on the road to Lao Cai

Published: December 6, 2005
Updated: December 6, 2005

I have run out of words to describe the beauty of the country that we have been passing through over the last 5 days, in fact the seemingly endless breathtaking scenery is almost making me blaise about what my eyes are registering. I’m not quite sure what I expected to see on this trip but I was not prepared for what I am experiencing. Let me just say that words cannot describe it accurately and the images I have been taking will not do it justice.

So far the old Russian Minsk motorbike has been behaving faultlessly except for one hiccup with a dose of badly mixed fuel which nearly stopped Loic & Mimi’s bike in it’s tracks. It caused us to delay our trip over the extremely high pass into Mai Chau until after dark which was scary to say the least. However since then and after cleaning out the fuel filter both bikes have run well and I have been having a ball with the responsive little 125cc 2 stroke motor over these twisting and turning mountain roads.

What has been good so far? The mountains, the endless change of scenery as we enter yet another high valley, the swift running streams, high narrow bridges, paddy fields terraced up slopes to impossible heights. The ever smiling friendly mountain people, the children, the piglets, chickens, dogs, goats, buffaloes, and other assorted animalia that we encounter at every turn. The food has just been sensational. We eat local food and it is delicious, I cannot get enough of it. (No chicken or eggs right now of course). The road, the signage, the bikes, the company, the accommodation all is good.

Sunday night we stayed in a small very ethnic town called Tuan Giao and visited a small cafe where we ate rice and locally prepared tofu washed down with Bia Hanoi and watched the final of the football from the SeaGames between Viet Nam and Thailand. Mimi was so upset when VN lost 3-0, the atmosphere in the cafe was “interesting” and I got a couple of good images I think.

Right now we are resting for the day in Dien Bien Phu which is about 30 klms from the border with Laos. It has been raining and is very cold but we have been blessed with great weather for all of the trip and can only hope that we can ride the motorbikes out of this foul weather. Dien Bien Phu is the site of the final battle between the Viet Minh and the French forces which ended the French involvement in Indochina. Fascinating to contemplate this battle while standing on Elliane Hill which was tunneled under and blown up surprising the French. Web site here

We lost Terry for a while but caught up with him in the middle of nowhere and spent a night together last night but he waited for a break in the weather to head back towards ha noi about 11am. We are hoping that the rain hasn’t been too widespread as there is a section of the road which is unmade on a very steep and tricky high mountain pass and we figure it will will impossible to get through on a bike if it is wet.

I have never seen countryside like this before, I never imagined it would be so beautiful or the people so endearing. These mountain people lead such hard spartan lives and yet their smiles are so quick to come and we have been invited into so many of their houses for no other reason than they are just so hospitable. Their clothing is so colourful and varied and I cannot remember how many different type of costumes we have seen so far but mainly we have been encountering either Tai or Black Hmong people we think.

I have so many things to remember and so much to write about this place but it will have to wait until I am back in HCMC and have time to collect my thoughts. The amount of input has been too great. The learning curve for Mimi is astonishing and she is going through phases of being unsure of what it is she is feeling, but is enjoying the experience immensely. Loic is sitting next to me right now reading a Web site about the battle at Dien Bien Phu and being French is finding this an emotional experience.

All in all this is more than just a trip by motorbike, it is very much an epiphany.

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