Markets And Mud
Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
144Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Sao Mai Hotel
Our first stop was a small village, Can Cau, that was hosting their weekly market. We weren't the only tourists here (we kept tripping over some sort of camera club trio that must of had a bylaw requiring them to take many photos of the exact same subject- as well as one that required that they never smile nor thank their subjects), but the market was meant for the locals and we tried to observe without interfering
Bac Ha was the kind of town we were hoping for in the north of Vietnam, somewhat rustic and lived-in, but that meant that our accommodation was going to be a little more basic (who would put an opening in the shower wall that successfully vented any steam into the hallway but also ensured that you were able to converse with any neighbours walking by??). After settling in we put our bikes to use in order to explore the surrounding areas.The bikes were a step above the basket buggies we were using in Laos but they had obviously been ridden hard and maintained poorly- DH found herself limited to one gear (which became a problem on the uphills) and my chain exploded (which became a problem on all hills)
Our New Years Eve was a tame affair (although some festivities were on display in the larger Vietnamese centres, the big party for Vietnam is the Tet Lunar New Year which takes place later this month), but our guide helped bridge the cultural divide with a bottle of "happy water" that looked to have been the end result of a moonshine corn-whiskey brewing process that we had seen earlier on our bike ride through the villages. Given the throat burning effects of this hooch, drinking for two is becoming more of a challenge than expected (any empty shot glass was immediately refilled). Our hotel had also arranged for a 'light show' which was an outdoor series of dances by local women, and despite not consuming any of the "happy water", DH had some sort of high-school dance flashback and jumped up to join in. Based largely on her self-styled 'Electric Boogaloo' she wasn't out of place with her dancing but she did tower above her much smaller dance partners- sort of a Gulliver's Travels sequel. Despite all of the drink and dance we didn't see midnight as we looked to rest up for an even longer day of bike riding.
To start our New Years Day, we spent a couple of hours touring the Bac Ha market
After finishing up with the market we eased our way back onto the bikes (which had all been resuscitated through some sort of overnight maintenance program) for our 90km ride back to Lo Cai. The backsides were a little sore but the spirits were high and we headed downhill and it was quite a downhill. I don't think we let up on the brakes for the first 25kms and just to add to the fun, it started to rain and we were soon soaked and covered in mud (dirt bikers pay good money to look like that but with our limited wardrobe, we were wondering how we would get on the train at the end of this ride). The rest of the ride was rolling hills, and once the rain stopped we were able to dry out- despite the uncooperative weather it was a great way to see the countryside and we had the local kids cheering us on the whole way. A quick stop at the Chinese border (is there any better example of free enterprise than a shoe cleaning guy who would give you a loaner pair of slippers to tour the border area while he got the mud off?), and we were ready for the overnight train back to Hanoi. Suitably exhausted, we thought we would sleep but on this trip we were paired up with a couple of enthusiastic snorers.