Saturday, May 11, 2013

New World

Success! After talking to various backpackers and local scalpers, we managed to find buyers for both of our bikes. ''Claudette'' and ''Du Hung'' were sold for a total of $600, the exact same price as we paid for them initially in Ho Chi Minh City. Given the fact that Ha Noi and Saigon are two totally different markets, we were pretty lucky. Overall the journey on the Honda Wins cost us about $150 for both (all included, repairs, fuel etc), which is still less compared to bus prices from south to north. To sum it up, travelling through Vietnam on a bike with zero bike experience and a fake licence is just great, its the only way to discover the true Vietnam.
Enough about bikes, we sold them and took the night bus up to Sa Pa, a mountain village in the very north-western corner of Vietnam. It is always a battle of pros and cons, when its about night busses; yes, you somehow save time as you travel while you sleep vs. no, you will not sleep anyway in these shitty 160cm long beds with all the Asian-Karaoke-Sound coming along with it.
We arrived after few minutes/hours of sleep in the early morning hours. Sa Pa and its neighbouring villages are known for the different tribes that live up there. Most popular and biggest tribe are the 'Mong', others are the 'Zai' or the 'Dsou'. All of them have their very own language plus they speak a crushed Vietnamese to communicate with each other. To fully get into this new world, we decided to do a home stay instead of an overpriced hotel booking. A French couple which we met in Cat Ba recommended us this option, and also told us about 'Shosho', the lady at whoms place they were staying. So it came that Flo and I were wandering through Sa Pa market at 7am, looking for a certain 'Shosho', who supposedly has her right hand cut off (now think of the gestures and conversations we had this morning). Eventually we sat on the back of two scooters who brought us to Ta Van, a village some 15km below Sa Pa. 'Shosho' was no where around, instead a certain 'Sausai' who was offering home stays as well. However, here place was nothing like a home-stay, it was more like a Ho-Tel. We waved her off and started to talk with two local Mong women. After some talks, they started to walk up mountain with us and brought us to 'Xu's place. Xu is also a Mong and we were told that we could stay at her place, if we wanted. Of course we wanted, since the house was in the middle of all the rice terraces and since it was truly a Mong home, nothing artificial.
We spent the day walking through the rice fields, talking to Mongs, playing with locla children. Xu and her family were absolutely genius, we had a great time. She told us that together with her husband, she would like to get into the home stay-business. We, being her first guests ever, told her to please not transform her lovely house into another fake home stay that will sooner or later appear in the Lonely Planet, she should rather keep it as real and simple as it is now. Should any of you readers be interested in this option, I have name, address and phone number of Xu.

Monastery in Houay Xay
After having seen a totally different Vietnam in Sa Pa and Ta Van, our days in the communist country were numbered, we headed off towards Laos. In busses and banana cases with wheels we drove into the interior in Southeast Asia. Again, a totally new world awaited us. With Dvorak's New World Symphony in the ears, we kept on climbing up and down the endless jungle mountains of northern Laos. In between we saw rural villages, huge areas of deforestation, bomb craters from one of the two Indochina wars and over and over again, beautiful views. At times, the wish of still sitting on the bikes came up, since the streets in Laos seem to be much saver and much calmer. However, with only very few mechanics on the way, it would not really be ''Claudette-Land'' here.
We arrived in Houay Xay and directly went to the booking office of 'The Gibbon Experience', which is a local tour operator, offering trekkings into the Lao jungle, with the possibility to see Gibbon monkeys in wild life. So it came that we spent the last three days far from any civilization, deep in the jungle. We slept in tree houses, we zip-lined through the bushes and we swam in remote jungle waterfalls. It was an amazing experience, mother nature at its best. This morning we got up at 4am, zip-lined through the darkness and walked to a viewpoint, from where we could follow the breathtaking sunrise

We were lucky to have an experienced guide, he knew exactly where to be at which time, in order to actually see a Gibbon. There is unfortunately no foto-proof of it, but we did see one, rushing from one tree to another, too fast for any camera. I do have pictures however, from all the spiders, rats and praying mantis, with whom we shared the tree houses at nights.

Yes, the guys were huge and not for all of our six group members...
I shall however terminate this post with nicer pictures, showing our main activity of the past days,  ziplining through Lao jungle mountains:

stay tuned, GH

(p.s. no cat could be found in Ha Noi :-(

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