I spent week up North. 3 day buses, 3 night buses and 3 destinations in a triangle, converging around Hanoi. It was a welcomed mix of jumper and shorts weather, occasional downpour and the classic heat with cooler, starry evenings.
Ninh Binh was a tourist fly-trap. Expected. The day and half I was there, I climbed a sweaty amount of stone stairs for views of other tourists taking selfies, mostly. The karats were a highlight (being the main reason to go to the city) and they were pretty spectacular to be fair. Reflected on the irrigated rice fields some of the monoliths were bordering on the magnificent.
Day bus back to Vietnam then a hop onto a night bus to Mu Cang Chai. Late edition. Hadn’t heard of that town until the day before I landed in Hanoi but google images did it’s job and made it look rad so…why not. Gallivanting on your own means what you lose in sensible ideas and conclusions about what to do next, road bants and shared memories of scenery you make up in… freedom? Freedom. Freedom of compromise, apparently.
Mu Cang Chai was worth the last minute decision though. Some of the best valleys I’ve seen, stacked with rice paddies. Steps carved into the hills as if cut with a butter-knife. Drone paradise. I didn't realise the area was populated with H’mong people too who were, as always, friendly, curious and wearing clothes and styles that I felt need to document. The roads were long and fairly empty and I was a spectacle, being practically the only ‘westerner’ in sight, generally. The beard didn’t help. More of a target for intermittent face-grabbing from locals. The real spectacle wasn’t really the mound of chin hair blowing in the wind but the mountains, peaking between the clouds. The thick, smokey-white fog moved up and down the gradients as if the forest it hovered between and above was breathing. It was marvellous. Even the locals, once they’d reached a decent enough vantage point, stopped and watched the vapour dance and spill. I could’ve spent more time there.
But the bus brakes for no man, so back to Hanoi and one last jolly to Cao Bang. Check out the well photographed Ban Gioc Waterfalls near the Chinese border. The drive was about 80k from Cao Bang town centre which wasn’t horrendous. I was quite looking forward to it actually. A couple of hours of scrambling through the mountains on the 110cc screecher. The terrain reminded me a lot of Ha Giang actually. Compliments to the chef. I was mentally fighting the weather gods en route, negotiating with rain deities, pleading from the fuck off. For a few hours at least? I can’t drone in the rain? Have some goddam foresight you cloudy-brained freaks. They held off until way after I reached the destination which, incidentally, was worth the bike-bum-ache. The waterfalls were huge and cascading (as waterfalls are) but the colour of the water was curious. Light, probably because the limestone? And warm to touch. Another tourist honey-pot so I enjoyed the view for a bit then back on the road…
Hanoi for one night for beers. Felt a bit stationery. The opposite of motion-sickness. Still-sickness. The road provided me with a shit-tonne of photo opportunities which was most kind. Most of which were average, but there were a few captured moments that I really liked. They bring me back.