but planning to return.......
29.07.2011 - 31.07.2011
The Cloughs came and stayed and we wanted to show them a bit of rural Vietnam. Hanoi is a great city - historic, great buildings, wide boulevards with many trees, parks, lakes, fab food, crazy traffic and the Vietnamese people - but there are so many different facets to the country. We were going to head down to Hoi An for a few days: diving for Peter and Sam, snorkelling and cooking course for Daisy and me. We decided to go to Mai Chau as it would give a view of rural Vietnam (also Nick and I had been trying to get there for months and it all came together when the Cloughs were here).
Brickworks in the valley
We stayed in the Mai Chau lodge which is very comfortable with excellent "homestyle" cooking. We went out the first afternoon on borrowed bikes - none had brakes, Daisy's was a typical Vietnamese sit-up-and-beg-bike but at least they were of a reasonable size as the rest of us are all over 5'10".
it's a very green, verdant valley, 3.5 hours SW of Hanoi and perfect for the expat escape out of Hanoi but it really is an escape. Suddenly the air is clean, it's quiet and peaceful. It's rural life but no-one is phased by you cycling past nor is there someone at every turn calling out "you buy from me".
The second day, we had planned to do a 3 hour walk with a guide and then kayaking on the huge lake but a storm was brewing so we skipped the walk and headed for the open water. Admittedly the kayaking was a bit tame and Sam had to make do with his aunt in the boat with him (me) but lunch was in a local house. The White Thai ethnic group live in the valley and continue living according to their customs. The houses are built on stilts, animals live underneath and other activites too out of the weather. The house is made of huge logs and inside the floor is bamboo strips laid on the logs. The family had very little furniture - they have no need for it but they did have a TV, computer, fans (air con would be totally useless as no glass in the windows and huge gaps in the bamboo walls.
We were made to feel very welcome: it was all very relaxed and they expected us to sit around, just how they do, and enjoy time together. The wife made money by splitting and cutting bamboo into lengths which would be prepared for incense sticks.
On Sunday it rained and rained so we bought motorbike ponchos in the market and set off. For those of you readers of a certain age, you may remember the fashion fad (and fashion mistake) for ponchos in the 70s. For some reason, which I failed to understand at the time, my mum avoided the purchase of the aforementioned poncho even though I was desperate for one. Now I own two. Joys! But they are such wonderful macs on a motorbike and, believe me, when it rains here, it rains and you need all the protection when out on your bike as you can get. Oh! and we also have a double poncho for when Nick and I are both on the bike in the rain. How romantic is that......!