Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ha Giang mid-report

Vietnamese do not like cheese, refrigerators, or menus. Thus are the results of a week on the road up from Hanoi to the capital of the Ha Giang province via twisty roads or twisty dirt paths through the mountains and beside the rivers. Common cliches upon the road:

"Beautiful! So beautiful! Look at that mountain! Wow look at those rice patties! We need to think of more words, beautiful is not good enough... Breathtaking! Stupendous! Spectacular!"

"Ahhhh I think we should have taken that other road 10 km ago."

"I feel like I am in a zoo, these people are staring." (We have gone 7 days without seeing another white face)

and of course, "I feel like I am going to spew."

We have been taking a lot of great photos and Eline is keeping a record of the trip. Some bits of these things may be shared later. 3 days spents going NW from Hanoi, then a rest day in a nice mountain town. I fell prey to the 3rd world stomach bug and shat my brains out for a good while then was given local medicine.

Yesterday we took a wrong turn and ended up at the Chinese boarder, a really funny experience. A really nice policeman had us in for tea and wrote down our names and sent us on our way. We were asking if this was the road to Ha Giang, to which there was no reply. This one bit of Vietnamese culture I do not understand. They are rediculous when it comes to directions! We were in Xin Man, a town that we knew was a crossroads, for over 24 hours, and couldn't figure out that we were there. As we pulled up to town I asked a group of people "Baano kilomet a Xin Man?" (how many kilometers to xin man?) and recieved nothing but blank stares. It was not until returning from the Chinese boarder that we saw signs for the town we had slept in the night before that read "Xin Man" did we realize that we had just slept in our destination without even knowing it. Anyway, I digress, so we are up in this tiny mountain village of perhaps 40 people and a police station and a military outpost and I stop to fix my Minsk before going on the dirt road when the pavement ends and the policeman tells us we need to chat. We have tea, then continue on the road to "Ha Giang" aka CHINA. We leave the village and head up the path that quickly degrades into less than road status. We spend upwards of a half hour pushing our bikes up a 40 degree loose dirt slope then rest for a moment when 4 border gaurds, 2 with AK's, come down and tell us we have to turn around, "But we just talked top the police!" "How far to Ha Giang!" These yelps must have sounded very silly. So, digruntled, we turned around, drove home, and found out that we were already where we wanted to be ANYWAY, and that tomorrow, we could easily drive to Ha Giang along the correct road.