About two hours' drive from Sapa, the town of Lai Chau(not to be confused with the former Lai Chau now called Muong Lay), it getting uglier by the minute despite being surrounded by immaculate mountain scenery. Its main in snterest to travellers is as a base to visit the Monday market of great ethnic variety at Pa So Village (formerly Phong Tho), 30km further west. Lai Chau has only a handful of hotels, and they're all somewhat overpriced, except the Muong Thanh, visible to the right as you're about to drop into town: it's surrounded by tea fields and affords fantatic views from the upper floors. Lai Chau's single main street is unappealing but holeds the rest of the hotels, including the Anh Huan, which is cheap and close to the market. Easily the best accommodatiopn option around Pa So village is the impressive Lan Anh II situated 3km beyond the village on the riverbank. It has comfortable rooms and a good restaurant.
From Lai Chau the route veers south, following the gently attractive Nam NA Valley; the higher slopes are farmed by froups of Black Hmong and Dao, though the valley floor is predominantly people with Thai Villages of impressively solid stithouses. Some of the White Thai communities in this region are surprisingly modern and orderly, as thay are rcent creations housing those whose original villages affected by clamming.
What to do?
Some attractions in Lai Chau include Sin Ho Village with colorful Sunday Market, Tam Duong Town with Montagnards and other tourist sites such as Tien Son Cave and Muong Lai Spring. The road from Lai Chau to Sapa is one of the most beautiful drives in Vietnam but it is very bumpy due to poor infrastrure and land slides.
When to go?
Lai Chau is in the tropical monsoon zone and is divided into two seasons: rain season and dry season. The annual average temperature is 21ºC - 23ºC. It is also one of the hottest places in Vietnam in summer. June and July temperatures can climb to 40oC. During the rainy season the town is suffered by severe flood from the Da River. The ideal time to visit Lai Chau is from September to April.
The route Dien Bien Phu ‚ Lai Chau (around 4 hours) and Sapa, Lai Chau (from 6 to (from 6 to 8 hours) is good with breathtaking scenery and hilly tribes. The journey is the most spectacular but some time, your trip is delayed for a while by severe damage during the rainy season.