Pan Hou to Bắc Hà. Left at 8.20am arrived at 4.30pm, then visited palace get to hotel at 5.15pm. Eight hours travel time
I tried the traditional breakfast of Pho (noodles) today instead of a western breakfast. Nice for a change.
30 minutes from the eco lodge we came around the corner to a man waving a tiny red flag on a chopstick. Then, we saw large boulders crashing onto the road in front of us and looked up to see a yellow excavator clearing a landslide. This looked like it might hold us up for a while. Tap, the mechanic must have a smooth tongue as he yelled out and convinced them to stop and we’d help clear the boulders and rocks and we could get through.
Everywhere you looked today was stunning - rice terraces and waterfalls cascading down steep valleys with the narrow roads winding through, the roads lined with the usual daily animals; dogs, pigs, buffalo, geese, goats, ducks and cows mostly tended by courtly locals.
We stopped at a bamboo viewpoint which gave us a raised position for photos. Cuong had the drone up here and could see the nearby buffaloes were watching it.
In a small town there was a local market and festival. There were many tribes here with different dress and the market was covered with tarpaulins held up by bamboo poles. As we took off the flags, which were too tall to get through, we were surrounded by people interested to have a look at us.
Then slowly we went through the markets. Graham hit a pole, as did others later, but he bought down the tarp with it. The lady who had her stall under it was very gracious and smiling. It was no problem.
Just past the market there was a huge circle of people laughing at whatever was happening inside. There were 3 people blind folded and two white long necked ducks in there, so the game must have been to try to catch them.
At coffee time I tried an ice cream and a drag on one of the pipes that are in every cafe and restaurant here. Just tastes like roll your own tobacco. Doesn’t make me want to go back to smoking....
We had only come 30km and was 12pm when we finished refuelling. There was about 85km to go but it was a better road so we were a little faster.
Lunch at Cốc Pài was in a huge restaurant that looked like a function centre. The ladies toilet was interesting with three places for ladies to squat - a bit like a ladies urinal.
The restaurant was closed, but they let us have our picnic lunch here and served fantastic fresh mango and passionfruit drinks.
It was a steep climb out of Cốc Pài and part of it on rough, bouncy roads up to just under 1,500m above sea level.
We stopped at a farm to see how the rice harvest is done and a few people got involved having a go with the threshing machine. Cuong showed his moves in the field, and proved that even though he’s a Hanoi city boy, he grew up helping with the harvest.
We had time to visit the Hoàng A Tưởng Palace built with Oriental and Western architectural styles. The castle was built at the beginning of the 20th century (between 1914 and 1921).
Its owner was Hoang Yen Chao of Tay origin. He was the father of Hoàng A Tưởng, a tribal mandarin under the domination of the French colonialists.
There was a fantastic fabric shop so a few purchases were made before we drove the last short section to the hotel where Huyen had G&Ts waiting. We are getting a bit too used to this!
Dinner was in the hotel tonight with sizzling beef as a new dish we had not yet tried.