Sorry. We’ve decided to rent motorbikes and explore the Vietnamese countryside. It all started with a 6 hour bus ride from Hanoi, Vietnam. Winding our way through the mountainous terrain, the bus driver spent most of his time in the wrong lane. He beeped and flashed his high beams incessantly. Most of his focus seemed to be occupied by his Vietnamese Idol show or one of his two cell phones. At one point he had both phones…I’ll just skip the details, you get the idea. We made really good time though, beating Google’s predicted duration by 30 minutes even with a half hour dinner stop. Cheryl, Happy Birthday. We realize this likely isn’t the gift you were hoping for. The timing is totally coincidental.
Ha Giang is in northern rural Vietnam and has become a haven for motorcycle enthusiasts brave enough to travel its roads. The roads range from rough to treacherous. The landscape in this region is breathtakingly beautiful as you will see from the photos. Jagged cliff faces, rolling hills, steep mountains, lush jungle foliage, and fantastic views. We rented small (110cc) but adequate motorbikes. Leaving Ha Giang in our dust we made our way through the villages and hamlets that make up this region. It seemed our bus driver was not unique in his driving style. The local buses here are like battering rams that plow their way through everything. They have a specific honks, sounding similar to a turkey gobble. Their appearance is weathered, ragged, and worn. Often large portions of them are held together with cardboard and clear tape. When you hear that distant gobble, you find a shoulder to hide on until they pass.
As we ascended into this province, the temperature dropped and the air became clean and crisp. Wood stoves are used for heating here and the smoke leaves a nice smell. Everywhere you look are rice paddies with ducks, yaks and attentive farmers with a bamboo hats. Rivers snake through the jungle and trickle freshwater into the green fields. It looks like something out of a storybook.
After arriving in the town of Quan Ba we began looking for accommodation. When you get this rural the selection is limited; most towns will only offer home stays (a local family’s house). A home stay it is! We navigated a dirt path for 4km and finally reached our resting place. The home is situated at the end of a long, curvy driveway. It has large columns with a concrete foundation and is painted yellow. We are greeted by an elderly lady and what appears to be her grandson. They’re both dressed in traditional garb and the youngster is sporting a elaborately embroidered hat. Using Google translate (something we have relied heavily on) we managed to discuss the pricing and the boy’s mother shows us to our private room. The room is inside a mud hut which is situated at the top of a valley. The view is fantastic and is really a snapshot of all that is great with this place.
We are asked to join the family for dinner (for a small fee). We readily agree. Dinner consists of the whole gang – from grandma to baby – and the duck from the rice paddy. We gather around the table and begin with a cheers (sounds like “juicy quay” – Google says it means good health – we’ll take that). And then there are more “juicy quays”. And then more. We chase the rice liquor with spring rolls but they keep coming. We’re too Canadian to refuse the drinks so intoxication is our only option. For dessert we are served steamed peanuts and bananas. Greasy and full of peanuts and liquor we waddle back to our mud hut. It’s been a good day.