Third Time's the Charm

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Stilt House

Flag of Vietnam  , (VM16),
Friday, September 2, 2011

I took my third trip to Mai Chau this past weekend, again by motorbike. Its hard for me to say no to a motorbike trip almost anywhere. Going to Mai Chau is an easy"yes" since its a nice quiet area surrounded by mist shrouded mountains and bright green rice fields. The drive is fairly easy once outside the city limits. The city roads leaving Hanoi are always congested and the roads themselves need lots of work, But once you see the 'leaving Hanoi' sign which is a cityscape with a red line through it, the roads get smoother and quieter.

My friend Hang and I had discussed a bike trip about a week before and although we encountered a number of mishaps in communication, added people, bus transport issues for a few add on folks and general time issues we were on our way only an hour later than previously discussed. The drivers were myself, a new teacher from school, Johnny (England) and Seb (Sebastian) the bf of one of our teachers from Australia, and our 3 riders Hoa, Hang and Ngoc Anh respectively

The trip despite having a lot of people unfamiliar with each other ended up being a very nice blend of people. We had a relatively quiet ride not counting the noise that Seb's Minsk blurts out. We stopped for a beverage or two, had lunch and arrived about 5 hours later. We met up with my old friend Mr Dung (pronounced Zung) just outside of town. I had helped employ him to drive the bus riders who couldn't get a public transport because of the holiday (National Day was Friday). Seb's gf was one of the bus riders and she had him wait for us to arrive since Hang knew where the stilt house was where we were to stay. They left after us but still arrived before us and we were just about 30 mins behind. So  we caravanned our way through town and arrived at our house. dropped bags and all had a cool beer. A cold beer after a long motorbike ride is just so refreshing, it ranks right up there with a cold one after a dusty softball game. Many people stayed at the beer drinking table for most of the evening while I walked around the village with Hang, Hoa and Ngoc Anh. They shopped and I photographed. I was now armed with lots of new photographing techniques instilled in me from Seb who knows his way very well around a shutter speed or two. I learned more about ways to get more out of my camera then what I was using. 

We came back ordered a massive amount of traditional Vn foods and then began to plunder our way through dinner. When everyone was stuffed we sat back and drank another beer or two and then ordered a Ruou Can (pronounced zeo can). Nothing tastes better after a long bike ride though the hinterlands of Vietnam than a pot of ruou can (rice whiskey). Ruou Can is served in a ceramic pot that's placed in the middle of the table  and drunk from long bamboo "straws". The top is covered with plastic so its impossible to know how much has been consumed. The contents of ruou can I believe is made from cooked sticky rice brewed with ferment and covered for 3 months or longer which turns it into a strong but sweet rice wine. The ferment is made from the mixture of bark of ebony tree and galingale, ginger and guava leaves, which is grinded for water to be mixed with sticky rice powder. After a few long draws on the bamboo straws a few of us  decided to investigate where the sounds of the traditional white thai minority tribe music was coming from. We discovered it a few stilt houses away and although not invited we went in and sat down to have a listen and watch the traditional dance . Near the end they beckoned some of the onlookers up to to join in to dance also. Johnny was up and dancing with the traditional clothed dancers as if he was one of them. 

We walked back to our stilt afterwards and chilled the night away. I was one of the first to retire to my "bed" while most everyone else continued on into the night.

The next day we split off in different directions - some going for a bike ride while I walked around with a few people and took photos. 

Overall it was a very good weekend of making new friends and learning and seeing new things from old places.

Here is a nice Haiku that seemed on target for my weekend, from my good friend Richard.

  Sunbeams through a tree
Changing negative spaces
     as leaves are joyful

 Have a great week my friends and remember to enjoy your world.
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