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Hill riding in the frontier land


Considering we went to sleep at the top of a mountain, the night rest was very comforting.

The absence of „industrial“ noise can be distracting, for us as Western Europeans, but especially for those Vietnamese metropolitans. There were no horns, no traffic noise, no people chatting, crying, arguing or else. In these moments you realize how noisy nature can be. How loud and odd. How discomforting when you don’t know what the source of the noise might be. I came across a similar situation in Mexico last year when we were in the deepest jungle and have heard howler monkeys for the first time. It took us a while and we googled to see if we were right with our assumptions. For a lot of people, certain sounds sound as familiar as doves curring for us, and yet there are uneducated folks like us who consider it the most peculiar sound on earth.

Well, another discomforting sound I heard yesterday in our little private hut. It didn’t sound pleasant at all. A huge, slimy frog thought it would be best to hide between the curtain and our front door. From the inside, of course. I was so scared at first that my boyfriend had to „escort“ it outside, caged inside the bin.

At 09:30 am sharp we are to start the second tour, alone with our guide. It will be exhausting, I guess. My knee still is a little swollen thanks to my spill yesterday, but anyways I wouldn’t want to miss a second of the fabulous day ahead.

Staying at the top of a mountain has certain advantages: The first stage is downhill, of course. One wonderful panorama follows the next, passing bridges, rivers, and valleys alike. The frontier to China is just a beautiful place on earth.

For almost six hours we ride our bikes, 30 kilometers in total, with about 2,000 meters in altitude (equaling to 1,300 downhill and 700 up). The peak is reached with a 17% ascent and as trained as I am, this got me. I had to dismount. We were lucky to have been picked up before the last steep incline to our hotel. We wouldn’t have made it.

I have considerable time to take a lot of photos, a selection of which you can see below. Although my favorite shot is taken by my boyfriend (I am so jealous that I don’t get credits for that) we will take home wonderful impressions of the people and nature, not only manifested in the photos.

At our first stop we have the chance to refresh ourselves. Our local guide is indispensable, otherwise we would’ve just passed this little hut. A lot of corn bags stacked in one corner, an outdated freezer in the other, we buy ice tea for a whole VND 60,000 (Dong). Clearly a tourist price, but they’ll use it and it’s not impoverishing.

We arrive at the second rest after a steep downhill to a river. To reach it we have to dismount and walk the rest, meaning we have to return uphill. Not so funny, I think while climbing down the last bit, across rocks, until my feet get wet and feel the refreshingly cold water. I immediately feel it was worth it.

Some kids were playing around, fishing. Both them and us seemed to be curious what the others were doing there but didn’t dare to get in touch. So we sat down on some rocks, enjoyed the cool-down and peered furtively on their success with the self-build fish nets and traps. It seemed they weren’t in need of food or sent out to bring back home the gain but only whiled away the time.

Finally, at the third stop, we get something to eat. It is the most authentic encounter because a local couple cooked for us in their simple but tidy homestay. Rice, chicken and beef were delicious after a demanding morning. We were not in a rush so we took the time to explore the streets of the tiny town before we take off again. We have already reached our limits and our behinds were not used to the saddle – ouch.

Thankfully the rest of the tour mostly goes downwards and we get a transfer back to the hotel. We have met good company on the trip to Sapa already, so we agree on having dinner together.

Again, at the hotel restaurant, waiters do not seem to follow a concept of assigned tables to one or the other colleague. Despite we know it now from last night, we can’t  help but wonder how they manage to send three different people to wait our table, who all give us different information on how long it will take to prepare our meal. Prepared to wait for another 30 minutes we are more than surprised that in the next breath it is brought and we can enjoy.

Later, we booked the last place to stay for the overnight in HCMC to head back to Germany. It is odd that even in the most remote regions in the world, stable wi-fi has arrived, whereas we can’t stop diseases, poverty, hunger and the like. Situations like this always make me reflective.

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