Monday, 19 November 2007

Towards China

Having a bit of time to spare while waiting on my China visa, I headed south of Hanoi for a day to Tam Coc, an area geographically similiar to Halong bay, minus the bay. Its all part of a chain stretching up from Krabi in Thailand, Tha Kiet and Vang Vieng in Laos, through Halong bay and continuing up to the Guillin area in China. It's certainly very beautiful, even if the experience is even more of a tourist trap than Halong. The best part of the trip was getting away on the mountain bikes and peddling through some local villages, which let you appreciate the scenery away from the crowds, and also meet some of the locals who were super friendly, and, as yet, not looking for money!

The main part of the trip involved heading through some caves, being rowed by charasmatic old locals. Despite the crowds it was a really pleasant experience.

In Hanoi, I said goodbye to Elliott who was on his way to Sapa via motorbike - my recently weakened constitution prefered the train. I met up with Tuyen and Hanh, two sweet Vietnamese students we had met before by the lake, and I had a nice day wondering about, eating ice-cream and drinking coffee. On my last day I even braved the traffic chaos of Hanoi and rented a mophead for some touring, which was a bit of a challenge and not a little adreneline fueled.

Eventually I had to head north on the night train to Sapa. I was really quiet sad to leave Hanoi, having met loads of great people and stayed in the friendliest guesthouse so far on this trip. Had a good nights kip on the train, and arrived in Sapa to beautiful blue skies. After wandering about town for 5 minutes I bumped into Elliott, who had made good time on his meandering mountain route despite coming off his bike at 60kmp - other than some serious oil stains on his jeans he came away totally unscathed. Pretty lucky.

We headed off to the local H'mong village of Cat Cat, which was a lovely walk in the sunshine, and we managed to get lost the other side of the village, in or efforts to escape the tourist hordes. On the way back I realised I was coming down with something, and spent much of the next 2 days recovering from a particularly nasty cold. It seems like the weather on our first day was a bit of an anomoly - its been totally fog bound since, though this morning the sun is trying to break through. So, much of the time was spent drinking hot liquids around roaring fires and being entertained by interesting locals like chess champion Mr Tim, the bunches of local lads kicking around what feels something like a badmington shuttlecock and a nice bunch of pool playing black H'mong girls. It was nice to be able to talk with some of the minorities without them trying to flog you everything from necklaces to opium. And their street learned english was amazingly good.
Today I'm heading off to the China border...sounds like one of the less pleasant crossings, but, sure, it's all part of the experience.


Mary said...

fair play to you....still going strongish! I thought you had aged considerably in one of the fotos with the beard and blue stripy pjs.... Congrats on the mag cover..not before time, we say..take soon...all in bp (all well, by the way)

seanmullins said...

Yeahthe goatee is definitely showing a hint of grey i thinbk.
Might have to get rid of it.
Going strong - now theres a blast from the past. Good old bunny car wasnt it originally?