Chance encounters

It was just another day in Hanoi. We were waiting for the Ho Chi Minh museum to open. WARNING to all visitors: the museum is weird. More Vietnamese modern art than museum. I don’t mind telling you… We didn’t get it!

We were sitting in a cafe, whiling away the 2+ hours we were due to wait for the museum to repen when a ‘ginger head’ I-knew-I-knew bobbed past the window. Our eyes met and I abandoned Joyce to walk outside and greet this recognisable stranger. I didn’t know the name and couldn’t remember where we had met but we both obviously knew each other…

… We had met at the farmstay and chatted briefly… Mostly about how awesome Paradise cave was and that was it. Little did we know at this point that this chance encounter, this random roll of the travelling dice, would result in the start of an epic adventure!

So it was that we sat down to a cup of tea with Neil and Annabelle (Hi Guys!) to quickly find out they were heading north on a motorbike adventure… Joyce and I had spent the last few days in Hanoi trying to organise the same but had decided against it due to prohibitive cost and lack of other travellers wanting to head that way. Problems solved.

And so, at least now knowing names and a little more besides, we embarked on a long, loud and bumpy bus journey. Us four Brits being cajolled into the back of the bus for fitless sleep but a raucous time… Disturbing most of the other Vietnamese travellers. We were eventually joined by a very loud snoring Vietnamese, who thought he could play big spoon for everyone… That quickly shut us all up!

What ensued in our arrival north – in Ha Giang – was an epic adventure and certainly one of our highlights, not just of Vietnam, but the whole trip. We were to cover nearly 500 km in four days, trek through and above endless valleys and meet incredibly gracious and genuine people, including our guide, Johnny.

Ha Giang has barely been touched by the long arm of tourism (and given this blog’s readership it wont change too drastically, too soon at least! ;). In most of Vietnam it is hard to get off the beaten track, even Phong Nha is changing quickly. But in Ha Giang the story is different.
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The trip was stunning in its simplicity. Ride our ‘Hogs’ – for hours each day – stopping when and where we want and be speechless, near breathless, with each turn into a new valley. Cresting each hill/ mountain convinced it couldn’t be any better than the last and then ‘POW’. Epic.
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We made it to the Chinese border and gazed across into Yunnan at the still unending, undulating landscape.
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We rode. We swam in refreshing rapids. We trekked. We sweated. We wandered through native villages.
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We rode some more. We got sunburned. We gawped at the wonders of a truly traditional, non-touristy Sunday market.
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You guessed it… We rode some more. We waved and smiled at all the kids. We gave out many biscuits to boys, girls and the odd lucky adult!
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We rode yet more. We drank beer. We drank lots of rice and corn wine. We rode like the wind to outrun a storm. We took pictures… oh so many pictures. And we talked… too much some times… our guide interrupting with, ‘okay, ready, lets go’.
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We rode even more. We laughed. But didn’t cry. Until we had to leave. Nah, only kidding, there were no tears but a sad farewell – to the people and the place – that came too soon.
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It was an incredible journey. An incredible adventure. With incredible people (thanks again for letting us join guys).
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So after handing back the keys to ‘Hammer’ (that’s right, I retrospectively named my bike!) it was back onto four wheels and off to Sapa, just the two of us again.

Until the next time. Adios.
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It was seriously hard choosing the photos for this post. If you want to see more click here.

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