Muong Thang Bridge and the bunker of De Casties and Pirot
What we say:
There's no significant payoff in visiting any of these sites, but they're close together so easy enough to wander out to. The bridge has been preserved by barring vehicular traffic, but bikes and motorbikes can cross.
Just before crossing the bridge, on the right, there is a stone plaque in front of what is now just a weedy hole in the ground, but used to be the bunker of Chief Artillery Commander Pirot. As the story goes, the moment he heard the first shot from Vietnamese artillery in the nearby hills, he knew defeat was inevitable and committed suicide. Whether this was out of despair at the inevitable lose of human life that was about to take place, or simply to avoid the humiliation of going back to France and explaining himself, will never be known.
The other bunker is the command quarters where General De Casties and his staff holed up while coordinating their forces during the 57-day siege. Yes, this is where they found the bathtub now on display at the museum. The fact that the French had gone from colonial masters, to animals cowering in an underground den, marked a sea change in their struggle for liberation.
To further illustrate the point, some of the heavy artillery that all that concrete was built in fear of is on display in back of the bunker. The area features some more tanks and memorials, and if you're with a guide you'll probably be taken to see them.
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