Just a bump in the road, the hamlet of Phong To, sits midway along the way between new Lai Chau and Muong Lay. It's a very unassuming little berg with little (in fact, just about nothing) to recommend it, but if you're looking for somewhere to break for the night it's as good a choice as Muong Lay.
Accommodation is limited. In much the same style as the original Lan Anh Hotel in Muong Lay, the Lan Anh II is equally charming, featuring a lot of the local multicoloured slate, some stilt-house-style lodging and a wide selection of rooms. Rooms feature comfy beds with frilly mossie nets and are equipped with the necessary facilities but it's let down by a very complacent — and absent when you need them — staff and is falling apart — the room we were in had no door handle, a broken back door, no fan and a dodgy air-con unit. That said, the smaller rooms are better value than the rooms at the Hoang Lan. Bicycles can be rented for 50,000 VND but with the current state of the road there's nowhere worth taking them.
There are precious few options for evening dining in Phong To, with the town virtually shutting down after dark (apart from the post office of course). Bear in mind that there is no street lighting so take a torch.
By Stuart McDonald.