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Lao Cai is right on the Vietnam–China border. The town was razed in the Chinese invasion of 1979, so most of the buildings are new. The border crossing here slammed shut during the 1979 war and only reopened in 1993. Now it’s a bustling spot fuelled by growing cross-border trade.
Today Lao Cai is also a destination for travellers journeying between Hanoi and Sapa, or further north to Kunming in China. With Sapa just an hour or so away, Lao Cai is no place to linger, but it offers everything China-bound travellers will need for an overnight stay.