Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Pha Din (Son La to Tuan Giao)

Wed 4/12/13, approximately 80km

It was with a certain degree of wariness I set out today, my legs still ached and I felt like I could have done with another rest day. However, I need to be in Dien Bien Phu to pick up my computer by tomorrow (air lifting supplies into Dien Bien Phu, what could possibly go wrong?*) so I had a cup of MTFU for breakfast, which tasted a lot Vietnamese coffee funnily enough. So Pha Din it was, where Heaven meets Earth.

On the road for 8 and away! According to my map there was a pass almost straight out of Son La but it didn't prove to be too bad, maybe 300 or 400m of climb followed by a nice descent. In fact, I made good time for the first 50 km, reaching it by around 11AM. Stopped for a cup of insanely strong coffee (tasted a lot like MTFU) at that point and soon after the mountain climb started...

My map indicated there were two passes a few kilometres apart and it proved to be correct. The first wasn't really a problem and again with a nice clean descent. The second, Pha Din itself was a bit more gruelling. Difficult to be precise without my computer, but maybe 10km of continual 8 to 10% climb. Towards the end I actually had to take a five minute break, I was beginning to get a bit tired. When I reached the summit there was then about a kilometre of height to drop... Woo-hoo, albeit with copious stops for photos...The days cycling has been intensely beautiful, big valleys, soaring mountains, switchback roads. Wow (once again).

Hit town around 2.30PM and found a place to stay (the Tuan Giao Hotel opposite the post office, 200000 dong, seems good enough for me, hot showers). As I'd missed lunch, having fuelled myself with bananas and peanut brittle for the mountains, I went out and found a place with a menu in English (!), and stuffed myself with tofu in tomato, water spinach, rice and beer (70000 dong). Later found a place the Hong Ky Tourist Hotel and Cafe (further up the road to Muong Lay) which seems a bit sprucer) but their restaurant prices are  bit steep so not sure what the rooms will set you back.

* Joke for all you military historians out there

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