Our experience today is the reason why people travel. Why they take themselves out of their comfort zones, take chances, take risks, sometimes spend a lot of money, ride long distances.
Rather than recreate this I am simply going to copy and paste the Facebook posting I did describing it a few days later because I think that best captures my feeling shorty afterward.
A selection of the large number of photos I took will follow:
The FB post (including original grammatical errors):
Yesterday I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life as Zach and I continued our travels around Vietnam. For the first time we hired a guide. We were very skeptical about the assurances to show us a very beautiful area totally off the tourist routes (and unmentioned in our travel guides) but the recommendations from others who had been there with this guide were so strong that we took the plunge. The ride began auspiciously as we hit untrafficked back roads and rode into swarm upon swarm of butterflies. So beautiful. We then started climbing into the high country and the scenery became more and more stunning. Finally we parked our bikes at the home of one of the local minority tribespeople and started hiking. Over the next three hours what opened before our eyes was quite simply the most jaw dropping, stunning gobsmacking scenery: endless tier upon tier of iridescent green rice paddies stretching out in every direction forming swirls, natural amphitheaters and bowls. This was framed by ribbons of high green mountains in all directions. The fields are farmed manually and no machine or engine was seen or heard. Only the occasional local worker out in the fields or carrying a heavy load on his or her back. Three times we stopped in at the home of another local and were served delicious local tea. Everybody seemed to know and love the guide. The homes were all spotlessly clean and of a similar style with a large room built on wooden pilings, bamboo floor and adjacent kitchen. Finally we got back on our bikes and rode up to the village where we parked. It was perched along a high road with a panoramic view of the area we had just hiked. The guide, simply a lovely man,suggested we walk a few hundred yards through the village while he waited our return. Off we went: oh what a joy. As we walked dozens of kids came running out to us or waved enthusiastically from their houses, all chanting "hello, hello". Every single adult we saw or passed greeted us in the most friendly and warm fashion. Never have I seen so many happy people nor been so welcomed. Unlike in the touristed areas of Vietnam not a single person tried to sell us a trinket or souvenir. The entire day to this point was perhaps my best travel experience of a lifetime. When we got back to our parked bikes the guide walked us across the road where a friendly family had a rice wine still (not wine at all but the strong local home distilled liquor) on the boil. The finished product was flowing slowly into a 5 gallon container. The guide took a cup and proceeded to fill it time and again until we had our fill. All the while the host and his gathered family were beaming at our pleasure. With another ride ahead of us we moderated out intake! We then road 26 kilometers to another minority village where we spent the night at the home of a lovely family, after enjoyed a wonderful meal with them. Apparently an 85 year old village lady had died the previous day and a wake at her house was across the way was in process. We went to sleep to the constant sound of a gong with a resonant hum being struck every 15 seconds intrerspersed by the boom....ba boom.....boom of a beating drum.
We took many, many photos of our day which we will start posting when we return home.
For both Zack and me yesterday as a marker in our lives.
So that's the FB post.
A selection of photos:
On the road up we passed this field of recently harvested pineapples. There were a lot of unpicked pineapples. Xuan stopped and he and Zach went into the field and picked a lot, which then formed a staple part of our diet the next few days. While they were busy another local lady climbed off her motorcycle and proceeded to get a large sackful.
Passing through a town we came upon this propaganda billboard. There are hundreds of these all over the country, and usually they are far larger. I only photographed this one cause I realized I kept on forgetting to shoot one, and I had better shoot at least one before I forgot about it:
Xuan stopped and had a long chat with this man who was leading yoked water buffalo pulling a load of wood. Never did figure out if he knew the man or it was a chance encounter:
One view of the landscape and rice paddies:
A hamlet nestled in at the foot the hills.
We passed this man out in the fields on our hike:
The White Thai houses set in amongst the paddies and hills:
Swirls of terraces:
The cicadas are plentiful, and noisy:
A village nestled in between the valley floor and the mountains:
Cooking area on one of the houses:
These boys followed us around from the moment we arrived until we departed:
Love those kids:
The locals in the village were lovely people.
The village crew:
One of the houses where we stopped for a drink of tea during our hot hike. This nice lady and Xuan chatted on and on. Xuan knew and was liked by a lot of locals. He has been going to the area since he was a driving instructor for the Vietcong army during the American War (which we call the Vietnam War!).
And finally, the Rice Wine (not a wine but an alcohol) that was distilling. The hostess filled cupfuls for us from the finished product pouring slowly out of the end pipe: