The city of Hoa Binh (Peace), which is the capital of Hoa Binh province, is 74km southwest of Hanoi. This area is home to many hill-tribe people, such as the H’mong and Thai. Hoa Binh is a stop on the long drive towards Dien Bien Phu via Mai Chau.
The town is situated on the flats at the base of the mountains. The locals have adopted modern Vietnamese barb, but a selection of Montagnard clothing, together with crossbows, opium pipes and lots of other Montagnard paraphernalia, can be bought at the souvenir shop in the Hoa Binh Hotel I.
There’s a small museum (admission free; open 8am-10.30am & 2pm-4.30pm Mon-Fri) in Hoa Binh with French-Viet Minh and American Wars memorabilia – including a rusty French amphibious vehicle.
About 200m along the road to the fight of the museum, the dam wall of a vast and impressive hydroelectric station is visible; across the river is a massive shrine to the 161 workers who died during its construction.
Hoa Binh Tourism Company (854374, fax 854372) does not have a walk-in office, but staff at the company’s Hoa Binh Hotels I and II can help with information.
Internet access is available at the post office.
Places to Stay & Eat
Hoa Binh Hotels I & II ( 852537, fax 854372; singles/doubles US$28/33) are in Montagnard stilt-house style with comfortable nontraditional amenities like hot water and TV. They’re on the road heading out of town towards Mai Chau, and are two of the better hotels found in northwestern Vietnam. There are cheaper guesthouses and many com pho places lining Hwy 6 in the centre of town.