Stuck inside of Lai Chau with the Dien Bien Phu Blues again (09 oct 15)
The next stop after Sa Pa was Lai Châu. It's a 500m ascent to the highest pass in SE Asia, then over an hour downhill through beautiful jungles, mountains and cliffs, then a slow uphill to Lai Châu, which is a boring new city with wide boulevards and big socialist-style buildings. I found a hotel at the east end of the city, then the east market, which wasn't very friendly, but had some pork skewers and spinach soup. The following morning it was pouring, so I delayed leaving, and by the time it stopped, I decided there wouldn't be enough time to do the 100 Km to Mường Lay. It was also raining the next morning, so I decided to get the bus to Dien Bien Phu. I couldn't find the bus station, and everything got absolutely soaked. So I found another hotel, a better and cheaper one ($7) at the west end of town. It's easy to find good food (rice, tofu, green beans and what I can only describe as "candied pork rinds") in the west market, and beer.
Having checked the weather forecast, I've decided to stay for another day or two 'til it gets better, then ride to Mường Lay. I really need the exercise - I've only had one full day of cycling in a week. Then it's one more day to Dien Bien Phu.
I've been given at least five different directions to the bus station - two from Google maps, and three from individuals. None of them are true. Normally, a bus station is a major hub which everyone knows. Maybe people here don't neeed buses because they never go anywhere else. I don't know why. There are a lot more interesting places nearby.
I just spent my third night in Lai Châu. It has been raining continuously for over 24 hours. Because of lack of exercise, I've resorted to Valium to help me sleep. It's available over the counter in Vietnam. And the local fruit wine - I don't know which fruit it's made of, but it's tasty.
Luckily, at the west end of town, there's plenty of good Vietnamese food as well as luxuries like pseudo-French bread and La Vache Qui Rit, which, as Wikipedia points out, is a brand of French processed cheese. However, as it also says "This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed." So don't bet your life on the Wikipedia page about this cheese.
Another good thing about this hotel at the west end of town is it's in a side street, so it's not noisy, by Vietnamese standards. It's called nhà nghỉ Đoàn Kết, and it's in phố chiêu tấn.
The weather forecast says it won't rain as much tomorrow. I'll try again to find the bus station first thing in the morning, but if it really stops raining, I'll start to ride toward Mường Lay.