The day starts off at 7:30am, having breakfast at the homestay. After breakfast we walk around town for 2 hours, observing the agricultural lifestyle of the local natives. To survive floods, the houses are raised about 6 feet off the ground. The empty space beneath the home is occupied by farm animals like cows, pigs, and dogs.
Many of the local children are very friendly, yelling “hello” to us as we pass by. They’re just as fascinated with us as we are with them. I wonder how many of the kids go to school? Do the families have good drinking water? Otherwise it looks like everyone has food and shelter.
Below is Dev walking the streets, where locals are taking their cows for a walk.
The nearby lake.
Some tourists are riding elephants around town. Dev and I choose not to. Partly because we’ll have more opportunities in the future. But it also reminds me about elephants in the circus, which sometimes have PTSD from a young age, being stolen from their mother or some other traumatic event.
Hopping onto our motorbikes, we leave the village. We make a brief stop at a marble factory. Below is a man polishing marble. We get a quick glimpse of what kind of objects are made with the material.
Next we stop by a famous hill in Vietnam, one of three. This one is popular for a time when a lot of people died on the hill during the war; so much blood was spilt here, it was called “Hamburger Hill”. There’s a nearby church that remains standing, serving as a memory for those who hid in the church during the battle. Our guide doesn’t give us much more information than that.
We then stop by a cafe. I see a scorpion in a box, which our tour guide pulls out. I was kind of worried about having a black scorpion dangling near my face.
Suddenly I see the local cafe owner opening a big wooden box and he pulls out a huge snake. Thanks for the heads up! Two European girls are there with us, too scared to have a large snake wrapped around their shoulders. I’m not entirely comfortable with it either, since they aren’t giving me any directions, but our tour guide and the handlers seem comfortable, so I oblige. The body of the snake feels cool against my skin, especially with the heat outside.
As it begins raining, we ride to the national park. We hike to a waterfall, enjoying the lush green jungle in the rain.
Our next destination is a noodle factory, to get a quick overview of how noodles are made. A 20-foot long machine helps make around 300 kilos of noodles a day, which is supplied to local restaurants.
Finally we come to a hotel for the rest of the evening. For some reason Dev and I have a hard time finding vegetarian food – the local population doesn’t speak English at all, so it’s even hard to ask for rice and vegetables. We find a shop where the meal involves rolling your own spring rolls. The owner speaks some English, and says we can have a vegetarian meal, so we decide to eat at the restaurant. The dipping sauce smells of fish, and we ask the owner about this, but she assures us there is no fish. So we don’t use the sauce. I’m also little concerned about eating raw vegetables, as we’re supposed to only eat cooked vegetables for the sake of our stomaches. It ended up being okay. =)
As we walk around , we hear loud house music coming from a local lounge. We have a beer there, watching a live DJ mix. No one seems to be into the music or conversing; instead eyes stare at TV screens playing some TV show or movie. The crowd is almost entirely young men, who seem more bored than entertained. The only person dancing happens to be a toddler in the back, jumping to the beats of the music. At least someone is dancing to the music!
Tomorrow is our last day of biking. Our guide, Happy, is hoping we’ll extend our journey from three to six days, but Dev and I think three days will be perfect. It’s already been exhausting to be out all day, especially through the hot sun and occasional rain.
Our stops today are:
1) a field of rubber trees (trees whose sap is used to make rubber). Every morning the farmers cut the bark of the trees; they then come back later in the day to collect the sap and sell to the rubber factory.
2) a cocoa farm (did you know this is is how a cocoa plant looks like?)
3) a rice paper shop, where we have delicious, fresh rice paper
The rest of the day was spent trekking to Nha Trang, a 200 km ride. A lot of the ride was through intense rain. While I was wet, I was never cold or shivering, and sometimes the water even felt warm. And we remained mostly dry thanks to our ponchos.
Along the way, we stopped by cafes to rest and have Vietnamese drip coffee.
We arrived at a hotel where Happy dropped us off. Earlier in the trip Happy had found Dev’s Leatherman sitting on the table, and he seemed deeply enamored by it. Perhaps this a rare find in Vietnam – I’ve seen two other people give the Leatherman that look. At the current moment, Happy suggests that Dev’s Leatherman would make a nice tip, but Dev doesn’t want to give away his birthday gift. So instead Dev and I tip Happy in cash. We then bid Happy farewell.
I then took a warm shower at the hotel, which felt satisfying after motorbiking through the rain all day. After hanging at a nearby cafe, we then board a bus for a 12-hour journey to Hoi An.