The Motorcycle Diary

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Asia » Vietnam » Northwest » Lao Cai » Sapa
July 3rd 2006
Published: July 6th 2006
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Many people have their own idea as to what a trek is, as opposed to a stroll. To my travel agent 2 hours at a slow pace was a day long trek. To me it was a brief stroll. Nonetheless our guide was very fun and informative, and although the path down to the Cat Cat H'Mong minority village was busy and very well trodden the surroundings were beautiful and the people very friendly. When they weren't trying to sell you things that is!

The H'Mong people are one of a number of minority groups within the area. They are Vietnamese citizens, but do not consider themselves Vietnamese (although most speak the language). They wear distinctly different clothing from the traditional vietnamese dress. All other local minorities are in the same category, and the story is the same for the H'Mong found in Laos and Southern China.

Fields of grass
While at Cat Cat village we had a chance to look at a small waterfall, before heading back up to Sapa. We took a route which meant climbing up through a field of Marijuana plants growing higher than me, reminding me of 'The Beach'. I felt like I should get in trouble for this, but here the use is totally innocent - clothes are made from the hemp, and very few people actually smoke or eat the 'Vietnamese Special Potato'.

The suggestion to rent a motorbike came from Sisi, our H'Mong guide with a dubious fasion sense involving gold teeth, so reluctantly Claire (a fellow essex born girl who has been travelling for 10 years) and I hired a couple of bikes and set off. I've never ridden a motorbike before, so Sisi taught me at first. When I realised that she was too small and weak to actually control the bike over much of the rough roads we were driving on I took over, and picked it up pretty quickly. We first stopped at a waterfall, far taller and more dramatic than the one in Cat Cat, before heading off and going for a drive through the twisting mountain roads.

Before too long I was feeling very at home, and wondering why I hadnt toured the whole of asia on bike. Sure, the idea of driving in Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh of Bangkok scares me senseless, but in the average town its ok, and gives you the opportunity to see so much more of the surrounding countryside. So mum, I'm sorry, but next trip will be on my own two wheels.

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