Mai Chau

Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Where I stayed
Mai Chau Nature Lodge

Flag of Vietnam  , Thanh Hóa,
Friday, April 29, 2011

11:16 I had to drag myself out of bed today at 7. I'd prepared my daysack last night with things I'd need for today, so got dressed and went down for my free breakfast of pancakes with honey and tea. The bus arrived at 8 and we set off to Mai Chau. I spent some time talking to the girl next to me who is from Malaysia with 3 of her friends.
I also dozed a while, then we stopped at a place for a break and a coffee. The coffee was delicious, it had condensed milk in it which made it thick and sweet.
There was also another bus there going to Mai Chau as well, but with fewer people in it so I swapped bus which gave everyone more room.

Speaking to the guide in the bus I discover that it is his business with the American guy in the bus I started in. He built his wooden house on stilts and hosts the homestays. He's doing really well as every month more and more people come. The drive is 4 hours away and he goes twice a day. Mai Chau is in a valley, so the journey there involves going up hills and so on. We've passed beautiful rice terraces, fields of sugar cane, tea crops and other things I don't recognise.

It's a pretty cloudy day and was raining when we left Hanoi.
As we drive along it remains cloudy and gets thicker as we ascend into the hills. I fear that the weather will stay this way.
11:43 Coming over the hill we popped out of the clouds just like that and it became really clear.
14:47 We went for a walk after a basic lunch and walked along tracks next to the rice fields, watching the clouds clear from the hills. The sun eventually came out and we arrived in a village. We had tea with a family in an ancient house and I had a chew on Betelleaf and something else which tasted bitter and turned my Tongue and spit red.

Man explained how people get their names and made An example between me and him, ie, if we got married I would no longer be called Zoe I'd also be called Man and if we had a child then we would all be called the name of the child! How confusing is that! For the rest of the afternoon we joked around and he kept asking where was his wife and calling me honey, and I told him to stop looking at other women else I might divorce him. So funny.
15:37 We've been walking through the countryside in the hot sticky air. I've been wearing a triangular hat to keep the sun off my face and neck but I'm so hot and sweaty, it really is a permanent condition. The view all around me is absolutely stunning. The green of the rice us SO green, there is only the sound of the wind and insects making a sort of laughing, clicky noise and occasionally the sound of running water as you walk past a stream, or the groany moo of a buffalo. There are tall hills all around, with clouds wisping across the top still, and shadows moving quickly across the fields as little clouds pass over the sun. I can really imagine how it might have been as a soldier to be walking across these fields (ok, apart from being dressed in full greens, with 40kg rucksack, a machine gun and the paralysing fear of not knowing if the locals you see tending their fields might be about to kill you). I have more of an idea than I ever did before, and when I watch any of these war films now, I will know the sights, heat, humidity, smells, sounds and scale of what I see on the screen.
16:42 We spent a couple of hours walking and it got really hot so quickly after it stopped raining. It was nice to be back at the stilted house with a cold drink and a cold flannel on my head.
20:11 After a simple dinner of rice, vegetables and spring roll type things, we had some dancers over to perform to music and drums and I had a dance too amongst the bamboo sticks! Which involved dancing between bamboo sticks held by the others and not getting your feet caught up. I'd only just cooled off from the walk and now was all hot again!
20:21 We had more drinks and had a soldier who joined us (he's 65 and fought in Hue)
21:24 I have come to bed, it's still hot and humid and I can hear drums and music nearby. Imagine if you will a wooden house on stilts, with bamboo floor you can see through, no windows, not even a door. Ok, so by the power of digital photography you don't have to imagine it, you can just look! My bed is a mat on the floor covered in a mosquito net. We are in a village in a valley 4 hours away from Hanoi, surrounded by rice fields and people who's prized possession may be a water buffalo. Yet something is absolutely astonishing....they have the Internet. (Oh and full mobile phone reception.)Wired it may be, but they have it. Why this astonished me more is that even my parents who live in a nice house a 15 min drive from Carlisle, in Cumbria, do not have wired Internet and rely on a dongle to get any, AND I barely have phone reception there. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE???!!!!

Best: the walk around the countryside

Worst: the rain

Beautiful: I must have taken at least 100 pictures of some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. And none of those photos will ever do it justice.
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Lizziekins on

Are you ever gonna try that snake in a bottle juice stuff? Go on - do it for me!

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