If I could ride a bike, and being a good rider, I would take my adventure on the less travelled roads of Northern Vietnam on a bike. But I can't.....I could only charter a jeep with an experienced Vietnamese driver to visit this enchanting land. It was a memorable trip my sisiter and I took in 2007
Among the less travelled roads in Northern Vietnam, the northwest loop is the only one accessible by jeep. Other less travelled roads could only be accessed by bike and of course, by foot if you have the time. The experience of travelling on the northwest loop is awesome, even though we did not get to travel by bike. I can't remember exactly, but I think we paid US$530 for the service of a jeep and a driver for the 3 days 2 nights journey with a reliable travel agent, Handspan, in Hanoi. We didn't hire a tour guide but we had expressed our interest with the tour office when we made our booking. One experience I learnt from travelling in Vietnam, especially in Hanoi is a penny for a penny. Prices equal to quality. I would rather pay a little more to a reliable travel agent than to get really frustrated. We had a good driver and though the jeep had a punctured tyre, we arrived safely at Sapa.
Our journey started from Hanoi, passing Moc Chau, Mai Chau, Sonla, Thuan Chau, staying overnight in Dien Bien Phu, continuing to Lai Chau, Tamduong and ending the second night in Sapa. We did'nt hop on the jeep on the third morning when the driver made the return trip to Hanoi on the less interesting highway passing Yen Bai as we wanted to spend more time in Sapa and tracking around. However the charges remained the same as he had to drive his way back to Hanoi.
We met different tribes for the first time along the journey. Amongst them are Muong, Black Tay, White Tay, Blue Hmong, White Hmong, Moc Chau local branch of Flower Hmong, Black Dao, Sa and a few other tribes I was unable to name. They were distinctively different in their costumes. Our driver, Mr. Kiew, found us very funny with our reaction each time we spotted new tribes on the road. Later, when he saw any hill tribe, he would excitely ask if we would like to stop.
|The Muong family shared with us Vietnamese tea |
and in return we shared with them Lipton tea.
This Muong lady was camera shy.
|Hello, anyone there?|
|Freeze... intruder! No photography!|
|What do you want?|
|Hmong kids had fun with skipping rope during school recess. Tyng joined in.|
|Years of sewing had deteriorated|
|Come and get me!|
Tourists venturing into this area was not a common sight and the Flower Hmong here are obviously better off than the hill tribes up north. Our presence was unusual and perhaps they found our approach somewhat too odd and warm.
We continued our journey to Sonla passing the bare and dried earth, withnessing the effects of deforestation for shifting cultivation.
P/S: to be continued in chapter 2