Trip Start Jan 22, 2007
75Trip End Ongoing
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The guesthouse was great, just outside Mai Chau in Ban Lac, a wooden hut on stilts with a thatched roof, great food which the owner and her sisters cooked and fun company. The bed was just a mat, quilt and mosquito net but although this is basic they've got western style toilets and hot water. The owner cooked us more food than we could eat for 3 euros and told us how much the village is growing due to tourism - there are now 500 people, 120 houses (29 of which are guesthouses). The evening fun started with the students staying with us, they'd bought a traditional jar of wine and shared it with us through one of many bamboo straws. The taste was nothing special and you need powerful lungs just to get anything to drink through the straw. After dinner one of the girls, Hoan, showed us some magic card tricks which she's obviously been practicing for some time and then we left them to gamble.
Waking up to dance music from the wedding was a surprise, we'd expected cockrels crowing but this was far worse. In fact the cockrels can cry out at anytime, they just get more insistant at dawn. Anyway we got up to do some walking, first with the students and then alone. There are some beautiful views in the Mai Chau valley and we climbed up a steep staircase to see a hidden cave. Above here you can see what appears to be a field of young papaya trees, quite a bizarre site. The evening in the village was then taken over by ladies in fancy dresses going to site on plastic mats near a bonfire to see some traditional dancing - strange what local tourists wear in the countryside :) The dancing was a little too touristic and we didn't stay long, just took a look at the pig which was standing by the fire ready to eat.
Xa Linh was our next village stop and here we encountered the Hmong people, this was a real encounter with a minority who've not yet been integrated into Vietnamese society. Both the men and women still wear their traditional woven clothes and were we'd say quite shy of foreigners. Many of them didn't want their photo taken, but those that did were really smiley, it was amusing watching the older ladies push their friend into one of the pictures. Unfortunately there were no guesthouses here, so after bargaining hard over the price of the bus we were a little disappointed since we had to do the same again to get back to "civilisation".