Lao Cai is squeezed right next to the Vietnam–China border. Razed in the Chinese invasion of 1979, most of the buildings here are modern. The border crossing slammed shut during the 1979 war and only reopened in 1993. Now it’s a bustling spot fuelled by growing cross-border trade.
For travellers, Lao Cai is the jumping-off point when journeying between Hanoi and Sapa by train, and a stop-off when heading further north to Kunming in China. With Sapa just a 30-minute hop away, it's no place to linger, but it offers everything China-bound travellers will need for an overnight stay.