Photo: Mist pours into Sin Ho.

Introduction

Our rating:

If you’re travelling between Lai Chau and Muong Lay, you have two options—the (relatively) flatter road which loops to the north via Phong To, or a more interesting and scenic route through the high mountain village of Sin Ho, a kilometre above sea level. The road is mostly well-paved and easy to ride, and the winding ride up to the mountain top is a treat.



Why should you go to Sin Ho?

Because it is there! The road up to Sin Ho from Muong Lay and onwards to Lai Chau is one of the more spectacular in the northwest. Coming from Muong Lay, DT128 runs off QL12 for the run up to Sin Ho. Hugging the steep valley wall as you head higher and higher, the views are simply magnificent. In wet season this road is prone to landslides, so expect possible delays, but the views more than compensate. The road onwards to Lai Chau is equally stunning—and terrific riding. Expect big skies.

Cloudy scenes on the way to Sin Ho. Photo taken in or around Sin Ho, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Cloudy scenes on the way to Sin Ho. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Sin Ho itself is a cute little town. There’s an interesting wet market, a pleasant artificial lake (yes with swan boats) and town square, around which pretty much everything is walking distance. There is also a good hotel and enough simple restaurants to keep you fed. The town does not get a lot of foreign travellers, but we still found it to be friendly enough.

When to go to Sin Ho

As with the rest of the region, June through to September is wet season. Expect heavy rainfall and misty weather. Landslides are common and will slow you down. Visibility wise, late September to October and March through May are the best bet.

The road was missing around the corner. Photo taken in or around Sin Ho, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

The road was missing around the corner. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Evenings and early mornings can be cool to cold year round. If motorbiking, be sure to dress accordingly. The temperature can be cold on high passes yet hot in the valleys. Sin Ho itself is pretty high up—you’ll appreciate a jacket or at least a long-sleeved top come the evening.

Orientation

Sin Ho is small and pretty much everything is within walking distance of the town square. The Phuc Tho Hotel is well situated in the centre of town, overlooking the main square, and is the pick of the bunch as far as places to stay is concerned. Sin Ho has a popular Sunday market—and while we were not there on a Sunday, Vietnam Coracle says “Unlike Sapa market and the horrendously touristy Bac Ha Market, where minority people are more likely to be seen selling to foreign and Vietnamese tourists, Sin Ho market is the real deal.”

Sin Ho pond—with swan boats! Photo taken in or around Sin Ho, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Sin Ho pond—with swan boats! Photo: Stuart McDonald

There is an Agribank ATM in town, though these can be fickle at accepting international cards, so we’d suggest bringing enough cash with you.

If you need a motorcycle doctor, there is a Honda workshop facing onto the town square.


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Where to stay in Sin Ho


Opposite the town square, Sin Ho
US$10 to 20

Phuc Tho Hotel
# Opposite the town square, Sin Ho
T: (0231) 387 0186

Set right opposite the town square in the centre of Sin Ho, the Phuc Tho Hotel has a lot more going for it than just the location.

Easy to spot. Photo taken in or around Sin Ho, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Easy to spot. Photo: Stuart McDonald

The gleaning facade overlooking the street and square offers up three floors of rooms, each with a shared though unfurnished terrace dotted with small palms and other greenery. From there you look over the square and Sin Ho market is just steps away.

Rooms (from 200,000 dong) are simple but clean, well kept and not of a bad size. The beds are as hard as the bathrooms are modest, but after half a day on a bike or in a bus, they’re welcoming enough. Staff were friendly enough but there wasn’t much English on hand.

If in the very unlikely situation the hotel is full or not to your liking, the larger but pretty charmless Thanh Binh sits towards the western edge of town, perhaps a ten minute walk from the Phuc Tho.


Map of where to stay in Sin Ho

Map of where to stay in Sin Ho

Map legend

Click on the hotel name to open its position in Apple or Google maps.



Where to eat

Travellers getting around with their own transport often make Sin Ho a lunch stop (as we did) rather than an overnight, but either way you won’t go hungry.


A welcome sight after a long ride. Photo taken in or around Sin Ho, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

A welcome sight after a long ride. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Just a little down past the Phuc Tho, on your left when walking away from the town square, there is a decent pho joint (sorry, we forgot to note the name down) which serves up enormous bowls for 30,000 dong.

Over the other side of town, by the pond with the swan boats in it there are a couple of simple cafes. You could always grab a simple takeaway from Cho Sin Ho (also just down from the Phuc Tho) and scoff it by the square or pond-side.

Map of where to eat in Sin Ho

Map of where to eat in Sin Ho

Map legend

Click on the restaurant name to open its position in Apple or Google maps.


Restaurant contact details and addresses

Cho Sin Ho Near the town Square
Com and Pho joint Near Cho Sin Ho.
Pond-side cafes South side of the pond, Sin Ho.

Cho Sin Ho
Near the town Square Sin Ho, Northwest Vietnam
Under $2
Com and Pho joint
Near Cho Sin Ho. Sin Ho, Northwest Vietnam
Under $2
Pond-side cafes
South side of the pond, Sin Ho. Sin Ho, Northwest Vietnam
Under $2

What to see and do

Around Sin Ho

As with a number of the other smaller centres in the northwest, the main attraction here is the getting here. The scenery both between Muong Lay and Sin Ho and onwards between Sin Ho and Lai Chau is just magnificent.

Vroom vroom. Photo taken in or around Sin Ho, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Vroom vroom. Photo: Stuart McDonald

If you are travelling under your own steam, it is worth noting that the roads, while generally pretty good, particularly near Sin Ho are susceptible to landslides. When we were riding through here after heavy rain in September 2019, one stretch of road had been almost completely swept away. While the chances of you being swept away are minimal, you should bank of the occasional delay, of an hour or so if you are a bike, often considerably longer if travelling by bus or car.

We found the run up from QL12 on DT128 to be especially enjoyable. With almost no traffic, the road was tightly wrapped to the valley wall, making for excellent riding and plenty of spots to stop to enjoy the view up and down the valley. On the other side of Sin Ho, heading towards Lai Chau is an excellent stretch which loops around the northern end of a broad rice field valley. The views are superb, especially with clear weather.

On the road from Sin Ho to Lai Chau. Photo taken in or around Sin Ho, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

On the road from Sin Ho to Lai Chau. Photo: Stuart McDonald

In Sin Ho itself, aside from the pond and the market there isn’t much in the way of sights, though the setting, surrounded by stubby karsts and rice fields, is scenic. On Sundays the central market goes off with people from the surrounds trekking in for the affair. If you can time your trip to coincide with this, that would be sensible.

On a past visit to Sin Ho it was suggested we visit some of the local ethnic minority villages. The village of Xa De Phin was recommended to us—it’s apparently 5 km from the town centre along the road to Muong Lay, and after the turnoff onto a dirt road, it’s another 5 km. We didn’t have time to visit it this time around. The Phuc Tho Hotel or Thanh Binh Hotel would be good places to ask for advice regarding finding a guide.

Location map for Around Sin Ho

Click on the map to open its position in Apple or Google maps.



Getting there and away

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Bus

Buses to Lai Chau and Muong Lay leave from early to late morning from a parking area beside the town square. Take these trip times with a dose of salt as if there are landslides the delays could be substantial.

Lai Chau: Takes around two hours and costs 50,000 dong.
Muong Lay: Takes about three hours and we were quoted 60,000 dong.




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