Story Of An American VeteranbyRobert (Bob) McWhorter
Exclusive for Offroad Vietnam®
An excellent adventure, a great ride, a great variety of mountain roads, passes, driving in the clouds, roads from trails, rain, mud, water buffalo, dogs, chickens and many local people to smile and wave to. Sometimes the roads were closed temporarily, we had light drizzle but it was ok. The trails were excellent, and they were a challenge but well worth the effort. We had 2 Minsks and 1 Honda, each had its own features and I traded off on the Honda and Minsk. Holger and myself discussed another tour next year.
Ngoc, Holger and I departed Hanoi for our great adventure on Friday, April 6th, for 7 days up through the mountains and up to Sapa and Lao Cai. From there we would return on the night train with bikes on the train also.
We encountered many local people, walking along the roads, ready to smile and say “Hello” to us, and wave. Each day was different, we started out heading west, from Hanoi, the first day was mountain passes, and we eventually could see the town down below where we would stay “Mai Chau”. This was a village where we did a home stay, got to mingle with the local family and rest for the evening.
Before arriving though, we had a breathtaking view of the village below from the mountain trail we were traversing. What a beautiful sight! That was an example of the days to come, windy twisty roads, up and down and around the mountains, what fun!
Each day was another adventure, we had to negotiate mud fields, rain, closed roads, water buffalo, and many creatures along the way. We saw many different tribes of people and their dress and colorful daily wear. We stopped to talk and negotiate with local people, talk to the children and exchange a few words.
Before we left for the 2nd day, we took a trail ride thru the rice paddies and saw many of the local farms and dirt paths which we rode across to see the local sights. We saw the fields where the gold had been found by a local, there was an assembly house nearby where we could see the children playing and people came to hear the political speech of the local leaders running for head of the village, people were walking by the homestay where we stayed all morning until we left.
We worked our way North on the 2nd day up to Phu Yen, then Northwest to Tuan Giao on the third day. Each day offered new sights, differing cultures and sights to see. We worked up the beautiful mountain passes on the 3rd and 4th days, we were at 6,000 feet and were even with the clouds and drove thru them for a while.
The mountain passes were breathtaking, the occasional mud fields and muddy trails were a challenge, but fun nonetheless. On our way up the pass, we stopped and watched the stuck trucks and motorbikes trying to negotiate the mud. We passed a monument at Bien Dien Pass and took some pictures. It is where one of the battles in the 50’s between Vietnam and the French was fought.
Each day we stopped at an interesting restaurant for lunch and dinner, we saw the local people and our guide Ngoc would tell us about some history of the people and their customs.
One area of interns to us was a project that the Government is working on, which is a hydroelectric dam project where hundreds of villages are being relocated does to the flooding which will occur. It’s a huge aggressive project and the Government is helping many villages relocate to suitable locations.
One evening we stayed at a beautiful Hotel in Lai Chau. It was a very French design influence with an adjacent beer garden. We had dinner and walked down the main street to find a place to eat. Ngoc, Holger, and I decided to try our skills at Karaoke. I never thought I would be singing Hotel California in Viet Nam, but this was great. As it turns out, my tour mates didn’t have bad voices either.
Sapa is a tourists’ delight, we ate at a cosy restaurant and had a great meal. Holger and I later found a local pub, and we let our guide have a break from us. At the pub, we entertained our hosts and probably bored them with our requests for AC/DC, Steppenwolf, and Hotel California.
We spent some time in Lao Cai watching the Chinese people looking back at us from across the river border, it was an excellent stop and our tour guide, Ngoc, knows his Vietnam history and the cultures more than I would have ever gotten out of a tour book.
The last night we did another home stay and found ourselves, after parking our bikes, in the middle of a field, watching all of the local children playing in that huge field, water buffalo grazing nearby. Slowly several children at a time would come up to us, speak a few words and say “Hello”. They would try to speak to us and us to them. Slowly a few children were playing jump rope, another group was playing a game of picking up rocks and others were just looking at us.
Eventually, it started to get dark, we could now see all the children had come over to see up, there must have been 15 or 20 of them, playing at our feet, showing us a toy or a rock or a game such as some form of card game they had learned.
We had an excellent meal inside the home of our hosts and later they watched TV for a few minutes and then the smallest Boy wanted to play kick ball with his balloon. The children at this house were indeed adorable. We ended the evening with a toast of local rice wine and shuffled off to sleep.
The next day we drove slowly thru the river bed criss crossing it several times and testing our skills of driving thru water.
Actually, it was my skills we were testing as I ride a street cruiser back at home, I haven’t done so much dirt biking in years, and it was fun.
From there we went back to Lao Cai and spent the afternoon taking it easy and waiting for the night train to take us and the bikes back to Hanoi.
The train ride was a blast, we had a soft berth with four comfy sleeping areas, we talked about the adventure and had a beer or two before dozing off and finding ourselves and the bikes back in Hanoi early the next morning.
Full name: Bob McWhorter
Address: St. Petersburg, Florida, USA.
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