It was the season of pouring rains in Hoi An on my birthday in 2008 and I decided to do something special. I yielded to the reasoning of two ex-soldiers and bought a mountain tour in the middle part of Vietnam. Those two guides were to outfit us and ride us quick as the wind on their reliable Suzuki bikes.
Four years ago a small company called Easy Riders consisted of two Vietnamese with rather powerful motor bikes. One of them could speak English well enough, he was an interpreter during the Vietnamese war. The second one, a sturdily built man with a scar on the cheek, kept silent all the time but in the end it was he who managed to sell that entertainment to us.
Quite by chance, I came across one Scandinavian who had just returned from such a tour. The same guys took him back to the hotel next door and he described what it was all about: it was a few day ride on a motor bike about the mountainous districts of the country, the raincoats were outfit, personal things were packed to prevent them from soaking. The only thing for us to do was to negotiate the price. The man with a scar came to his “work” perfectly ready. Without a single word (to tell the truth I thought him to be numb at first) he described the route by means of sign language, then he took out a thick notebook with maps, photos and multiple “hurray-comments” of previous clients.
If only my memory does not fail me, we agreed that we would pay 150$ a day per a person. Early in the morning, one day before my 26th birthday I tied my rucksack to a motor-bike’s side and we ran across rice fields and through dense forests. The agreement was that I would tap him on the shoulder if I needed to stop and make a photo.
The post is continued with a few dozens of photos with comments. Real Vietnamese jungles, pioneers and a mountain village where smaller nationalities live.
There are the steel horses of our Vietnamese friends: “Easy Riders”. The company still exists, all the more so with a high appraisal of 4.5 out of 5 it is described on TripAdvisor. Good guys, still working! Here is their site: easy-riders.net. By all appearances, that business seems to be doing well. I see many new motorcyclists-guides in the photos of tourist sites.
Red pioneer ties. As you can guess, bicycle is a cardinal vehicle in the countryside of Vietnam.
A farmer is pasturing geese in the field. The weather at the time of our ride was awfully rainy. Water was everywhere: rain from above, puddles below.
A schoolgirl is going back home, children are fishing in a pool near the road.
That construction is to be sharply taken out of the water, the small fry is thrashing about in the green net (see the previous frame). I asked a fisherman if he was seining those fries to fish some big fishes later. He said he was going to eat them and I felt uneasy. What could I say! One needed a lot of such fries to be full up.
Vietnamese pastoral. We are going in the direction of the mountains. Pouring rains caused the rivers flowing down from the mountains to burst their banks: “high water”, and turbid, too.
I have to say that roads in that part of Vietnam (west from Hoi An) are made to last. They are good roads.
One of the rucksacks came loose and we stopped to tie it up again and stretch our legs.
At some place between the bridge and the entrance to mountain gorges we dropped in at a mini factory where thin rice noodles were made.
A cemetery with figured graves. Clouds were hanging low above the cemetery, we were going up the mountain road to the pass.
That part of jungles was made quite “habitable”: there was an electricity and the amount of storage ponds was constantly increasing. I will tell about it a little later.
Judging by the information drawn from the Internet there is an active building in that part of Vietnam. The system of cascade hydro power plants provides most part of the Asian country with electric energy. It is amusing that the banner is done out in the Soviet style which is yellow text in the red background.
I could not help it and made several photos of all-absorbing jungles.
When I watched the jungles I, whether desired or not, remembered films about the Vietnamese war. It must be awfully scary to war in such conditions.
Obelisks (like the one shown below) erected here and there recall the past and victims of hot war.
Late in the morning we stopped for lunch.
Simple food of workers and peasants happened to be quite saturated. Strong and hot coffee was especially good: any way, it was easy to freeze on the run even in a raincoat.
We went farther into the mountains. It became clear that the weather was not going to become better. Quite the contrary, it was becoming worse and worse. We had to stop our cross-country motorcycle race a couple times due to landslips like the one shown below.
Or even like that one: the road was absolutely impassable. We had to wait about half an hour.
Asian unruffled calm always impressed me: if we had to wait that was OK, we dismounted from our motor bikes, waited and did not torment the builders with questions. It was quite obvious that we would not continue our journey before we cpuld do it.
Jungle which my eye could embrace was boundless.
To feel the scale of the picture I recommend to find a human figure near a stream. In truth, that stream is a mountain river in a Vietnamese dense forest.
I think that “a house in the village”, I mean a Russian “dacha”, would be overgrown with trees and grass in half a year the way one could never find it again.
We stopped to refuel, warm ourselves, have a bite and look at the life of an ordinary village not far from the stopover. Those Vietnamese fuel filling columns were rather amusing. They comprises glass containers with markings and one could easily see if there was any gas or not. We started for the village.
Goods of a general country store in the “display window”.
A dog near an outer door. Simple folk live in this part of the country and their living is very plain.
No post about Asia can do without a picture of an Asian child.
A boy wearing a helmet is playing with a bicycle tire out in the pouring rain. It may be odd but it is my favorite photo in the series.
A small store near the road. Vietnamese like football very much, watch football matches and know Russian players by their names. I don’t know as many players as they do.
Motor mechanics from a repair shop near a gas station. It was bucketing down all day, the camera got wet and the picture became dithered.
Some smaller nationalities live in this village which is away from civilization. Their distinctive feature is matriarchy.
In the village, “ladies choose cavaliers”. Young boys appear as brides and are given away in marriage to girls. There are many young men loafing about the village. The task of a young unmarried boy is to do some work about the house and, by his full age, become a hunk of a man.
The villagers earn a husbandry livelihood (which, in fact, means “pick up a scanty livelihood”). They grow coffee, cayenne, papaya: everything grows well in jungle heat and moisture. Women make 70% rice vodka, we did not fail to warm ourselves with it. Man, the drink just got at me to the marrow!
As I have mentioned Vietnamese people like football but the football is kind of “armless-legless” here.
Vietnamese eat dogs. A good fat dog costs like a bad electrical stove. That is the reason why dogs here look rather miserable, hang around the door or shrink into a corner.
Children are always happy to show off. Camera was wet through and started to become misted inside.
From the village, we went to the nearest settlement hotel for a night.
It was a small town and there even was a game club with the Internet. I visited it and wrote on that very day:
When I had dinner I watched news on TV about the summit meeting between the leaders of Vietnam and Russia. Indeed, small people rule the world. Medvedev spoke rather funny and used all six dialects of the local language. The guide translated that they were going to work on the formation and development of technologies, and strengthen something. The other guide showed a bullet wound already healed over and said that after the war he was deaf in one ear. It became scary to have a drink with a person who could rise in arms as easy as raise a beer.
In the village Internet club, teenagers were playing Counter Strike until sweated, and I was preparing to have my 26th birthday just in few hours.
In the morning the guide with a scar was unwell, so the second part of my birthday trip I spent in attempts to get out of that drowned area to a relatively safe town – Danang. Posts about the flood in Vietnam were popular in due time and were even mentioned in BBC news in Russian: Flood in Vietnam and Vietnam Under Water. It came all right in the end, everybody survived.
As you can guess, I am done with photos made during months of my Asian journey 2008. Next, I am going to post photos from my journey to Australia and to some islands in the Pacific Ocean. It may interest you.