The scenery is the main drawcard
Published/Last edited or updated: 9th October, 2019
Muong Lay seems pretty bereft of actual sights—the main appeal is getting here...and leaving.
The town lies roughly at the halfway point on QL12 between Dien Bien Phu and Lai Chau and while if you’re travelling by bus you’ll have no real option but to gaze out the window, if you’re under your own steam allow plenty of time for the ride or drive so you can enjoy the scenery along the way.
Aside from the straightforward barrel up QL12, which has plenty enough stunning scenery alone, there is a good, roughly two to three hour sidetrip you can do which will take you very close to the Lao border and deliver on some spectacular vistas and great, mountainous riding. Coming from Dien Bien Phu, about an hour out of town you’ll reach the small town of Muong Cha.
Take a left here and follow route DT131 as it winds up up up eventually reaching Cho Cang. Note that beyond Cho Cang is a restricted area and you may encounter problems (or just be asked to turn back) if you run into authorities. Rather than continuing north, take a right at Cho Cang and follow the lesser road, eventually rejoining QL12 a bit shy of Muong Lay. This second leg of the ride, as it runs up the side of an escarpment, featured some spectacularly poor road surfaces, so do take care.
Moving onwards from Muong Lay, the road up to Sinh Ho (DT128) is an absolute cracker for views, though is very prone to landslides in wet season. The first third of the ride offered absolutely spectacular views and we’d say even if you were not planning on overnighting in Sinh Ho it is worth taking this route for the views during the ride (or drive).
Both of the above side-trips are well covered in this piece on Vietnam Coracle.
In Muong Lay proper, with some persistence you might be able to get a local to take you out on the reservoir for a sunset boat trip. That said, when we visited in September, the waters were so low you could walk across much of the base.
You could also use here as a base to visit Sinh Ho, but we’d recommend overnighting or making it a stop on the way to Lai Chau.
Come late afternoon, there are a couple of sunset view points along the eastern side of the dam. If you have your own wheels, there is a good spot roughly half way between the Truc An Hotel and the northern bridge.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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