Today was a highly anticipated day: we were aiming to get to the far north of the country about which I had heard so much.
The first hour was an easy ride to the town of Tam Son. Pretty scenery as we started to climb high into the highlands of the north. Stopped in Tam Son for a cup of coffee (which I was now beginning to learn is one of the best kept secrets of Vietnam - absolutely fantastic coffee) after which we continued climbing gaining more and more elevation into the mountain area. The scenery started to enter the "amazing" category as we strained our necks left and ride trying to take it all in. There were huge mountains all around us. Unfortunately it was a little hazy and far from perfect for photo ops. Road conditions remained good, the usual fare in the north of fairly decent pavement with frequent broken up areas of gravel and stone where the road had fallen apart. We started seeing occasional areas, every once in a while, where the landscape was heavily populated with sharply pointed, rich black rocks. We then headed to the northernmost point in Vietnam, the hamlet of Lang Cu, tucked right up against the border with China. There we came upon the National Flagpole, basically a tall, tube shaped concrete structure (the flagpole) atop which was flying a huge Vietnamese flag. There were quite a few Vietnamese tourists there, this place apparently being high on the Vietnamese bucket list.
Riding though the town of Yen Minh we saw a man burning some object on the side of the road. We stopped to take a look and found him preparing dinner, roast dog:
It may be common to eat dog in Vietnam but that was pretty gross.
As we reached the outskirts of town, with Zach about ten yards ahead of me, suddenly a water buffalo came bounding out between two buildings and headed directly into the road toward Zach. A collision looked inevitable, I was sure Zach was about to be buffaloed, but he took evasive action and somehow escaped as I did likewise to avoid colliding with him. Very narrow escape!
As we road on through Van Dong the scenery became absolutely awesome. Incredible high peaks, one after the other, with rounded tops, much like huge oversize buttes.
The road from Van Dong on to Tam Son was easily the most incredibly scenic road I have ever ridden. Riding alongside a cliff with the mountains towering above us and way, far below in the valley a beautiful ribbon of green-blue river.
Amazingly the very steep hillsides were cultivated in many areas, with a few workers perched on the sides of the hills at impossible angles working the "fields".
This lady came wandering up the road and was quite happy to smile for the camera:
Eventually we came out on a high plain to our destination, the town of Meo Vac, situated in a beautiful location surrounded by the high, rounded mountains. It's almost a little strange as even situated among all this beauty the town seems a little desolate. There were many Black Hmoung in the town with very friendly kids. As always we drew stares as we walked the town streets with no other Westerners in sight.
It had been an amazing day, all I had expected - and more - from my trip planning. The roads we had ridden and the scenery we were exposed to left an indelible impression.
Total distance for the day - 210 km (130 miles)