Welcome to Week Four of The IndoChina Expedition
Stuck at the Vietnam to Laos border - that is what we are right now as I write this journal chapter of our 4th week on the road. In other words, finally some time to edit pictures and write a little story for all of you. This week has been incredibly rich in experiences. How about a bear attack, mud up to our knees, incredible nature and colorful Hill Tribe people. I am sure Chris will write a story about his encounter with a Malay Sun Bear that gave him a cut next to his eye, and 3 stitches at a local clinic. It all happened in the Northwestern part of Vietnam, Dien Bien Phu, only 35 kilometers from the Laotian border. This was also where we had a terrible time finding a usable track out of town. Heavy rain had made road construction in to a long muddy road that we did pretty well with, but once again, it was our chase vehicle that had problems climbing the muddy hills. Despite all the hardship and trauma that day, we had a lot of fun and felt that we lived up to the "Expedition" part of this journey.
We had been told that it would be cold when we came to Sapa. I could hardly wait. But it was a long day's ride from Hanoi and it was only in the last 25 kilometers before town that we finally started to climb up the mountain. With the altitude, the temperature went down enough to feel a great relief from the previous hot and humid days. Our two night's stay in Sapa was a complete change in phase from the earlier days of this journey. Not much was going on in the town of Sapa, and visiting the different Hill Tribe people the following day was very relaxing and fun. Well, it did rain most of the day, but that is just what it does in this part of the world.
After leaving Hanoi, traveling north, we rode trough different Hill Tribe villages. They are all different in the distinctive clothing that the people wear. In Sapa, we learned how good the locals are at selling stuff to us tourists. We had a lot of fun with this and at the end of the day we had some souvenirs that we really did not need, but Christmas will be here soon enough and these will be great gifts for, friends and family.
Usually, I am pretty good at fending off salespeople, and tend to loose interest if they are really aggressive. Well, there are exemptions to all rules. . . . .
We had been on the road for a good part of the day when we saw some colorfully dressed women walking along the road ahead. As soon as we were discovered, all tree of them turned and started to motion that we should stop. Chris was behind me, so I was attacked first. It did not take long before one of the girls had helped me off with my helmet, then placed a colorful hat on my head, and tossed a jacket over my back. It was all so funny that I just went with the flow of the event. She talked up a storm in her own language, one that sounded very different from everything that I had heard earlier. I could understand that she was repeating something over and over again. Then her fingers went up in the air, indicating that a price was to be established for the clothing that she had put on me. As soon as I looked at her fingers, my mistake, indicating that I was interested, she went from 3 fingers to 5 fingers, which I assumed to be 50,000 Dong ($3.00 US). As her fingers were right up in my face, I took her thumb and bent it down - very little resistance for this move. She is talking up a storm as all of this is happening. Next I start to bend down one more finger and feel a greater resistance, but not impossible. I am down to 30,000 Dong ($2.00 US). She has now picked her voice up to a high-pitched, almost screaming chant ,as I make an attempt to bend down one more finger, but this one is stiff as a stick, and I realize that the bargaining is over.
I have not had so much fun in a long time. She got her money, we had fun and as we are riding away she comes running after us waiving something in the air. I stop to see what she got, and once again, there she is, trying to sell me some earrings. Time to hit the gas and wave a final goodbye.
As our fourth week and final day here in Vietnam comes to a close, I am sad to go, but at the same time, happy to know that I will be back next year. We have met so many nice people and seen so many incredible sights, so much that it is almost a little overwhelming to be able to take it all in.
If you are planning to travel with us next year on the GlobeRiders IndoChina Expedition 2008, you are in for a real treat here in Vietnam. Please do not get scared by the muddy pictures that you see in this week’s gallery. We will be taking a different route next year, where other adventures will be waiting.
Thanks for tuning in and we will see you soon with more material from the road in IndoChina.