The Pu Huot Peak where General Giap observed the Battle of Dien Bien Phu from
The Pu Huot Peak where General Giap observed the Battle of Dien Bien Phu from

History of the First Indochina War - 14 Days

History of the First Indochina War is an adventure historical tour bringing you through the former battlefields of the war. The length of the trip is 14 days, 13 nights.

 The tour follows essentially the time-line of the First Indochina War (1946-1954) from the arrival of the allied forces to disarm the Japanese paving the path for the French comeback through the historic battles of which the last major one was Dien Bien Phu.French stronghold at Dong Khe, Cao Bang, Vietnam

The pace of travel is moderate with hikes to visit the former battlefields. The accommodations for the tour are mostly 3-star standard, hotels with basic facilities are at locales where better hotels are not available. Only daily breakfasts are included.

Day-to-day itinerary
Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi (no included meal)
Day 2 Hanoi Morning City Tour/Free afternoon (B)
Day 3 Hanoi – Chi Lang - Lang Son (150km)/City Tour (B)
Day 4 Lang Son – That Khe – Dong Khe - Cao Bang (140km) (B)
Day 5 Cao Bang – Pac Bo (50km) – Cao Bang – Bac Kan (120km)
Day 6 Bac Kan – ATK (Tin Keo – Tan Trao) – Yen Bai City (200km) (B)
Day 7 Yen Bai – Nghia Lo - Tu Le – Mu Cang Chai (170km) (B)
Day 8 Mu Cang Chai – Lai Chau City (170km) (B)
Day 9 Lai Chau – Muong Lay (Old Lai Chau) – Dien Bien Phu (220km)
Day 10 Dien Bien Phu Full Day Tour (B)
Day 11 Dien Bien Phu – Muong Phang - Son La (170km) (B)
Day 12 Son La – Na San - Moc Chau (130km) (B)
Day 13 Moc Chau – Hoa Binh City – Hanoi (200km) (B)
Day 14 Depart Hanoi (B)

Route 4 Coloniale which marks fierce battles during the Franco - Viet Minh War
Route 4 Coloniale which marks fierce battles during the Franco - Viet Minh War

Inclusions
English-speaking guide as per itinerary;
Twin/Double-shared accommodation as indicated in the program;
Private car for all airport transfers and tours as indicated in the program;
Meals as indicated in the program ( B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner);
All admission fees during guided times in the program;

Exclusions
Insurance of any types;
Early check-ins and late check-outs: check-in time: 14:00 PM and check-out time is 11:00 A.M unless otherwise indicated by each hotel;
International airfares and airport taxes other than those mentioned as included above;
Drinks, laundry, bar or other personal expenses;
Others not clearly specified clearly in the inclusions;

Detailed itinerary

Day 1 Arrive in Hanoi (no included meal)
Arriving at Hanoi, welcomed at the airport by our team and transferred to the hotel.
Overnight in Hanoi.

Day 2 Hanoi Morning City Tour/Free afternoon (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
0800 A.M Have the morning visiting different historical sites in Hanoi where important historical events took place in 1945-946 which led to the First Indochina War.
Have free time in the afternoon.
Overnight in Hanoi.

Day 3 Hanoi – Chi Lang - Lang Son (150km)/City Tour (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.Mountains at Chi Lang, Lang Son, Vietnam
Travel to the border city of Lang Son. Visit the Chi Lang Passage which marks major battles during the Vietnamese history.

Arriving at Lang Son City, visit the Nhi Thanh and Tam Thanh Caves. Have time to climb the To Thi Mountain and enjoy great views of the city from above.

Lang Son is where several battles took place during the Vietnamese history, the most recent battles were in 1979 against the Chinese incursion. Back in 1950, the French had a major outpost in Lang Son City which was evacuated after the French failure at Dong Khe.
Overnight in Lang Son.

Day 4 Lang Son – That Khe – Dong Khe - Cao Bang (140km) (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Depart Lang Son on the historical Route 4 – it was a vital supply route for the French troops in Cao Bang during the Franco – Viet Minh War. Stop at various sites on Route 4 to learn about the fierce battles back in time. Visit Dong Khe Fortress and learn about the battle of Dong Khe during Viet Minh’s Border Campaign in 1950. Then proceed to the Quang Liet Valley and get more understanding of the most fatal error made by the French during the First Indochina War which is also known as the Cao Bang Disaster (1950).

We’ll arrive at Cao Bang later in the afternoon. Have a brief visit to the Fortress of Cao Bang (from outside only) and learn about the most important French outpost during the war.
Overnight at Cao Bang.Cao Bang Fortress

Day 5 Cao Bang – Pac Bo (50km) – Cao Bang – Bac Kan (120km)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Today is for a historical trip, we drive to the Chinese border again to visit Pac Bo where Ho Chi Minh came back to Vietnam in 1941 after 30 years living in exile abroad. It was from Pac Bo that the war against the French for the liberation of Vietnam was commanded by Ho Chi Minh. It was from Pac Bo that Viet Minh’s movements for the liberation of Vietnam spread throughout the country. Here we’ll learn about historical events which were the important preparations for the August Revolutions in 1945 which gave birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Leaving Pac Bo we travel back to Cao Bang and continue to Bac Kan which once was in the heart of the Viet Minh’s resistance war against the French. At Bac Kan, we’ll learn about the French Operations in an effort to capture the Viet Minh’s leaders in 1947 (Operation Lea).
Overnight at Bac Kan.

Day 6 Bac Kan – ATK (Tin Keo – Tan Trao) – Yen Bai City (200km) (B)Ho Chi Minh's hut at Khuon Tat, ATK Dinh Hoa, Thai Nguyen, Vietnam
Breakfast at the hotel.
Depart Bac Kan in the morning we travel further into the heart of the ATK which is abbreviation for the Viet Minh’s Liberated Zone during the Franco – Viet Minh War (1946-1954). The ATK stretched in Bac Kan, Thai Nguyen and Tuyen Quang Provinces and the zone housed various bodies of the Viet Minh’s Government. We’ll visit huts at Tin Keo (Thai Nguyen) and Tan Trao (Tuyen Quang) where important meetings of Viet Minh took place during the course of the First Indochina War.
Then we proceed to Yen Bai City.
Overnight at Yen Bai.

Day 7 Yen Bai – Nghia Lo - Tu Le – Mu Cang Chai (170km) (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Crossing the Red River in Yen Bai and we follow Route 37 which was Route 13 during the Franco – Viet Minh War. This route was also used by the Viet Minh in the various military operations to bring down French posts in the North West of Vietnam in 1951-1952. We’ll visit sites of the former Cua Nhi Post, Nghia Lo Post and recall the battles in 1951 and 1952.

Leaving Nghia Lo we proceed further to Gia Hoi and learn about the encounter between the 165th Regiment of the Viet Minh and the 6th Colonial Parachute Battalion during the Viet Minh’s North-West Campaign in 1952. Then travel through heavenly landscape to Mu Cang Chai.
Overnight at Mu Cang Chai.

A View from a former French Stronghold at Nghia Lo
A View from a former French Stronghold at Nghia Lo, Yen Bai

Day 8 Mu Cang Chai – Lai Chau City (170km) (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
An easy day for us to travel amid ethereal mountainous scenery. We’ll stop at various ethnic villages to have a peep into their life. We arrive at Lai Chau later in the day, have free time to take in the fresh mountain atmosphere.
Overnight at Lai Chau.

Day 9 Lai Chau – Muong Lay (Old Lai Chau) – Dien Bien Phu (220km)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Travel on the wild mountainous road from Lai Chau To Dien Bien Phu. We’ll stop at Muong Lay Town which was Lai Chau during the war. The French had a major outpost at Lai Chau which was only evacuated just before the Dien Bien Phu Batttle. Most of the former town is underwater for the reservoir of the hydro-power plant now.

We’ll learn about major battles just before Dien Bien Phu at Ma Thi Ho Pass and Muong Pon Valley which was something of a bad omen for Dien Bien Phu later.
Overnight at Dien Bien Phu.

Day 10 Dien Bien Phu Full Day Tour (B)Former French Eliane 2 Knoll at Dien Bien Phu
Breakfast at the hotel.
Morning visit to Him Lam Hill (Beatrice), Doc Lap Hill (Gabrielle) and Ban Keo (Anne Marie). These hills protected the northern side of the Hedgehog of Dien Bien Phu. These hills were targets of the first range of attacks by Viet Minh. It was these attacks that for the first time Viet Minh used heavy artillery (105mm howitzers) which startled the French. Once on the site, we can see how brutal the battles were in the past.

In the afternoon, visit the central zone of the Hedgehog and the strategic eastern hills & knolls taking in: The Commander Post, the A1 Hill (Eliane 2), C1, C2 and D1 Hills. In late afternoon, visit the site of once Hong Cum Zone protecting the hedgehog from the south.
Overnight at Dien Bien Phu.

Day 11 Dien Bien Phu – Muong Phang - Son La (170km) (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Leaving the Muong Thanh Valley we climb out way to a well hidden area of Muong Phang where the Viet Minh General Headquarters for the Dien Bien Phu Campaign was located. It was from here models of the French posts at Dien Bien Phu were simulated for the Viet Minh troops to practice and it was from here that General Giap monitored the battles closely on top of the Pu Huot Mountain.

Leaving Muong Phang we’ll travel a lovely valley at Tuan Giao then climb the steep road on one of the most sublime mountain passes in Vietnam – Pha Din. Adore the amazing natural landscape and recall the unbelievable efforts by the Viet Minh in bringing supplies to their troops during the Dien Bien Phu Battle. Let’s not forget that the Pha Din Pass was denuded of trees by French bombardments and traveling through the pass then was a gamble of one’s own life!

Then the road goes down and we’ll be heading to Son La City.
Overnight at Son La.

A panoramic view of the old Na San Battlefield
A panoramic view of the old Na San Battlefield, Son La, Vietnam

Day 12 Son La – Na San - Moc Chau (130km) (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
We leave Son La in the morning for Na San, just on the outskirt. Na San was where the French turned their posts into a hedgehog and the Viet Minh did have some failure in late 1952 early 1953. The French thought that by enlarging the model at Na San and applying it to Dien Bien Phu, the French would be able to have major military against the Viet Minh and put an end to the resistance war; the calculations were wrong and the result was what is known as Dien Bien Phu. At Na San, we’ll have a thorough study of the sites of the various battles.

Then we’ll climb our way to the scenic plateau of Moc Chau, another gateway to the North-West of Vietnam during the Dien Bien Phu Battle. Have time to recall the Battle of Moc Chau.
Overnight at Moc Chau.

Fighting bunker and embrasure at a former French stronghold at Moc Chau, Son La, Vietnam
Fighting bunker and embrasure at a former French stronghold at Moc Chau, Son La, Vietnam

Day 13 Moc Chau – Hoa Binh City – Hanoi (200km) (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Descending the heavenly plateau of Moc Chau we’ll make our way to Hoa Binh City and visit the sites of the Battle of Hoa Binh, a milestone in the First Indochina War. Learn about the context and strategies implemented by both sides.

We’ll arrive back in Hanoi later in the day.
Overnight in Hanoi.

Day 14 Depart Hanoi (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Have free time until our team comes back and transfers you to the airport for your departure. We trust you now have become an expert on the First Indochina War and we hope to welcome you back more more battlefield tours in Vietnam.