Dien Bien FU

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May 10th 2014
Published: May 24th 2014
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We arrived in Dien Bien Phu after a fairly long day on the bus from Oudomxai in Laos. Awkwardly we were on a sleeper bus for the day, which meant that you could only lie down, no sitting option. You never know what species of bus you're going to get in SE Asia, a fact of life we're trying to embrace!
Crossing the border at Tay Trang (most northern crossing into Vietnam from Laos) was a piece of cake. We had heard that people had some difficulties with the next border crossing down, but as we were on the one bus for the whole trip it was very streamlined.
On arrival at Dien Bien Phu we were unexpectedly met with what has now become a theme of our trip: public holidays. We were expecting to be able to walk across the road from the station, get a cheap room for the night, and be ready to leave early the next morning for Sapa. This was not the case. We walked the streets of Dien Bien Phu for about an hour... no rooms, no rooms, yes I have room for $50 (usually $5), no rooms, until finally... I don't have any rooms but I have a mattress in the lobby you can sleep on for $15 (!!). So that's what we did.
The public holiday is the national celebration of 60 years since the Vietnamese defeated the French, right there at Dien Bien Phu. We were told everyone in Vietnam comes to celebrate over a week or so. The festivities were huge, and everyone was out enjoying themselves with good food, drinks and performances to watch. We randomly met a Vietnamese gentleman called Duk (affectionately nicknamed Ducky) when he saved Ben from walking the streets barefoot after he blew a thong. Ducky went all the way to the market, bought Ben new thongs, wouldn't accept any money, and then took us to a yummy restaurant to show us some Vietnamese delicacies! We also watched some of the performances with him and shared a nightcap of fresh coconut and cane sugar juices. On arriving back at our lobby "room" we decided all in all it had been a successful evening, weird but successful.
Lo and behold the next morning when we arrived back at the station for the trip to Sapa, who should be sitting next to us on the bus but Ducky!

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