I woke up in a homestay in the northern mountains in Vietnam. I tried to use the bathroom but was told the power was out, and I needed to use the bathroom downstairs. Melana and Erik didn’t shower the night before because they were tired, so they had to take cold showers using buckets of water.
The homeowners made all of us different breakfasts based on what we requested. I had scrambled eggs on a baguette. We took pictures with the hosts at a table outside and thanked them for their wonderful hospitality. Opi found Erik’s and my height fascinating and he took a picture in between us. He thought he was our height if he was on his tippy-toes, but he couldn’t quite get there.
We drove away and continued our trek through the mountains. I felt better on the bike, and my legs were less sore. I was doing a better job at shifting and braking. Going up steep hills, I quickly down-shifted, so I could make it up. I avoided the many, many potholes. My back and shoulders hurt a little bit, though, because we were on the bikes for so long.
The clouds and fog weren’t as bad as the day prior and we were treated to breathtaking scenery. The entire drive was amazing. We saw cows on the side of the road that were led by a woman. They stopped and grazed on the side of the mountain. Kids played around houses that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere on steep ledges.
We were feeling a little tired and stopped at a restaurant with incredible views of the canyons. I got yogurt with fruit and enjoyed the break. Once we were back on the bikes, the road was rough. It was difficult to navigate and to stay on the concrete sections.
We stopped for lunch, which was shared. I always enjoy shared meals because I get to try different foods. As we finished up, the group of women in their 40s-50s stopped in for lunch. Melana and Erik told us that they had met the women on their bus ride to Ha Giang. The women said they all planned on driving their own bikes. They had never driven a motorbike before and thought they could learn now. Melana and Erik were skeptical that they could learn on the steep mountains. Sure enough, within one block, two women crashed their bikes and one had road rash. The drivers made them all ride on the back instead.
At lunch, Melana told us that she was a breast cancer survivor. She had surgery, and the night before was her one-year anniversary of being cancer-free. She was only 33 years old, and I couldn’t believe she had gone through that. It reminded me of my friend, Kirsten. She found out she had breast cancer when she was 29 years old and pregnant. She had to go through chemo while she was pregnant. Thankfully, she and the baby are doing great. I was happy that Melana survived. My grandmother died of breast cancer at age 42. This was another reminder for me to enjoy every single day because we truly don’t know how many days we’ll get.
After lunch, we stopped at some beautiful passes and took pictures. Now that we all knew each other better, we had a blast being silly. Ben and Berry are the cutest couple. They took a picture of them holding hands, so I mimicked them holding my hand out to no one. Sometimes I can laugh that I’m single.
Now that we were on the main loop, it was more crowded. One time when we stopped to take pictures, two french guys stopped too. They were driving their own motorbikes, had go-pros on their helmets, and blasted Prince music. They got off their bikes and danced to the music. Zing, being our musical talent, joined them as we walked towards them. We all laughed hysterically at the random dance party between strangers.
We stopped at a lookout point that had a castle-like edge. Other tourists were stopped there too. Some came in busses, and some were riding on the back of motorbikes. We climbed down the stairs and enjoyed the river below in the middle of the canyons. When I got back on my bike, people seemed surprised that I was driving myself.
The drive kept getting better and better. I loved every second of it. The others asked me if I could see the scenery since I had to pay attention to the road. I felt that I was still immersed, felt the wind in my face, and had enough moments that I could look around at the beauty.
We arrived at our hotel in Dong Van. I had my own room with two small beds. We had two hours to relax and shower before dinner. It was nice to just lay down for a bit.
Dinner was at the restaurant next door. We enjoyed lots of happy water (rice wine) once again and we were so slap-happy (and a little drunk), tears of laughter ran down my face.
We bonded over our sore butts and the fun times we just had over the last two days. Erik and Melana would be leaving in the morning and would head back to Ha Giang, so we wanted to have a fun night before they left. Melana struggled to use the chopsticks after the happy water, which made us all laugh.
After dinner, the guides went to their rooms while the rest of us walked around the town. I was really craving cake or any sort of dessert. It was hard to find it in Southeast Asia. We walked around the two main streets but did not find any sweets. Instead, we got boba tea at a cafe. As we waited for our orders to-go, a woman walked into the shop and had her friend take a picture of her with Erik because of his height. Then she saw me and took a picture with me on one side and Erik on the other.
As we walked around, we stopped at a bar and got a drink. We talked about our travels and where Melana and Erik were headed next. They redeemed hotel points and were staying at a resort in the middle of Vietnam. They were looking forward to the warmer weather and the luxury that came with resorts. This was their annual two-week vacation, so I completely understood their desire to relax.
We walked back to our hotel, and I enjoyed a night of sleep on a thick mattress and some privacy. The next morning, we ate breakfast at the same restaurant next door.
Then it was time to say goodbye to Erik and Melana. Zing was Melana’s driver, and Opi’s dad was Erik’s driver, so we’d have to part with them too. Even though I only knew them for two days, it was sad to say goodbye. We all bonded on our first trip to the mountains in Vietnam.
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