Trekking like the Pied Piper

Trip Start Sep 15, 2012
Trip End May 01, 2013

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Word of the day: Viscous.

Arriving early at the travel agent where we made our hill trek booking we were told to come back in 30mins, so we took ourselves off to the coffee shop across the road and ordered. Along came the waiter and put before us two of the most viscous coffees we've ever seen, at the same time Vikki looked out across the street and at that exact moment caught sight of a man blowing the most viscous snot out of his nose with great force and onto the receiving pavement.
We met our guide, Pilulu, at around 9.15am and began our trek through the town and past the central square where Mongs were selling their wares on mass. By the time we had reached the furthest side of town we had attracted a couple of followers who decided to join us on our trek into the mountains just so they could sell us some tat. We thought they'd walk with us for thirty minutes or so, two hours later they were still in tow. At one point we turned around and noticed the further addition of two more Red Xao tribeswomen to compliment our Black H'Mong ladies.

When we reached Red Xao territory we felt obliged to buy some embroidered items from our original crew for their persistence before they fell by the wayside but this set a dangerous, and potentially expensive, precedent for the remaining pied piper gang...

The walk was lovely, quite diverse, trees and valleys and rice terraces. We passed numerous rural villages and communities following our winding off road path to Taphin where we'd reach our homestay with a local family for the night.

We stopped off for lunch at another homestay enroute and were fed and watered, our little followers embroidering in the shade whilst we ate on the terrace above. A lad of about eighteen down below was balancing on a make-shift rickety wooden scaffold whilst attempting to construct a column out of breeze blocks and homemade and saftey. Idle observation over and lunch digested, almost, we moved on!

A bat cave is what we were supposedly looking at when Pilulu directed us past an unused 'Handicrap Village' further down the line. A disused cavern of goats urine and grafitti is what we experienced, our guide pointed out that there used to be stalactites in the form of 'fairies dancing' but the locals had hacked them off and taken them home as personal souvenirs, supposedly bringing 'good luck' to the vandal.

In any case we could only see half of it as you had to pay someone to turn the lights on....we decided not to bother and headed straight to the homestay to get settled in. On the way we passed a swanky 'Spa' that provided herbal baths to locals and weary travellers alike, it was only five minutes further to our inn for the night.

After being welcomed into the homestay and thanking our hosts, we returned to the Spa for a herbal bath. On entering the 'reception area' we noticed a wooden bedstead next to the 'reception desk' donning a bamboo mat, on which a local woman was sitting and reapplying foundation over her perspiring face and wondered if we'd made the right decision as she filled her open pores.

Ushered into a room some time later wearing white jelly shoes that a multitude of corn and veruca encrusted feet had probably populated since 1974, we were greeted with two large steaming barrels. On closer inspection we realised that these were our 'baths', and giggled as we lowered and contorted ourselves into a semi comfortable position, as only fat birds can do in a barrel.

The water was the colour of tea and smelled like damp leaves, it was also about 10C too hot for comfort, the combination left us feeling a little weak. We stuck it out for half an hour by intermittently pouring cold water over our faces, but when our eyeballs started sweating we decided we'd had enough and dragged our herbally invigorated bones out.

Returned to the homestay and caught sight of two young female travellers on the balcony and said hello, we all joined each other for dinner. In the spirit of teamwork we helped make spring rolls with the family and chatted to the Australian girls with some difficulty. They were far too serious for girls their age and more importantly just reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally boring! When the bootlegger rice wine came out Paula and Vikki drank the Aussies share, leaving them to condescend over the rest of us, including the family and guide.

They retired early to bed to contemplate philosophy and culture whilst downstairs we got merry on a liquid that Vikki said tasted like 'earwax vodka'! That time of the night came for Paula to show the bemused husband how to balance a broom on his nose, whilst Vikki was getting touched up by Pilulu who had taken a shine to her and was trying to woo her with dodgy versions of Cat Stevens songs....a fun night was had by all!

When we had made significant in roads into the second bottle of rice wine we had a moment of clarity and decided to call it a night so that we would not actually keel over and die on our harder trek planned for early the next day...

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annewardell on

Viscous!! (bit like the 'bath', eh?!) xxxx

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