The route: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/177549702 (v.v.hilly – but a good road and great views)
Although only 60km in length, we’d eschewed the easier valley road in favour of this tough ride in a tough part of Vietnam, in the hope of ogling the Sunday market at Sin Ho. Any question as to the poverty of the region raised by the gleaming buildings of Lai Chau was quickly dispelled as we turned off the highway onto a minor road that wound up and up into the mountains of the southwest. The road itself, although well surfaced, was never straight, or indeed flat, for more than 50metres, and teased us with endless false summits. Please note, dear reader, we climbed nearly 2800m on a bike that weighs 100kg to bring you these mediocre photos (and forgive the average speed of 10kmh)!
The hard climbing was rewarded right from the start with fantastic views of the valley below. We cycled past a clay pigeon shoot, past very poor untidy hamlets and on through bona fide and neater minority villages. In between the two main passes of the day, a humble little junction restaurant provided a timely refuelling stop. Although off grid, the proprieters were clearly animal lovers – a brace of birds in cages, three cats, a dog, a monkey in an admirably spacious cage and a toddler were all provided for diners’ entertainment.
Although only a small town, Sin Ho, seated on a 1500m plateau, felt positively buzzing after the remote ride. The Lonely Planet claims only one (expensive) hotel welcomes Westerners, but we found two much cheaper options, one of which boasted a balcony and wifi for $12; the bible does not always speak the truth! The gods provided the night’s entertainment, with a spectacular electric storm – the lightning was so bright and frequent we could read by it.