One reason to linger in this remote mountain town is that Tuan Giao attracts a lot of ethnic minorities who still dress in the traditional way — particularly White Thai and H'mong — and it's a good spot along the route to Dien Bien Phu to take some of those classic photos you'll want to send back home.
The trip from Son La to Dien Bien Phu used to be a bumpy, 155 km ride along a narrow, poorly paved road that hugged the sides of every mountain and provided breathtaking vistas at every turn. Fortunately the road improvements have now been completed, resulting in one of the smoothest road surfaces in Vietnam.
Of course, the roadworks haven't straightened the roads or improved the suspension on the buses, so you can still expect a relatively slow and bumpy ride for some sections of the route.
By Don Morgan.