Wednesday 21 September – Long Cốc – Tú Lệ
Well, go to bed early, more often than not, you’ll get up early.
But there’s a difference between going to bed, and actually going to sleep, with the sleep thing taking far longer than I would have liked.
Perhaps a combination of wondering if there was going to be second strong desire to revisit the toilet, along with trying to get comfortable on a mattress that is not much thicker than something not very thick.
And then when the sleep did arrive, it was more doze-like sleep, than proper deep sleep. The rooster who decided to crow at 3.30am also didn’t help, and I’m now hoping we’ll be having some sort of chicken dish for breakfast.
Then again, maybe he’s just realised that one of his mates is missing, after what we had for dinner last night…..
So now, at the ridiculous time of 6.30am, how do I feel?
I actually feel alright, and there were no subsequent mad rushes to the toilet during the night. Which is always a good thing.
A bit of a pack up, and then downstairs to a breakfast of pancakes with banana and honey, but no chicken.
Sharon and Peter are already there, with Sharon being up even earlier than us, as she’s been off trying to get sunrise photos over the tea plantations. Peter, on the other hand, stayed ‘home’, and unfortunately, is still not well.
Breakfast done, and it’s back upstairs to complete the pack up thing, which as usual, takes longer than it should. Why does it feel like we have more stuff than we did yesterday?
Packed bags strapped onto the bikes, we bid farewell to our friendly homestay hosts, with whom we would definitely stay with again should we ever find ourselves in Long Coc, and we’re on our way by 9.00am.
Long Coc is actually a little bigger than I first thought yesterday, but it’s by no means a large town, and it’s not long before we’re out in the quintessential Vietnamese countryside.
Drying ‘slices’ of trees, which I believe will become plywood or some sort of veneer.
It’s pretty easy going, and being on fairly main type roads, the scenery just whizzes by.
An hour in, and we’re still on the move. My bum, and legs, are starting to let me know that they’d like a break, and if that’s happening, then I know someone else who is somewhere behind me, will also likely be finding something similar.
We eventually pull over on the outskirts of a small town around 10.30am, and yep, my suspicions are realised when I see Hung and Lisa pull up.
She’s not great, and a little unlike me, I do actually offer some sympathy. That first bit of driving was a little long.
Legs stretched, happier place once again found for the Intrepid one, and we’re back on our way.
Around half an hour later, and with plenty of lush green rice fields being overlooked by rather large mountains, I ask Toan if we can stop for a few photos.
Of course it’s no problem at all, and it also gives us the opportunity to once again achieve comfort for our legs.
Probably more fun than just laying in it.
Photos done, the Intrepid one now with a smile on her face, and we’re back on our way. We reach the town of Nghĩa Lộ a bit after 12.00pm, and being close enough to lunch time, Toan pulls up at a restaurant to do something about that.
Fried rice with beef and pickled vegetables, along with a light watery soup, and it’s all really nice. But again, there’s just too much to eat, although Toan and Hung have no problem finishing what’s in front of them.
I just can’t work out where they put it all.
Food completion failed, I check out the toilet; for both personal comfort, but also reconnaissance purposes so as to let Lisa know what she can expect.
Only one of us is happy with my findings, and unfortunately for Lisa, it is not her as she navigates the rather ordinary squat toilet.
Toilet, kind of, conquered, we’re on the move again about 1.15pm. Apparently we have a bit over two hours to go, which doesn’t exactly fill Lisa with joy and excitement. Oh well….
Out of Nghĩa Lộ, eventually, after taking a wrong turn, and once again into the countryside. The scenery begins to change, namely the mountains, with large ones now being seen in front of even larger ones. The locals are also different, with far more minority villagers around, along with their distinctive colourful clothing.
A young guy walking up a narrow path towards the road, appears to be dragging a rather heavy looking cable behind him. But it turns out to be more of a lead, as there is a water buffalo attached to the other end, which in turn is dragging several lengths of bamboo.
The weather ranges from hot to warm, and even occasionally cool-ish, but never cold.
We pull over around 2.00pm for a rest stop, which just happens to be near a stream. We head down for a closer look, finding a water buffalo in the process.
Again, they fascinate me for some reason, and I have this urge to pat him. Well, I did, until Toan mentions that they have been known to not only injure, but also kill, people.
I decide it’s probably best I leave him alone.
Just couldn’t pluck up the courage….
Legs stretched, the journey continues. More water buffalos, cows, ducks, chickens, rice, sugarcane, tea, and more and more minority villagers. It’s all just so Vietnam, and it’s something I could never tire of.
But there are a couple of other things that are also Vietnam, which are not so good.
One is the rubbish, which while not everywhere, is there enough to be a problem. It’s hard not to notice it, and it’s been something that I’ve been acutely aware of since our first trip. It’s disappointing, and I really hope the mindset can be changed sooner, rather than later.
The second thing, and something else that we have been well aware of since day one, is the driving.
So far today there have been three occasions where impatient car drivers have overtaken on blind corners. I seriously don’t understand it, and I’m not sure the drivers themselves even consider what is going to happen if it all goes downhill in a big way.
Again, it’s not everywhere, and it’s not all the time, but it is enough to make you want to limit your time on Vietnam’s roads.
I’m just thankful we have Toan, as well as Hung; as more caring and responsible drivers, you would struggle to find.
We continue on, spending a bit of time going up mountains, as well as down them, and then come across some women on the side of the road selling corn. It kind of looks familiar, and straight away it takes me back to 2017 when I was up this way with Toan.
We reach a small town, and I notice a sign saying ‘Cốm Tú Lệ’, which also makes me think back to 2017, as Tu Le was the place we stayed in, on the first night of our trip.
After unsuccessfully trying to get petrol earlier, we come across another petrol station. And just like earlier, they can’t help us.
On we go, now wondering how far the remaining petrol we have in the tanks will get us, and then into another town. We come across some locals out the front of their house, and they appear to be doing something with rice.
Toan pulls over for a closer look, and yep, they’re crushing, or maybe pulverizing, rice, which is green, and of the sticky variety.
It’s a simple, but also fascinating, process, and Hung even helps out by giving a demonstration.
The green sticky rice.
Hung doing the leg work. And timing is very important for the mixer.
Demonstration complete, we continue making our way through the town, and come across another petrol station just down the road.
We try our luck, and again, we’re out of luck.
But we’re pointed in the direction of someone over the road, so we head across. A petrol station it is not, but there is one of those steel container things that has a hand pump attached, and that steel container is full of what we are looking for.
The question is asked, and we quickly have a 10 year old girl pumping petrol into the bikes. Again, it’s Vietnam, I love it, and Lisa can’t quite believe what she’s seeing.
Our petrol girl, with Lisa in the background looking rather perplexed.
Bikes full, money handed over, we head off. Still more signs of ‘Cốm Tú Lệ”, and eventually it becomes too much, so I ask Toan. And yep, we are in Tu Le.
“We stayed here last time”, he says, perhaps not understanding that there is no way I have forgotten, nor am I likely to ever forget, anything about that 2017 trip.
On we go, pulling up outside our accommodation from last time. Toan hadn’t actually planned anything about where we were going to stay, but seeing as we’re here, we decide to do it all over again.
Off the bikes, bags unstrapped, and as we head upstairs to our room, I warn Lisa about what she’s likely to find when it comes to softness, or lack thereof, of the mattress we will be sleeping on tonight.
Yep, that’ll make it two from two….
Bags dropped, we head back downstairs to explore a little of the village in the valley, on the other side of the main road. It’s something we didn’t have time to do five years ago, and my only look at it was from the window of my room, as well as a few glimpses, and a short photo opportunity on our way out of Tu Le the following day. I’d always kind of regretted not being able to get a closer look.
Back on the bikes, into the valley; it’s apparently the Hmong and Thai people who live here; and it’s even more scenic looking than from my window.
Lush green rice, along with a scattering of non la wearing locals, going about their business amongst said rice, cows walking the narrow roads, and the authentic minority houses you see in these parts.
Yep, it’s just beautiful.
Long lengths of bamboo with a net stretched between, they use it to try and catch birds during the night.
We pass a house with a bit noise coming from it, and it appears to be some sort of party. A couple of people out the front get rather excited when they see us, with lots of waving and calling out. They actually want us to come in, and while it’s incredibly tempting, I also know that it’s potentially dangerous.
Not from any physical threat point of view, but more what they’ll likely be drinking, and as such I will also end up drinking. There’s also the fact that I know it will be very difficult for me to leave after just one, as I know how convincing they can be.
I regretfully decline their invitation, and pretty much immediately regret it, but Lisa, perhaps not surprisingly, is happy with my decision.
We continue our ride around, and it’s just a great relaxed way to finish off what has been a fairly long day of travelling.
Back to the hotel, it’s well and truly beer o’clock, and because I’m not taking no for an answer, it’s going to be the four of us.
Sitting at a table out the front by the side of the road, it was nice to be able to just sit and chat over a few beers, while watching the locals of Tu Le do their thing as the day winds down.
A nice way to end a long day on the road.
Lisa then heads up for a shower, while I have a little more difficulty dragging myself away. But with dinner time fast approaching, I soon succumb to the call of the shower.
Bill fixed up, with a couple of takeaways added, and then it’s upstairs to get rid of several hours of dust and sweat.
Back outside about 7.00pm to see Toan and Hung, and then off up the hill to find the dinner we now require.
We find a small family run place, and because it’s just not that important to me, I leave it to Toan to sort out the food side of things, while I deal with the beer.
We end up with beef, rice, beef with vegetables, as well as – and I’m sure Toan only does this because he knows how much I love it…. a plate of tofu.
Oh well, it’s good to have it now and then, if not to just be reminded of why I’m far from a fan.
The food, minus the tofu, is good, the beers are really good, and the company and the place we’re sitting in, just brilliant.
Dinner done, a few take aways also purchased, with the promise of returning the bottles in the morning, and we head off back down the hill to the hotel.
Beers, notes, and a little Trip Advisoring on the bed follows, and as has become the norm, a bit of contemplation on our day.
Twenty-four hours ago, and again on a mattress that you could hurt yourself if you fell over on it, I’d wondered if we’d be able to surpass what we did yesterday.
I kind of knew it would probably be unlikely that we could, seeing as it was a truly brilliant day; and yep, now at the end of our next day, it’s fair to say that we didn’t quite reach those lofty heights.
Don’t get me wrong, it was still a good day; but with the amount of travel to get us to where we are now, there were a few downs to go with the ups that we experienced.
And while Lisa obviously struggled more than I did at certain times, I think she still enjoyed the vast majority of it.
I’m not actually going to ask her if that was the case, preferring instead to merely assume that it is, based on the fact that she seems happy, and that she’s still talking to me.
So, two days in, we’ve now racked up a great day, as well as a good day, which I’m more than okay with.
After all, as much as it would be nice to have Disneyland every day, I know from previous experience, including that very memorable 2017 trip with Toan, that it’s just not possible.
It will be what it will be, and we just simply need to make the most of what we’re dealt with each day. There’s no point fighting it, as that never works.
So, Mu Cang Chai tomorrow, which was what this whole trip was originally about, so I’m really looking forward to seeing it.
But it is slightly bittersweet, as after tonight, we officially enter the second half of our four week Vietnam adventure.
Yep, and I do hate that that kind of stuff is still rattling around in my head…..
4 thoughts on “Vietnam 2022 – Trip Report 15”
Breathtakingly beautiful. Nostalgic too.
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Yep, it’s an amazing part of the world!
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gotta love a beer after a long day hey Scott?
Merry Xmas to you and family mate, hear from you in ’23!
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And Merry Christmas to you guys too! Hope it’s a great one.
Oh, and I’m hopeful the next one might just get up tomorrow.
It’s been an interesting week, so we’ll see…..