motorcycle taxi drivers that hand out at the market.

The centre of Muong Thanh ward is a great little neighbourhood that can be reached by turning on the road alongside the Dien Bien Phu hotel (Hoang Cong Chat) or the one by the cemetery (Hoang Van Thai) and heading a kilometre east. Unfortunately, there's no longer a place to stay here since the old Beer Factory Guesthouse closed down. It's still a good place to head, though, for food, internet, bia hoi, and DBP's only other ATM machine.

The BIDV bank is located along the road to Tay Trung, on the right hand side leaving town: The ATM accepts foreign cards, but no services are on offer other than dong for dollars. We found the ATM here very wonky on our visit, so if you run into the same problem, there's another one Hoang Van Thai a couple hundred metres north of the intersection with Tran Can Street.

BIDV: 7-5 Road (888 Pho Muong Thanh 3), Dien Bien Phu. T: (0230) 825 852, 774, F: (0230) 826 016. Hours: 08:00 to 04:30 weekdays

Internet is not ubiquitous, and we couldn't find any places open and running near the market. Seek out Nguyen Chi Thanh which runs parallel just west of 7-5 Street. A block before the road to the Muong Thanh bridge on the left is Quang Trung Internet, and there's another cyber cafe a couple doors down. More options can be found by taking the turn along side the Dien Bien Phu hotel and heading about a kilometre east.

To reach the bus station, turn off 7-5 Road at the market and cross the Thanh Binh bridge -- it's on the right.

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