Than Uyen Things to Do
Not far from Than Uyen, on the road to Tam Duong, are the beginnings of the Vietnamese tea plantations of the north. Main varieties of tea in this area are of the aromatic type. Vietnam exports between 75 and 80 % of its production, mainly to China for green tea and Russia for the black variety. The pickers we came across were Black Thai women as were the kids that came along to say hallo.
Finding lots of women walking around with large baskets of grain we followed them and found the local mill. Just an ordinary grinding machine but there being electricity, helped saved the women a lot of work. We did notice that there was a lot of "entre-aide", meaning that the women helped each other out climbing the ladder to tip the basket even though their own flour was ready.
The main ethnic minority around Than Uyen is White Thai, who are just as welcoming here as in the villages closer to Son La.
Than Uyen Warnings and Dangers
Between Son La and Than Uyen we came across the worst road I think I've ever been on. The problem is that Vietnam is pushing on and industrialising itself, but doesn't have the material means yet to do so. At the moment they are building a new dam on the Da river, on the N279 but with all the road traffic during the wet season, for over 60 kms the road either slipped into the ravine or just broke up and died. Now they are rebuilding it, but are painfully short of earthmoving machinery to do so in the time allotted, so things break down making the situation worse. And it's already not easy up in the hills. It did give us time however to meet people while we were waiting.
Might be quicker to take the longer road and not have your back broken along these dirt tracks.
The first photo shows a driver with his broken down 'dozer. We actually gave him a lift to Than Uyen to pick up a bus, as he was off home while waiting for his engine to be repaired.