So we thought yesterday was awesome… Well today couldn’t even compare to yesterday!!! Here’s how it went…
We both had a pretty rough sleep as the beds in the guesthouse were rock hard and the hall light flooded the bedroom so it felt like it was daytime all night. My neck was a bit sore from yesterday’s fall so we walked to the drug store and surprisingly found it was open (at 7:20am) however the pharmacist was actually in bed which was next to the cabinets of drugs. Most shops are usually also the owner’s home too so it wasn’t too surprising. She gave me some tiger balm patches which worked a treat!
Our diet for the past 3 weeks has been Pho for breakfast, Pho for lunch (if we have lunch, we usually skip it) and Pho for dinner, with chocco pies in between (choc and marshmallow little cookie). We both thought we’d be over Pho by now but it keeps us coming back for more noodle soup goodness! It’s especially yummy after a long day, it picks us right up after that exhaustion!
So today after the drugstore, what did we have for breakfast? Yes, Pho! Pho Ga, to be exact (chicken noodle soup). Random observation – I’ve noticed that the further north we get, the more chicken skin gets put into the dish and less meat.
After packing our bags and getting organised for the day, we checked out of the guesthouse and picked up our permits. Permits are required for foreigners to travel around the north of Vietnam. Not sure if it’s related to the area being UNESCO listed.
Before making our way to Meo Vac which is where we would be spending the night, we travelled to the northern most part of Vietnam which is where the Lung Cu Community live. The views were amazing from the top of the tower and made you appreciate how clever and courageous these native people are. Pretty much all parts of the mountains are carved up and sowed to become productive. The mountains are like a brown and green patchwork quilt. Each different section and colour holds a different purpose. The children are unbelievably resilient. We saw a tiny girl who was honestly probably three years old weeding the land, 5 and 6 year olds herding goats and cows, and girls that looked around 12 carrying massive bundles of plants on their back. This is all the while on the side of a mountain! One thing’s for sure, they have great balance!
We made our way back down to the main town which had one eating place (no one was in it). We asked for our usual order but we were met with a no! I heard the man say com, which is rice and asked for some chicken too. Chicken and rice, pretty standard. We didn’t know it yet but we were in for a treat. While we were waiting for our meal I heard some pretty loud chopping noises and I was thinking hmm that’s a little strange as chicken meat isn’t that tough to cut. Out comes the rice, yep standard boiled rice. A plate of greens comes out too which is good as we haven’t been eating that many veggies. Then comes the main dish of the meal, the chicken. Literally a whole chicken, like the whole body of it, bones and all, cut into pieces. First thing Kel noticed was the chicken feet! I noticed some kind of organ first and thought well the pressure is on, considering we were the only customers and they were watching us eat!! There really wasn’t much meat on this chicken at all which made me think it was either a really skinny chicken or that it was sick. Both didn’t help with my appetite even though I was starving. Kel managed to eat a bit more chicken because he didn’t want it to come across as rude for not eating it and I filled up on the rice and greens.
It seems crazy to me that in Australia we mainly just eat chicken breast, thighs and legs and that they’re bred purely for those parts. And here in Vietnam, they would think how silly and picky we were to just eat those parts!
After finishing what we could, we spoke to the owner, Dung (pronounced doong), his friend who was also called Dung and his wife. They were very sweet and they showed us picture of their family and we did too. It’s funny how much you can actually have a conversation without knowing the language. We explained our motorbike journey and travel adventure around the world. After asking us to become facebook friends, we all took a picture together. Both Dung’s couldn’t get over how tall we were compared to them. We thanked them for their hospitality and took off for what would be an amazing 20 km drive.
The road from Dong Van to Meo Vac is truly magical. Breathtaking. Unbelievable. Both of us talked about how strange this scenery was as we never pictured Vietnam to be like this. Huge green mountains with the roads hugging the curves and edges. Villages and houses high up amongst the side of the mountains. Tropical blue rivers flowing below. It was impossible to make the 20 km journey without stopping every minute. The sun was starting to go down and Kel said ‘ Ok let’s try to just keep on going to the next town so we can find somewhere to stay’. No more than 20 seconds down the road he’s stopped, admiring the views. We pulled over to get off our bikes, went to the edge and just admired the serenity and silence. We both felt truly fortunate to witness what we were seeing.
I love the traditional dress of the people up here. Men wear a black beret with a black shirt with chiese-style buttons down the front and black pants. Women wear a colourful head scarf, colourful (and sometimes sequinned) cardigan, with skirts and pants underneath. I saw a woman with a bright yellow sequinned top who was weeding right at the top of a mountain, and she was wearing heels! – it was an incredible sight!
The best part of the day, for me at least, was climbing over the road barrier and onto these rocks jutting from the mountain edge. The mountains, the river, the air, the villages, there was so much to take in. I felt like I was standing on the edge of the world. It was exhilarating!!!! I stood their appreciative that Kel and I could make it to a place like this. Especially to a place like this which is not well known. No doubt in 10 years, everyone will be doing that same bike trip. I had read online of a few people doing this route and saying it was the best motorbike ride they have ever done and I thought that was a pretty big call so my expectations were quite high. Upon seeing and experiencing it for myself, it surpassed my expectations.
We did make it to Meo Vac and managed to find a guest house just before dark. After checking in and putting our belongings in the room, we made a dash for dinner. You guessed it, Pho! It was delicious. Back to the room to rest and recharge before a big day tomorrow. We will head back to Ha Giang which is around 160 km away.
We woke up early and got a quick start on our journey as we knew it was a long road ahead and we wanted to make it back to have a rest in Ha Giang as we have been moving around quite a lot. The last 80 km was our first km’s from our first day, so we sped through, trying not to stop and take pictures as we had done the other day. Today was beautiful though. Hot and sunny weather, a lovely breeze and there wasn’t too much traffic on the road! Always a plus when you’re turning the corner on the edge of a mountain with no room if a truck did come past (by the way this did happen many times haha). Part of the adventure!
I saw quite a few animals getting transported today on motorbikes. Piglets crammed into wire cages who must have been taking a little nap… Saw three young boys probably about 10 years old, each holding a dead chicken like they were holding a football.
After stopping for snack breaks twice, we arrived in Ha Giang after 5 hours! Pretty good run! We passed some fellow travellers at the petrol station who were about to embark on the northern loop. We let them know they were in for a treat!
Time to recharge the batteries (both figuratively and literally – our camera haha) before a bus to Hanoi tomorrow morning where we will get a sleeper bus to the next country on our list – Laos!
Ps thanks for everyone’s support on the blog! We love reading your comments and it’s nice knowing a few people read it and join in on our adventure!