Yoga, Back Road Bike Ride, a Cave

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Mai Chau Lodge, Mai Chau, Vietnam

Flag of Vietnam  , (VM16),
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Over the last couple weeks I returned to two memorable villages. The horn village I set up as a group trip  with a cluster of teachers, and a yoga retreat weekend with other Hanoi yogi's.
The horn village was nice because one of the shop owners took us on a tour of the village to see his village's pagodas and temples. Afterwards we ended up back at his place where the teachers repaid his tour guide kindness with buying lots of his handmade items. Everyone was happy in the end. Upon leaving we stopped at a Bia Hoi for lunch and of course delicious homemade beer.

 One thing I like about this country is that there isn't a shortage of microbrews. Almost everyone makes their own brew and sells it. It's mostly lagers but each one has a subtle taste difference and I think its my job to try them all to seek out those subtle differences. This is no exaggeration, there are Bia Hoi's every 100 meters, sometimes across the street from each other. Some are small mom and pop beer fronts while others are huge 5 floor beer halls. All have some kind of food from homemade snacks to full blown meals.

 Oops sorry I got off track, where was I...

I have included a pic of my ever greening balcony in my attempt to get it as green as possible to hide some of the houses being or been built across the Ngo (Vn for alley). When I first moved in I could see a good distance, now with the ever popular housing boom my view is now a long way... into my neighbors houses. Fortunately there is still a few "holes" to see out into the outer cityscape. My plants are growing more now that summer is on the horizon and I expect them to make for a nice green patch for me to escape.

Last weekend I went on a yoga weekend retreat in Mai Chau. I had been there about a month before but the weather was rainy and we only stayed over night so I didn't see as much as I had heard there was to see. So I combined a Dr's appt with a personal day to make a full day off from school. I rode the chartered bus full of people I didn't know plus one acquaintance, to Mai Chau. It was a very sunny ride to the Hoa Binh province where Mai Chau is located and we stopped for as health break about halfway and nearly the entire bus of us headed straight for the toilets. Then we started all over again with filling our bladders full of coffee or tea. 
The hotel we stayed in was the very nice Mai Chau Lodge ( It was everything I had read about it and more. I had been told by one unreliable source (unreliable now because this is the second time she has badmouthed a place that I liked) that the food sucked. I found the food absolutely delicious, in fact I think it was one of the highest spots on my trip. I got several great ideas from their simple but tasty vegetarian dishes. One was a mint leaf salad that was so simple but packed a punch of taste. Just combine a large handful or two of mint leaves and their soft upper stems, a handful of bean sprouts, a few slivers of onion and the same for carrots and toss with a vinegar and oil. It showed up twice on the menu and it took all my willpower not to sneak the entire buffet bowl to my room. It is that good.
I shared a room with the one person I sort of knew, Chin Yee, a young Hong Kong born guy. I have been in a few classes with him at the studio so we have talked on a few occasions. Our room was nice and comfortable with a bowl of fruit and complimentary rice wine - he said he didn't want any so I sipped on it 'til it was gone Sunday morning after breakfast and just before our ride home.
So it was a yoga weekend and I haven't said anything about the healthier side of this trip, the yoga and a beautiful bike ride into the countryside. The yoga classes/practice were so good. Every class was both appropriately challenging for all levels and relaxing at the same time. We started each yoga practice with 30 minutes of meditation and Marzena (the studio owner and this weekend's instructor) showed us a different method of meditation at each session. Then it was followed up with 60-90 minutes of yoga. On Friday evening we all just moseyed around the grounds, since we were pretty tired from the ride and yoga. Saturday morning we had 7am meditation/yoga session followed by breakfast and then we met up for a ride into the countryside. It was a nice rolling mostly paved ride but occasionally we found ourselves on dirt paths. It was truly a magical ride as we were far from the noise and commotion of the city (even though Mai Chau city is a small town, it has some light traffic). But out here it was so quiet except for the occasional crowing chicken or child's laughter basically it was complete solitude. Rolling mountains in the background fronted by stilt houses and rice paddies and a narrow path for bikes or motorcycles was all there was to be found. The people were hard at work in the paddies, small vegetable gardens or playing with their children. After yoga this was icing on the cake. 
 We were out riding for about 2 hours and then came back to our hotel where we had a few hours of free time and then meditation/yoga followed by dinner. Some went to a show in the *Mo Luong cave but I was dead tired. You know I had to be bushed to pass on a traditional fare of dance. So I went back to the room, read, and at some point during the first page of my book fell fast asleep. 
The next morning it was again a 7am meditation/yoga session followed by breakfast and free time where a few of us walked around the stilt house village. It was a quiet area as was most everything off the main road, then back to the lodge for lunch and then loaded up for our ride back to Hanoi

* The Mo Luong cave or Soldier cave as its nicknamed, is an interesting place with lots of history and legend. This cave expands 500 meters into the Pu Kha Mountain and consists of four discovered caverns. 
The first cavern is a huge 60 meters long by 16 meters wide and is where weapons were hid during the American/Vietnam war. The second cavern can be found by climbing 10 meters of stairs and the locals think its the home of saints and fairies since some of the formations resemble fairies and/or saints. The third cavern is a large 20x20m room and the fourth cavern contains an underground stream. Chin Yee and I ventured into the cave where a film crew was filming a movie, essentially the first cavern where the weapons were hid. We then climbed the 10 meter ladder into the homes of the saints and fairies but could go no further due to lack of lighting,but were saved as 3 women from our group showed up with flashlights on their phones. We all hiked a ways back into the cave enroute to the the third cavern but the ground was damp and the lights on phones aren't really bright enough to take on this kind of venture so we worked our way back the way we came and out into the daylight. 

All in all a good weekend of exercise, good food and some exploration and adventure.

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kwai_chang on

This might be a first! There are no food shots in this entry. Ninety-two photos and not one food shot! (Assuming you don't count all the uncooked food items--the dog, chickens, ducks, and rabbits, which will eventually find their way to someone's menu.) I guess all that sexy porn-yoga took your mind off food photography.

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