11th April, 2011 – SAPA, VIETNAM

The overnight train from Hanoi pulled in to Lao Cai about three hours late this morning, after some engine trouble last night.  After a hearty but greasy breakfast of bacon and eggs we set off on the mountain bikes that would be our transport for the next two days.  At first, riding down the steep, winding roads with motorbikes zooming by and large patches of slippery buffalo dung to contend with was quite scary, but regular stops to take in the spectacular views helped.  Terraced rice fields glittered in the morning light before being obscured by fast moving mist that left me time and again simply staring at white.


Off the main road, the path got rocky and very slippery.  I had to get off and walk a few times or I wouldn’t have remained upright.  A rest stop gave a chance to visit a Black Hmong family who make their living by growing indigo and using the dye to colour fabric.


Mist closed in after midday.  Just as I’d really got into the swing of things with the riding enough to take in the view more, there wasn’t any to see.  Still, it was very atmospheric and the kids we passed on the road made me giggle with their “hellogoodbye”s, pouring both words out in one breath as if they were one.  It made me think of the Beatles song ‘Hello Goodbye’, which I now have stuck in my head.


Tonight we are staying with a Tay family in the village of Ban Ho.  Their house is built on stilts and the wooden rooms are spacious with a lovely balcony running around two sides.  As I write, the family is going about their daily chores. “Mum” is sorting corn.  “Dad”, who is a skilled carpenter, is building a new table, and various other family members are preparing dinner in the kitchen downstairs.  The smells wafting up are making my stomach grumble.


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