Northwest Vietnam

Hoa Binh - Song Da Reservoir - Mai Chau - Moc Chau - Yen Chau - Son La - Tuan Giao - Pa Khoang Lake - Dien Bien Phu - Muong Lay - Muong Te - Sin Ho - Lai Chau - Sa Pa - Lao Cai - Bac Ha - Ha Giang Province


IDD Code: (+84) 23
Formerly known as Tam Duong, this remote town lies between Sapa and Moung Lay and is set in a verdant valley of conical peaks that resemble diminutive volcanoes. While the town is nothing special, the countryside around is sublime and it's a handy lunch stop between Muong Lay and Sapa. The local market, about midway through the town on Hwy 12, is worth exploring. The majority of people are Montagnards from nearby villages, although ethnic Vietnamese make up the largest single group. If you're not in a rush to get to Sapa or Muong Lay, you could base yourself in Lai Chau for a day or so and explore the surrounding areas. The drive from Lai Chau to Sapa along Hwy 4D, threading through the Fansipan Mountain Range near the Chinese border, is a beautiful stretch of road.
Sleeping & Eating
Tay Bac Hotel (tell: 875 879; r 120,000-150,000d;The most atmospheric beds in town are found here, in an attractive Thai-style wooden house at the rear. Rooms come with air-con and hot water, and they boast a 'safe big car park'. Tuan Anh Restaurant (meals 10,000-30,000d) offers the best food in town for those on a lunch run. Other nearby com pho spots like Phuong Thanh are cheap and cheerful. Be aware that canine fare is popular: dog lover takes on a whole new meaning in Lai Chau.