Wednesday, January 9, 2013

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Dien Bien

Điện Biên is a new province which was created by a split of the former Lai Chau Province in the early 2004. Điện Biên Province includes all the land in the south of Đà River (Black River), and New Lai Châu Province includes all the land in the north of Đà River.

Approximately 40 percent of the inhabitants of the Dien Bien Province belong to the Thai ethnic minority group. While the delta and coastal plain regions of Vietnam are largely populated by the ethnic majority Vietnamese, also known as the Kinh, the highlands are home to many of Vietnam's ethnic minority groups. Many of the ethnic groups in Northern Vietnam are Chinese-descended. However the Thai, among other ethnic groups that inhabit the Muong Thanh Valley and the surrounding highland regions, are not Chinese-descended. The Thai, along with other ethnic groups that inhabit the Dien Bien Province, are largely independent and follow their own series of customs and traditions. The Thai, among other non-Chinese minority ethnic groups in Vietnam such as the Tay, Nung, Hmong, Muong, Cham, Khmer, Kohor, E De, Bahnar, and Jarai, have their own languages and writing systems. Belief holds that the Thai are originally descended from lowland natives of Malay origin. They were forced into the highlands by continuous invasions of the Mongoloid people of China. Much Thai folklore surrounds the history of the Muong Thanh Valley. According to Thai folklore, the Thai originally named the valley Muong Then (the land of God) sometimes spelt Muang Thaeng. The Vietnamese Government provides the following story about the history of the Thai people according to Thai folklore:
The Thai people believe that Then (God) created human beings in a gourd, which he punctured with a stick to release them. The first people to emerge from the gourd were the Xa, who have the darkest complexions. They were followed in turn by the Thai, the Lao, the Lu, the Mong and finally the Kinh (the Vietnamese ethnic majority). The gourd then became a mountain, which stands today in Tau Pung Commune in the middle of the Muong Thanh Valley. It's only fitting then that the Pha Din Pass, which must be crossed to reach Dien Bien Phu and the Muong Thanh Valley from Ha Noi, is also known as Cong Troi, or Heaven's Gate. ”
While the Thai are the largest single ethnic group in the Muong Thanh Valley, the Hmong, Dao, and Day ethnic groups also inhabit the valley. There is also a substantial population of the Vietnamese ethnic majority group, Kinh, in the city of Dien Bien Phu.
Most of the groups in the regions follow animistic religious beliefs. There are also Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, and Muslims.
Travel in this region offers the best opportunity to meet and greet people of ethnic-minority hilltribe groups, from the timid White Thai to the gregarious Hmong. But remember that responsible tourism is crucial; our collective interaction with isolated ethnic minorities lays the groundwork for their future survival (or demise). Hire guides if you are going off into the boonies or out among ethnic groups. Your impact, especially if your travels take you to real rural parts, is important.

Dien Bien Phu Victory

The region was fortified in November 1953 by the French Union force in the biggest airborne operation of the 1946-1954 First Indochina War, Operation Castor, to block Việt Minh transport routes and to set the stage to draw out Việt Minh forces.

The following year, the important Battle of Điện Biên Phủ was fought between the Việt Minh (led by General Võ Nguyên Giáp), and the French Union (led by General Henri Navarre, successor to General Raoul Salan). The siege of the French garrison lasted fifty-seven days, from 17:30, 13 March to 17:30, 7 May 1954.

In Vietnam, May 7, 1954 marks the victory of Vietnam over French forces at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. This victory ended 80 years of French colonization and began the time of independence for Vietnam.

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