Showing posts from July, 2014

Not what I wanted, but what I needed.

It started off as a rough day.  I was running behind schedule and I had not planned out my route.  From Nghia Lo I started down the road and made my way south.  I ended up in the town of Yen Bai.  At this point I realized that I was lost.  I had traveled about 40 km or 25 miles in the wrong direction. On this rough and winding road 40 km took one and a half hours of riding.  I would have to backtrack. One and a half hours in the wrong direction, one and a half hours to backtrack.  That meant that I had wasted three hours of precious daylight.  It was the middle of the day and the sun was draining my resolve.  I was extremely upset with myself.  I was physically tired.  I was mentally exhausted. And for some reason I was very sleepy too. 
I eventually made my way back one and a half hours to where I needed to be in the town of Van Chan. How had I missed this intersection? 
As I was passing through the town I noticed a bicycle shop.  I thought to myself that I should stop and purchase a b…

Northern Vietnam... Sa Pa to Ngai Lo

After spending a few days in Sa Pa I decided that it was time to start heading South. Since I did not speak the language in Vietnam I used a method that I devised while riding in South America. I would look up the name of a destination that I wanted to visit and then write on a piece of paper the destination and all the little towns in between my current location and my destination. Mostly it would be the names of the towns that fall on crossroads. This way, if I were to ever get lost and were to need to ask for directions I could simply point to the next town on the list and generally a person would know how to provide me directions by pointing. If I were to ask for directions to my final destination, the directions could get too complicated. But one town at a time always seemed to work just fine. The list above was a simple example of this technique and just happened to be the route that I chose to follow on this particular day.  As I headed south, I passed by some amazing scenery.…

Northern Vietnam... Sa Pa

I traveled to the town of Sa Pa. Everyone said that I had to visit Sa Pa, both the locals and the travelers. In the middle of Sa Pa there is a little lake.  And also this Catholic church. It was the first church that I has seen in quite a while. Across from the church was an open park where a football match was being played. 
Check out the video. Around the corner the local version of hackysack was being played by the tuk tuk drivers.  I walked around the town and found this staircase. I did not know where it would lead but I decided to climb it. It led to nowhere in particular, but sometimes I just go where I feel led.  Later, and I found the market. I picked up some bananas to eat for a snack and for breakfast. I didn't pick up these dried goods, but they looked interesting... some ginger and nuts.  In another part of the market there were some restaurants that specialized in grilled or barbecued items. You select the items that you want, then the restaurant g…

Northern Vietnam... Dong Van to Sa Pa

Dong Van is at the very most northern part of Vietnam. From Dong Van there was no other direction to go other than South. Venturing North would mean crossing the border into China.  So I headed South through the countryside. The villages that I passed through consisted mostly of stilt houses constructed of wood.  When I was stopped on the side of the road taking photos this cart being pulled by a cow passed by. Inside... a man and a bunch of kids enjoying the ride.  Along my route I passed by village after village where people were drying thin sheets of wood. The only thing that I could think that this material would be used for would be vaneer finishes.  Some people simply dried the wood along the road and others stacked their wood in racks.  For the first few hours I followed a road that paralleled a river.
I came across these kids playing in a metal cart. I believe that their parents were nearby working in the field.
But these kids were having a great time simply playing with each …

Northern Vietnam... Ha Giang to Dong Van

I woke up later than I wanted to, perhaps I was tired from the long ride from the previous day. I picked up some bread from the little bakery and headed down the road. 
My objective for the day was to reach the town of Dong Van which is the northernmost town in Vietnam and a place where there is a colorful market on Sunday that is attended by many of the various hill tribe people. It is not well known by the backpacker crowd, and I actually discovered that it is not known by many Vietnamese. But my Vietnamese friends in Hanoi told me about it and encouraged me to try to visit it. 
I encountered a million shades of green.  I passed over a muddy river. There was farmland all around.
Away from the city I passed by village after village. The houses were no longer made of brick, but were made of wood and bamboo and elevated on stilts.  Rice fields as far as the my eyes could see. Some were deeply seeded and lushly green. Some were newly planted in orderly rows.  When riding around the corn…