Sapa and Vietnam's far north Part 6 - Paso to Dien Bien Phu - Rusty Compass travel blog

Sapa and Vietnam's far north Part 6 - Paso to Dien Bien Phu

| 20 Jul 2009
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20 Jul 2009

We set off bright and early from Pa So for the 180 kilometre drive to Dien Bien Phu. My driver was a little concerned given that the previous day it had taken almost ten hours to drive 100kms on account of the constant stopping for village walks and photographs. He needn't have been concerned. The drive to Dien Bien Phu from Pa So, while beautiful,  didn't feature the stunning scenes of the ride from Sapa to Pa So. I was less inclined to ask him to stop so I could wonder into the countryside.

There were other obstacles to progress though. The Vietnamese government seems hellbent on the rapid development of this area and is building new cities and major roads. I guess this is in response to the major development a little north across the Chinese border.

Photo: Mark BowyerRoad works enroute to Dien Bien Phu
The road building presents some occasional stops. More alarming though are the massive landslides that are being caused by blasting for road widening. The landslides are frequent and can be deadly. They also mark the beginning of terrible erosion that is eating away at the beautiful landscapes of the area and causing environmental havoc. The road building frenzy seems to have precedent over working out a solution to the landslides and the associated environmental damage. Large areas of today's drive were through areas severely scarred by roadbuilding, erosion and landslides.

This journey took us through Lai Chau - or what is now known as Old Lai Chau. A new mega city is under construction closer to Pa So. Old Lai Chau will soon disappear under flood waters that will follow the completion of a new dam nearby. When I was last in Old Lai Chau four years ago, it was supposed to only have two more years ahead of it. It's still going strong and nobody seems to know when it will disappear for good.

We took the opportunity to stop in at a couple villages before arriving at Dien Bien Phu - one was a Camu village, the other Thai. On both occasions we were welcomed by locals- especially in the Thai village which was about 10kms outside of Dien Bien Phu in a stunning setting.

In Dien Bien Phu, we stayed at the Dien Bien Phu Hanoi Hotel - the best place in town and at 20US a night, very well priced. Rooms were basic, clean and comfortable - and there was wifi in the lobby and in some guest rooms. It was also very close to most of the main historic sights in Dien Bien Phu.
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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