Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 23, 2009 - Lao Cai to Dien Ben Phu (Vietnam)

We have loved the last 5 days cycling through north west Vietnam, so we thought we would post some photos as we may be crossing into Laos tomorrow (we're debating the route options
over mango shakes and green tea right now.)

For those of you that are interested in the route we just took, we finally got our tracker back up and working. If you click on the link on the left of this page, it will take you to a real time map with our tracks (email us for a password).

Jen leaving China and entering Vietnam.

The last five days we cycled through north western Vietnam which is home to numerous hill tribes including the H'mong, Dzao, and the Thai (according to our Lonely Planet). The women were always in very fun and colorful traditional dress which changed depending on the group and area... sometimes even very young girls were wearing the full get-up, big earrings, headdress, skirts and all. Here is a small selection of some of the people.

Though their dress is quite traditional, these ladies are often quite well connected, often speaking great English or being almost glued to their cell phones, as this woman was.
This very friendly family lived in one of the poorer villages we passed through, and helped us out with some directions to the next town.

The kids were by far the best part of this leg. The cycling was very rough and hilly, but at the end of the day our arms were just as tired from waving back to all the kids as our legs were from cycling. Kids (and all the adults for that matter) were always running out of their homes screaming hello and waving to us making the days incredibly fun.... we couldn't get over the sometimes invisible hellos coming from kids and construction workers in the fields and from high up half-built buildings and roads, so far away we could barely even see them, though we could sure hear them!

I made a little collage of these three kids waving at us as we rode by them. This was the only time I really manged to get this caught well on film, but this exact thing occurred literally hundreds of times each day.

Two boys doing their chores around the home.

The first three days were in the mountains and the weather was very cool, rainy and foggy. In spite of the dense fog we would still hear many a distant "helloooo" coming through the fog.

The valley we rode through was soon to be flooded by a large dam project, and the construction on the road to raise it above the new water level kept us in constant mud.

Jen interrupts two pigs in their mid afternoon mud bath on the "highway".

Because of the raising of the road, there was often road construction going on above us, which made some section a little sketchy. Road construction is way more open in this part of the world than in the west. They would simply stop traffic quickly, blow out part of the mountain, run a bulldozer over the road to clear most of the fallen rock, and then let traffic pass again. We were a little wary of falling rock in the recently (aka 2 minutes earlier) blown areas.
Jen following a dump truck.

The scenery was amazing throughout the ride (after the fog lifted, at least).

The homes were made of a varied collection of materials including tarps, wood, scrap metal, straw, mud, or pretty much anything.

Our hotel in Muong Lay was little behind on maintenance and the walls were paper thin (made of cardboard in some places). This hotel was up river of the dam being built and will be under water in a year or so, so they can be forgiven for not staying on top of things, but it did allow for something to sneak in overnight and snack on our banana. Unfortunately our tooth brushes were right next to it, so we have visions of the monkey/mouse/rat/"ugly thing we haven't even heard of" sucking on them like lolly pops. (Note from Jen: Interestingly enough, Mike's first comment upon seeing this banana in the morning was... "Jen, what the hell did you do to this banana?!?!")

We ran into Ross and Christine in Dien Bien Phu (where we are right now) who are doing a 4 week cycle tour through S.E. asia with their new baby Tallin (a very cute 7 months!) who they pull him behind their bikes in the Chariot carrier. Their blog called "SE Asia with a baby" is at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/6241

Ross and Christine told us stories about how everyone in Vietnam wants to hold and kiss their baby. They would go to a market and people will just pick him out of the stroller and sort of walk away with him, all meaning well of course, but definitely a little different from what they're used to... During the supper we had with them sure enough this is exactly what happened. Kind of funny for us, but I am sure that Tallin missed his personal space!

That's all from us for now. We are now trying to decide between crossing into Laos tomorrow or continuing through Vietnam, so I am not sure where our next post will be from. Until then though Merry Christmas from both of us from a land where Christmas decorations are scarce, but the wild Poinsettias and warm weather are helping to make up for it!

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