We slept in this morning knowing that the time back to Hanoi would only be five hours on the road. We ate a lazy breakfast and began packing when a big group of Hanoian students converged on our little guesthouse of serenity. They had booked to have lunch here.
There is nothing worse than a group of Vietnamese in any form to scare me away. (I’ll tell you more about this at another time.) So before we knew it we were on our bikes riding out of Mai Châu valley, back onto highway 6 towards Hanoi.
It was another sunny and warm day. The road wound its way down south out of the mountains before heading east. And just as it began to head east I noticed familiar roads. I had ridden these very same roads, in reverse direction, last fall when going down to Cúc Phương National Park. And just as I remembered it the scenery was again beautiful-nice country roads void of cars, twisting and turning over streams and thru rice fields.
Another crop grown in these parts is sugar cane. This variety is dark brown in color with bright green headdresses for tops. Of course when we stopped to get something to drink and the shop owner said the he didn’t have any “nước mía đá”, iced sugar cane juice, we moved on. He was nice enough though to tell us that there were a few places up the road that sells these…..
….the best ever nước mía đá!
I think we each had two glasses. I’m sure the sugar cane came from the backyard or the neighbor’s yard. I wished that all sugar cane juice was this good.
As it so often happens in Vietnam, the young girl who greeted us stumbled with the cane press and called for help. Then from across the street came scampering an older woman ready to take charge.
This woman also told us we were right in asking for lime and that she would be right back with some, for she had forgotten to get them earlier at the local market. “Don’t you think this is the best mía đá?” She said, as she trotted away again.
So, there we were about 60 km’s from Hanoi enjoying refreshing drinks and savoring our last little bit of the tour.
This was the very last day of the trip. We were looking forward to getting back to our home in Hanoi but knew that after some time we’d be wishing for the road again. Such is the case with traveling, whether it be by plane, train, automobile or in this case motorbikes.
Another thing that travel conjures up are these scenes of indescribable beauty.
On my computer screen are a small handful of pictures that I couldn’t find places for within the prior postings. And it is because they are each so unique as to require their own stories or so unique as to leave a lasting impression.
Have a look.
“Oh my God. Here’s that pig with the largest balls!” Cried Kay when we drove off from Phố Rang to Lào Cai. “I have to take a picture of it.”
“Honey. I think we have to dispose of your melon.” I said when fruit flies began gathering around our unofficial mascot in our hotel room in Sa Pa. Mandy had purchased this somewhere near Ba Bể . And in its travels all the way here, it survived rain, fog and a very scary skirmish with the pavement while riding along with Kay. Like Kay it too suffered a few scrapes and bruises.
This is another picture of our mascot, here complicit with Charlies’ H’Mong Angels.
“Uh, Luke. Can you give me shove?” Need I say more?
If I had a MyFace account, this would be my profile picture. This was taken by Daria a person who would seem-from other pictures she has taken of me, to be my personal photographer.
Another great photographer on this trip is Kristi. Riding on the back of Luke…..ah hum…she was free to snap away and was able to capture some great images. This one is a gem.
See what I mean by indescribable?
Just like this trip has been indescribable, although I’ve worked hard at expressing as much as I can remember. Still, there was just too much to recount and ideas and concepts that were to hard to put down into words.
To get a real sense of Northern Vietnam-your own real sense of Northern Vietnam, you’ll have to take the tour yourselves. Feel the road underneath your wheels. Eat the local food. And chat with the local people.
*Photographs courtesy of Kay Okamoto, Daria Hagemann and Kristi Cruz.