Vietnam 2016 – Trip Report 10

Pu Luong – Day 2

There are ways to wake up, and then there are ways to wake up.

And if I could wake up like this every day for the rest of my life, then I’d take it in a heartbeat.

The soothing, and peaceful sounds were still there. Including the running water one.

Normally it takes me a little while of ‘waking up’, before I actually ‘get up’.

Not today.

Out the door and onto our little balcony, and I look across to where the water sound is coming from. It’s water pouring out of a pipe, into a reasonable size pond, or dam, which is situated just below the neighbour’s bamboo thatched house.

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Could wake up to this every day.

Just a little bit picturesque….

I turn to my right, which is the area behind the hut.

I’m not sure what my face looked like when I saw it; I know I did have trouble speaking, though.

I tried to call out to Lisa, who, kind of typically, was still in bed. Awake, but still in bed.

“Uh….., oh….., ah……, ummm…….. You should come out here and have a look at this”, I finally stammered out.

It was another one of those ‘unexpected’ moments. I’m not sure what I expected to see. I hadn’t really thought about it. And even if I had, I wouldn’t have pictured what was now in front of me.

Rice paddies, and rice terraces. Stretching up the side of the hill on my left, with the same thing happening on my right. The terraces also flowed away from me, down the hill.

In the distance, the tops of mountains could be seen poking through the low clouds that hung in the valley.

Yep……., just ridiculously stunning.

A view that you could never get tired of.

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Just wish the photo could show it how I saw it.

We get dressed and head down to the main house. While waiting for breakfast we walk out the front gate and reacquaint ourselves with the views of yesterday.

It has a slightly different look, and feel, today. The rain last night had freshened things up a bit, and there was a bit of a haze hanging around from the low cloud. It had a slightly crisp feel to it, but certainly wasn’t cold.

Some of the locals are already out and about, and many ‘xin chao’s’ were exchanged. Although, quite often, we only receive the ‘chao’ part. Not sure if that was a minority group ‘thing’, or not. Should have asked Toan.

Speaking of Toan, he calls us for breakfast, and we make our way over to the table and bench seats underneath the house.

Caphe sua nam, with phin, I might add, arrives first. I love him even a little more than last night.

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Ahhh! Great way to start the day.

Although the holes he punched in the tin containing the condensed milk, could have been a little larger.

Ever tried to pour tar through the hole in a sewing needle….????

Anyway, we eventually got there. Was probably more ‘da’, than ‘nam’ by the time we did, though. 🙂

Breakfast was a pancake, and a fairly large one at that, as well as some fruit. Pineapple, if I remember correctly. Dien had come good, once again. Although, his opinion on how much my stomach can hold, differs rather significantly with what it actually can.

Stomach filled, we pack up and just hang around outside the house doing that people watching thing. Always one of my favourite things, but with the backdrop, it was even better.

Eventually, and unfortunately, it was time to move on. Toan informs us that we could stop at a market on the way to the next homestay.

Hmmm…., that just made it a little easier for me to leave.

Bags packed onto the bikes, and Toan then lets us know that we need to walk the first bit of this leg of the trip. I think I may have heard the intrepid explorer gulp…..

Toan and Dien head off, and we begin our walk. Even though it was starting to warm up, at this point it was quite comfortable. And as we hadn’t walked up this part of the track, and it was more track than road, which was part of the reason we were walking, there was plenty of new things to see.

I hoped that with that being the case, a potential meltdown may be averted.

Past more stilt houses, as well as ever changing scenery, it really was a very enjoyable walk. At one point, the track arced around an embankment that fell away quite sharply. It wasn’t until we were on the other side that I looked back and saw a local guy part way down the embankment, picking something. When we’d walked past him initially, he would have been no more than a couple of metres from us. I never saw him and had no idea he was there.

It made me think about the war. As well as how useless I would have been…..

Not far after that, we came across Toan and Dien. The narrow track had now become more of a road, so we’d survived the walking component without incident….

Now back on the bikes, it was time to just sit back and take it all in. And try to remember what we were seeing. Yep, still had that concern floating around in my head…..

Just so much to see, and as I’ve said, it just never gets boring.

Although, there was one scene that made me stop.

Travelling along quite a wide, and well maintained, road, up one of the many mountains, I noticed a few bags of rubbish to my right. I probably noticed it because it looked out of place; up until that point, I hadn’t really seen much in the way of rubbish. Anyway, as we went past, I looked back and was surprised, actually, shocked, to see that the rubbish pile stretched way down to the bottom of the valley. And it was a long way down.

I know the rubbish has to go somewhere, and I know that the whole rubbish thing in Vietnam is a work in progress, but to see what had been done here, really saddened me.

Not long after that, we came into a fairly small town. Assumption made that this was probably the place where the rubbish originates.

Further up ahead, in the main street, which was probably the only street, we could see our market. We pulled over and Toan went about buying supplies, while we walked around the market.

Very, very local. And once again, there was no one else there that looked like us. And again, we were as interested in them, as they were in us.

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And yes, she was as friendly as she looks!
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Gotta love a market!

We walked slowly down the street, weaving around the stalls and the motorbikes. Lots of smiles, hello’s, and chao’s, both given, as well as received. I just love it!

We get to the end of the market, turn around, and head back. Again, slowly. Another thing I didn’t want to end.

It was starting to warm up a little, and as we walked past a girl selling sugar cane juice, I decided to indulge. While the drink is nice, the interaction is just as enjoyable. We walked on and came to a fruit stall. I must have looked interested, as the guy running it, handed me some cherry type things. I tried to say no, but he wouldn’t accept that. He was quite adamant that I had to take them. Several ‘cam on’s, lots of smiles, as well as a handshake, followed.

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Evil little cherry things!

Yep, just one more ‘little’ moment to add to the list.

The fact that the ‘cherry’ thing was quite possibly the most sour thing I’ve ever eaten, as in, makes one of your eyes close as you chew it, didn’t matter. Again, it was all about the interaction.

We eventually got back to where we’d started, and while waiting for Toan and Dien, just sat back and watched it all unfold. Yep, I just really, really love it.

 

 

 

Toan, all stocked up, and we were once again on the move. After a while, the road began to change. Well, not so much change, but more, disappear. We were now on a dirt track. Quite a hilly and bumpy one in places. But all part of the fun.

Across a couple of rickety looking bridges, you know, the type that makes you wonder if they’re going to be able to take the weight of an adult, much less two adults on a motorbike…..

Stopped at one point to come to the rescue of a local, who had managed to drop her bike at a particularly steep, and very bumpy, section of the track. The fact that the bike was fully laden, as is the norm in Vietnam, probably didn’t help.

Not long after that, the track began to climb more steeply. I suspected we may have been getting close, and sure enough, stilt houses soon came into view.

Up the track, with a small creek on my left, and rice paddies, slightly terraced, on my right. The other noticeable thing was the water flowing around beside the track. The water that has been harnessed by the farmers to water the rice. Both fascinating and ingenious at the same time.

We eventually reach the end of the track, and this is where our homestay is. The main house, which is a stilt house, is down a small incline. Just like our first night, we once again have our own room. Actually, more like our own house. Sitting in front of the main house, it overlooks the valley that is filled with rice. It is also a stilt house, and you could probably sleep twelve people in it quite comfortably. It sits up quite high, too; high enough in fact, that you can stand under it. There’s actually a table with bench seats under it, as well.

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Our house.

We get ourselves sorted and spend a bit of time relaxing at the table. It’s at this point that I realise that I’m stuffed. Not really sure why, as we’ve not really done that much. Maybe the heat is just starting to catch up on me.

Toan returns shortly after with our host’s eight year old daughter, Hiyen. She’s very shy and doesn’t really want to talk to us. Toan takes us for a short walk back down the track we’d come up earlier, to show us the waterfall. Hiyen comes with us, and we also pick up four of the neighbours kids along the way.

The waterfall, while not terribly big, is still pretty impressive. It spills over several rocks into a small pond. The water is very clear and you can actually see the bottom. It doesn’t look that deep, but it’s deep enough for the kids to jump into off the rocks from a reasonable height.

It’s even deep enough for some of them to jump from a tree next to the pond. They were a fair way up, too!

Oh to be young and carefree again…..

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Kids. Just being kids.
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The waterfall.

A couple of them occasionally went up to a gate, to the left of the pond, and made barking noises. This would result in the dogs that lived there, to run down towards the gate barking at the kids. The kids would then run back and leap off the embankment into the pond.

They loved it. And so did I.

We spent maybe half an hour there just watching them play. They were having a lot of fun. But probably not as much fun as I was having.

We then headed back to the homestay and resumed our positions at the table. Suffering a severe case of lethargy, I laid down on the bench seat. A few minutes later I feel someone touching my hair. I look up expecting to see Lisa, but it’s not her. It’s a local guy.

I sit up, and he takes a seat next to me. He seems to want to have a chat, but the language barrier is going to be somewhat of an issue. That however, doesn’t stop him from trying. I’m not sure what he’s trying to do, and he seems a little ‘unusual’. I then realise that he’s drunk. Very drunk. And it’s only 11.00am!

Not sure if he’s started early, or he’s finishing very late…..

The kids that had come to the waterfall have now also returned. They too, seem intrigued by him; or by what he’s trying to do. A few minutes later, our host Sohn, (Hiyen’s mum) turns up. She’s not happy. I have no idea what she was saying to him, but she is not happy at all.

Some things just transcend language barriers……

He finally gets the message, and leaves. Hopefully to sleep it off.

Not too long later, Toan appears with a couple of beers. Even though I was struggling just a little, I happily accept. It would have been rude not to. If it wasn’t 12.00pm, it was very close to it. Hey, I was on holidays! 🙂

As the first beer came to its end, Toan reappeared. This time with lunch. As well as another two beers.

It really is very difficult to not love him. 😉

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Lunch under our house!

Lunch is pretty good, too. Noodles with fried egg and morning glory. Nice and simple, but also very good.

The beers and lunch just add to my lethargy, and once I’ve finished lunch I go back to doing what I was trying to do when drunk guy showed up.

It’s pretty warm, but not too bad under our ‘house’. The bench seat is reasonably comfortable, although obviously a little hard.

But I’ve slept on harder things in Vietnam……

Before I’ve had a chance to drift off, Sohn turns up again. She goes up the stairs into our room and grabs a couple of pillows. I’m just blown away by that.

I’m not sure how much sleep I actually had, but I certainly felt better for it, by the end.

Back in the land of the living, we just sit around for a while. Our host’s little puppy comes to keep us company, as do a couple of chickens. The dog must have been feeling a little off colour, because at one point, a touch too close to us for my liking, she brings up her last meal.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, she quickly gets rid of it again.

Yep, nothing like enjoying the same meal twice…..

Hiyen then returns and comes and sits down next to me. The little shy girl has disappeared and we spend some time practicing English and Vietnamese.

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Hiyen – such a fun young girl.

She only knows a few words, but we still had some fun. She comes across as being incredibly smart, as well as just being a really lovely kid.

I can’t remember what we were talking about, but at one point, I said ‘Vietnam’.

She giggled, and repeated it the way I had said it, several times.

Apparently it’s pronounced ‘Vietnarrrm’, not ‘Vietnam’.

Yep, shown up by an eight year old, but we all had a good laugh.

We headed back to the waterfall for another look. This time there were more people there. All locals, but more than likely from another small town further down the mountain. It seems they come up later in the afternoon to cool off. Some have small kids with them, others just come with friends. Quite a few are either in the water, or just sitting on rocks in the water.

Interestingly, none of them are really wearing bathers. No, they’re not naked, they’re just wearing clothes.

Just another one of those things…..

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Locals enjoying the waterfall in a way that only locals can do!

On our walk, we’d somehow picked up three new ‘dog’ friends. For some reason, they just decided to walk with us. If we stopped, they stopped.

We left the waterfall and headed back down the hill. Dogs in tow.

We meet a French couple and stopped for a chat. The dogs waited patiently.

They’ve ridden their motorbike all the way from Mai Chau and are now hoping to find a place to stay. They have actually found somewhere, but it’s over $100 a night. They don’t really want to spend that much, but they also don’t really want to ride the three hours back to Mai Chau. It’s about 4.00pm now, and I don’t really want them to ride back to Mai Chau. I couldn’t imagine doing that in the dark. We tell them where we’re staying, and we mention that Toan may be able to help them. It sounds like they may have already seen Toan and they’re now waiting for a possible solution.

We wish them well, and continue down the hill. With ‘our’ dogs.

More great things to look at, in particular the water harnessed thing. It really is fascinating the way that the water is directed where the farmers need it. It starts higher up the mountain, and as it makes it’s way down, each farmer gets an opportunity to use it before it continues on its way.

I find it very, very clever.

Knowing that the further we descend, the further we’ll have to walk back up the hill, and not wanting to risk the intrepid explorer’s wrath, we turn around and head back.

Dogs accompany us.

On the way back, a local approaches us. He really just wants to say hello. He doesn’t have a lot of English, but we spend a couple of minutes chatting. Turns out he’s a police officer from Hanoi. We seem to be attracting them…..

On we walk with ‘our’ dogs and eventually get back to our ‘house’. We sit at our table, and the dogs also take the opportunity to relax. At this point I’m worried that we may have ‘stolen’ the dogs.

Our host’s dog then returns. Or tries to.

The three dogs won’t let her and they beat up on her quite aggressively. She ends up having to sit on her own on the other side of a small pond, whimpering, that is not far from us.

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Our three ‘protector’ dogs.

It’s a sorry sight…..

Toan then reappears; and with beer!

Yep, hard not to love him….

He asks us if we’d like to go and see the Eco Lodge. He knows the guy there and wants to show us around. He says it’s nice, but also very expensive. Over $100 a night.

Ahhh, that must be the place that the French couple had looked at.

We go to have a look.

On the way there, we see the French couple. They’ve found a place, and yes, Toan had spoken to them earlier.

The Eco Lodge turns out to be the place with the gate, next to the waterfall. The place that had the dogs that the kids were tormenting earlier. The very dogs that had adopted us!

It’s nice when a jigsaw puzzle comes together…..

We go in and meet the guy, and he shows us around. It is nice! Very peaceful with bungalows dotted around, and over, a small lake. The gardens are also very good.

But it doesn’t have something that we have where we are.

A view!

Don’t get me wrong, it is very nice, but I definitely know where I’d rather be staying. Regardless of the money.

Toan’s mate invites us in and we have a beer together.

Again, just one of those ‘little’ things.

You don’t get that sitting in a resort…..

It’s getting dark so we head back to the house to get ready for dinner.

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Kids chipping in – unlike at home…!

While Lisa has a shower, I watch Hiyen’s brother (I can’t remember his name) fix an issue with the water irrigation directional thing. He takes it upon himself, and uses his initiative. He does it very well and I’m suitably impressed.

I also wonder if our own boy would be able to figure something like that, out.

But I don’t wonder for long. It has nothing to do with an iPhone, or a football, so the answer of course is, no.

 

Dinner is in the main house with the whole family, including Sohn’s husband, who I think was Lon. But I could be very wrong….

And once again, Dien has done a great job.

Tonight it’s spring rolls, rice, some greenery, and little rissole type things.

But the piece de resistance!?

Snails!

Hmmm…….

Big black garden type looking snails. Oh well, when in Rome…..

Sohn shows me how to ‘dig’ them out, and then dip them in a chilli or fish sauce.

The first one is……, ummm…….., interesting……

A bit chewy, and a bit……. snail-y…….

I think one might be enough.

I think wrong.

Sohn keeps ‘digging’ them out, so I have to accept. In the end, they actually grow on me.

Hopefully, not in me…..

But they’re alright. Not my favourite food by a long shot, but not bad.

The less snail-y stuff was also really good.

But once again, it was more about the whole experience, rather than the actual food.

Sitting on the floor; although we were given small seats to sit on; in someone’s house, enjoying both a meal and each other’s company, is just a real highlight. A truly wonderful experience.

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Mot, hai, ba, yo!

Like the previous night, there was more rice wine, and as such, much ‘mot, hai, ba, yo-ing’, going on.

It really was a lot of fun. And made even more so, by Sohn’s husband.

He had a light globe, attached to an electrical cord with a plug on the end. Every so often, he’d put the plug up his nose.

And when he did that, the light would come on!

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I don’t know how, but it doesn’t matter…  So funny!

 

This time, it was me who was in tears. But from laughing.

Yep, just a wonderful night.

Getting late, it was time for bed. It had been a fairly long day, even though we hadn’t done a lot. Sometimes you just need to pull back a little; to just stop and recharge. A ‘down’ day, if you like.

And we’d done that, and now felt much better for it.

Tomorrow was another day, and while part of it filled me with dread – with it being a ‘goodbye’ day – I was really looking forward, in particular, to what we had planned at the end of the tour.

Cheers,

Scott

 

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