Lai Chau city is the capital of Lai Chau Province, located in the far north-western corner of Vietnam - bordering China.
The province was once a semi-autonomous called Sipsongchuthai, ruled by the White Tai minority people, but was absorbed into French Indochina in the 1880s and officially became a part of Vietnam in 1954.
Lai Chau city was originally named Tam Duong, but was rechristened when the "old" Lai Chau (now named Muong Lay) was flooded to make way for a reservoir. Today's Lai Chau consists of two distinct areas: the old town and the new town, separated by a three-kilometre stretch.
Lai Chau is generally only included in itineraries as a useful stopping point between other, more enticing destinations in the far north. The surrounding mountainous scenery is beautiful, but the town contains little to merit a longer visit!