Two and a Half Man
Patrick and Leeroy decided to join me for a few days through the mountains of North Vietnam. So we spent the last two days mainly preparing and planning our trip. The heat was quite oppressive during the day due to the high humidity. Luckily, you can get delicious sugarcane juices or chocolate glacés all over Hanoi. Especially Ella enjoyed eating the things.
On Tuesday morning at 9:00 clock everything was ready. After a final farewell ritual, we drove off. Thanks to Patrick's excellent knowledge of the city, the drive through the morning traffic was pretty good and soon the first rice fields came. The traffic is a lot more pleasant off the main roads. Especially the annoying Hubkonzerte stay spared one here.
Around noon we stopped at a pagoda protected by a lake. Sandra and Patrick have already been here with their kids for the Easter celebrations. In the lake is a water puppet theater. At the Ethnological Museum in Hanoi we were able to admire the theater. The dolls are beautiful. Only the loud and shrill music is almost unbearable. After our calorie supply was replenished we continued through small rice field paths until the heat became too much and we fled to a park to Siesta.
The nights we spent each in the Nha Nghi's (guesthouses). Son Tay was already behind us on the first day. For the next two and a half days, the main route G32 slowly led more and more into the mountains. Past countless coffee and rice fields, over the first passes and of course a lot of sunshine. On some climbs Leeroy had to get out and accompany his dad by foot. At a market we put Leeroy on the scales and lo and behold: half the portion weighs already 20 kilograms! Patrick then said that this was definitely the last ride for Leeroy in the trailer.
Passage driving is beautiful in the landscape, but not very pleasant in the tropics during the dry season. It reassured me that Patrick had to fight too. During the stops in the shadows, Leeroy mostly entertained us with his stories while we tried to recover a bit. Sometimes one wonders who the half portion is now! Presumably that's the age. After all, you do not get any younger. North Vietnam has a lot to offer not only in terms of landscape and culture. Especially on the culinary level there were some specialties. For example, dog meat is a delicacy here. But you also get all kinds of insects on the plate.
In Nghai Lo we decided to take a rest day and to visit some of the remote side valleys. As we drove a bit through the rice fields and villages on the first day, we were promptly invited by a man home. We arranged to meet him for the next day.
I do not really understand a word of Vietnamese. For me, this musical language is even more difficult than Chinese. At least it is based on the Roman script, which makes the reading pleasant again. Patrick knows the language quite well and translated for me. I usually sat next to the conversations and nodded and smiled. As the same questions were asked most of the time, I understood the content of the discussions a little bit over time.
The question-and-answer session went something like this: First, they wanted to know where we came from, how old Leeroy is, who his father is and why we do this to the child. We experienced the locals as very open, interested, helpful and extremely hospitable. As in the Muslim countries, I often wonder why we can not show such openness towards strangers in Europe.
The next day we drove a little further into the valley. Soon the slope and the heat became too much for us. Therefore we turned back and searched the house of our host. We were welcomed with open arms. Half the village came by to see us. While Leeroy cooled off with the other children in the stream, Patrick and I were allowed to pump ourselves full of green tea in the house. The Vietnamese green tea is for me one of the most disgusting teas that I've drunk on my trip so far. For some inexplicable reasons, these are quite strong. It's almost bad to drink. But only the hardest get into the garden!
After this first tea round we made a small tour of the village. The whole group of children accompanied us. In the evening a delicious dinner was served. Including beer and rice schnapps. The father of our host lives in the summer in a higher, more remote mountain valley, accessible only by foot or by motorbike. He invited us for a visit the next day.
The house of our host was huge. In the basement was the sleeping place for the animals and the kitchen. The upper floor is home to several generations. Everything is divided among each other. We felt the whole village like a huge community. I slept wonderfully in the bamboo house. During the walk the next day, the father led us first to a small house. There we were invited by his friends for a first meal including rice schnapps.
The bugs tasted pretty crispy. Everyone had great joy when we photographed them. Our host invited us to spend the night in the mountain village near the Mường. Of course we could not refuse the offer. So we ran from one house to the next and worked our way up the mountain slowly. There was always something to drink (green tea or vegetable water) and now and then food. Probably not many foreigners have visited this area. The people were especially impressed by our size. We usually towered over her at least a head.
Our guide does not belong to the Mường, but comes originally from the Tai population.
Members of the Tai people live mainly in the mountains of North Vietnam. They speak several closely related Tai languages. The minority called Thái in Vietnam is not to be confused with the Thai people in Thailand, the two languages belong to different subgroups. Western linguists usually further subdivide the Thái Vietnams into individual languages. Some of Vietnam's Tai peoples are closely related or even identical to some national minorities in China and Laos. Here in the province Yèn Bái live several different minorities.
Vietnam is a multi-ethnic country. About 88% of the population are ethnic Vietnamese (Việt or Kinh). In addition, 53 ethnic minorities are state recognized. The smallest minorities have only a few hundred members. I especially liked the women's garments. The bright colors offer a nice contrast to the green / brown mountain landscape. The Mường are an ethnic minority in Vietnam.
There are about 1.3 million Mường. The vast majority of them live in the mountains of northern Vietnam. Several thousand muường also live in the south of Vietnam.
The Mường are closely related to the ethnic Vietnamese. Some ethnologists are of the opinion that they are also ethnic Vietnamese, but they were less influenced by Chinese civilization because of their relative isolation in the mountains.
The M derng religion contains Chinese, Vietnamese and animistic elements. We were even invited to visit the mayor of the village. Late in the evening we reached our camp. The host slaughtered a chicken for us. Leeroy fell asleep before dinner. There was a lot of laughing and drinking while eating. After a short movie we fell to bed.
Even before sunrise, half of the village is already on its feet again. The family put extra on their traditional clothes for us, so we could photograph them.
After breakfast, unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to everyone, as my Vietnam Visa expires slowly and I really want to reach the border before that. Patrick stayed with Leeroy in the mountain village. Wistfully and not quite sober, I set off on the descent. Dankä many times Patrick and Leeroy. Isch super gsii with oi! Down in the village, I invited my Kurd, said goodbye to the rest of the family and drove back to the G32 direction Sapa. After the first pass, when I was about to collapse, two French cyclists came to meet me. They work in Kunming and have taken a few weeks off to cycle from Kunming to Hanoi.
After a short chat, we said goodbye to each other. The climb to the second pass on this day was closing time for me. I set up my tent, was watched cooking by some mong and soon fell into the tent.
At night, a thunderstorm swept over the mountains and unfortunately, my freshly repaired zipper from the inner tent finally set my mind free. The landscape was completely rainy the next morning and fog overcast. As a result, the almost 4-hour ride on the pass was reasonably pleasant. At the top, temperatures were pretty cool, so I had to put on a jacket to go downhill. Incredible!
I liked the area very well and every time I drove through a village children and adults from all sides waved loudly "Hello, Hello". I would have liked to spend more time in this area to get more involved with people. The Mường also differ from each other. So there are, for example, the flower or black Mường and many more. But visa regulations are unfortunately not changing.
Actually, I wanted to travel much further east over the border to Guilin. Time wise, however, I realized that this would be almost impossible and somehow the mountains in Southwest China are currently more irritating to me. Swiss cyclists are simply mountain addicts! The four days to Sapa are comparable to a ride through the Swiss Alps. At least one pass every day and up and down permanently. Only the quality of the roads is a lot worse and the heat merciless. In addition, the bearing in the hub was released quite easily at the rear wheel. Actually, not a big problem. However, a good eight has formed in the rim and in combination this is not a comfortable ride. Quite exhausted, I arrived in Sapa on Thursday morning.
Patrick had already warned me against mass tourism in Sapa and upon my arrival his testimony was confirmed. I thought about driving on shortly after arriving, but was far too tired. An accommodation was found soon. The shower helped me to get fit again and to take care of my upcoming repairs.
At the market I could have my zipper replaced by the tent. The search for a bicycle doctor was a bit more difficult. The locals, however, were very patient and helpful. In a clothes shop I found my savior. He shoved the clothes aside and took a toolbox from a shelf. With primitive tools, he showed me how to properly center a wheel again. In return, I explained to him the function of a V-brake brake. Although we could not communicate a word, we understood each other well.
Finally, he gave me another Veloklingel. Trudi, my camel horn, currently has the voice break. As usual with the Vietnamese after a business, we sat together afterwards and drank a tea. We communicated with pen and paper for almost half an hour. Then there was a schnapps, I paid the bill, we took a joint photo and said goodbye to each other.
After a restful day in Sapa I leave Southeast Asia after 4 months and return to the Middle Kingdom.