Hidden Treasures: Dien Bien Phu
Hidden treasures. We know that pirates have found a few, as have Spanish conquistadors, shipwreck salvage companies, and multinational oil corporations. But what about travelers?
It was late afternoon when I stumbled upon treasure in the Vietnamese town of Dien Bien Phu. I still remember how softly the sun's late afternoon light hit the dirt road as I sat by a dilapidated bridge, sipping a lukewarm Coke as I took in the scene. Passing in front of me were not cars, since the bridge was too small for cars--and also since there weren't many cars in this part of Vietnam. Instead there were children clinging to the backs of their bicycling parents, farmers on motorbikes hauling a cargo of live pigs or chickens, and students on their way home from school. The site was magical.
It is a small provincial capital, nestled in a remote section of the country's northwest. And of those who do come to visit, you’ll be hard pressed to find any hanging out at the old bridge on the edge of town. Most will be at a museum or cemetery recalling the town's history.
In 1954 the world spotlight turned on
The French, however, erred grievously. Unexpectedly, the Viet Minh found a way to haul heavy artillery up the rugged mountains. They then proceeded to pound the French until the French, unable to escape the valley, were forced to surrender. The French defeat stunned the world and was particularly noted in other colonies, where people now felt even more empowered to throw off their colonial masters. As for the French,
I had come to
In Dien Bien Phu I had stumbled upon hidden treasure. Some would call it nothing but an aging bridge, but for me it was much more.
Joel Carillet, chief editor of wanderingeducators.com, is a freelance writer and photographer based in Tennessee. His most recent project is 30 Reasons to Travel: Photographs and Reflections from Southeast Asia, due for release in June. To learn more about him, visit www.jcarillet.imagekind.com.