2 weeks riding through Northern Vietnam 2/2

Apr 19, 2015

The second part of my motorbike trip in northern Vietnam. You can read the first part here.
I also made a video clip about it that you can watch on Youtube

Day 8, 9 & 10 - Dong Van

With the French couple I met the day before we went to Lung Lu, where you can go to the most northern point of Vietnam. It's a tower with the Vietnamese flag on top of it, and you can get a nice view of the surroundings from up there. it'll cost you 20000 Dong. The ride there and back through another way was very nice. The road goes through small mountains and the view is very scenic. We then headed to some temple ruins, I was not very keen on checking them out so when we got there, about 15km from Dong Van, I told them that while they visit I'll go find a nice spot to fly my drone. And I did find one, but the problem was that I crashed it this time. I flew it in between two small karst hills but then, flying backwards I flew too close to one of them and it crashed in a tree. That was not good at all. I had a vague idea of where the drone was but those karst hills are not easy to climb. I started by looking at the screen to try to figure out where the drone was from what I could see. But it was not that helpful, so I decided to try to climb a bit. but when I got at the bottom of the hill that's when I lost the video signal. I looked for it for a little bit with no luck. I then decided to go back to where my friends were and ask them for their binoculars. They came back with me and we spent like half an hour trying to locate it with the information I gave on what happened and where i assumed the drone had crashed. But it was late in the afternoon and it was getting dark quickly. There was no point of trying any further now and we did not want to drive at night so we headed back deciding to come back the next morning.
Needless to tell you that I was quiet down that night and at this time I really thought the trip with my drone - which is the main purpose of it - was over. I was already thingking that I would not be able to make videos anymore for the rest of the journey.

Tower at the most northern point of Vietnam
On the road between Don Van and Lung Lu

The next morning, we first went to the local market. On Sundays, all the surrounding ethnic villages come to Dong Van to sell clothes or oibjects or even animals, like pigs, chicken and puppy (to eat?! I don't know, I hope not)
After that we went back to where I last saw my drone the day before. I was really thankful that they agreed to come help me retrieve it. We spent more than 2 hours climbing the hill trying to locate a white shape in the middle of all those trees. But we were not succesful. I climbed on top of it hoping to get a better view but it so uneven that it did not help. We were getting tired and they had to hit the road to their next destination so goodbyes were in order. And I wanted to get some food. 
After lunch I went back there for another 2 hours with no more luck. Although I was quiet optimistic on our chances to find it in the morning, at the end of the day I was thinking that it was gone forever and that I would never see my drone again. But, not willing to give up completely, I decided that I will come back one last time the next morning, and that if I still could not find it, then I'll definitely give up and hit the road. That day, I also check out from the homestay I was staying at to go to another one, a smaller one. It was at a family restaurant, it was cheaper and more friendly than the other one. They had this adorable little kid with whom I played a lot (or he played with me :-))

The market

Poor pig :-(

The cute little kid at the second guest house in Dong Van

Last attempt at retrieving the lost drone... It has not been 5 minutes that I started climbing the hill when I heard a voice "No, No". I turned around and saw One of the locals living there gesturing to come back down. So I did, thinking he was going to tell me that it was too dangerous - at least for a tourist - to climb up there. So as I walked towards him I took out my phone with a picture of my drone and showed it to him. That's when he "told" me that he had found it!!! Whaaaaat?! And he asked me for money right away. He drew a sum that I read as 100 000 Dong, and I thought "Oh yeah sure, I'll even give you a bit more!" - was I so naive - but I wanted to see it first. So he took me to his home and gave me the drone. I was so relieved to finally see it again. And it seems to have suffered no major damage.
I was really happy and gladly handed him 120 000 Dong... That's when he refused and I got confused. He then wrote down on the ground 1 000 000 Dong! That's a whole new level of reward money. My joy quickly went down, I lost some affection that I had for those people who live with not much. I am not saying that they are all like that and that I now dispise them... I do not, not at all, but I just think that whenever they'll get a chance to get money out of a foreigner, they will, in any way. And, as a foreigner, I don't like it. Anyway, I had to bargain and we came down to an agreement on 800 000 Dong. We cheered on some rice alcohol and everyone was happy.
i then went back to the guest house to check my drone in details, and then went out for a test flight. verything went well and I was happy that I would be able to fly it again the following day on my way to Bao Lac... finally.

In the background, the hill where I crashed my drone.

Day 11 - Dong Van to Bao Lac

Back on the road and anxious to fly my drone again. As I read in my guide book, the first 20 kilometers between Dong Van and Meo Vac are breathtaking. I drove along cliffs with an amazing view on karst landscape. I did a couple of flights without any issue and got to Bao Lac in the middle of the afternoon.

Day 12 - Bao Lac to Ba Be NP

This was an uneventful day. The ride was nice on mountainous roads down to the National park and its lake.

Day 13 & 14 - Ba Be NP

On the first day I did a hike with 2 French and a Hungarian. We went on one of the hills around the lake. It was a really nice hike although the weather was not that great. At the top we had a nice view of the valley. We hiked to the village of "", it took us almost 3 hours to get there. The way back was easier since we were going back down in the valley. We arrived back at the guest house late afternoon quiet exhausted.
In the evening a Vietnamese friend of the Hungarian girl arrived in Ba Be, she was from Hue. 

The next day I went to the silver waterfall with Luan, the Vietnamese girl. I took a couple of shots of the waterfall. We then went back near the lake and I filmed some more. Near the guest house I was staying at, there was a field with a group of kids playing football. We went there and when I took out my drone they all came around looking at it. I then asked Luan to tell them to keep playing so I could film them. Then a group of young bikers - they looked very young but they actually were between 32 and 35... Asians never age seriously - came around and wanted to take pictures with me, so we took some group photos. This was all fun and friendly.
In the evening we had dinner at the guest house, and once again it turned out to be so convenient to be with a local because Luan could recommend me to try some local food. I don't remember the name of what I ate - I never do - but it was good.

Day 15 - Ba Be NP to Thai Nguyen

Last day! - or so I thought - I had about 220 kilometers to do and most of it was small winding road so I decided to leave early. That day it was quiet cold and there was this drizzle that's not really rain but it's just enough to make the road slippery. So I was driving carefully and at some point decided to put my gloves on. I took them out of my pockets and I kept riding. About 10 kilometers after, I was not confortable in my gloves so I took them off. As I was going to put them back in my pockets, I noticed that one of them was wide open... And that was the one with my passport in it! Well it was in a small bag that was in my pocket. I turned around and did this part 4 times very slowly hoping to find it, but I didn't. So I stopped and thought of my options; I could keep driving back and forth some more, it is my passport after all, the most important document when you travel. But in the other hand the odds of me finding it were pretty low and if someone had already picked it up, I could search forever without finding it. So I decided to head to Hanoi and do the necessary to get a new passport. (Turned out I got my passport back but that is for another post...)
But then, my problems were not over - one of those days I suppose - About 80kms from Hanoi, in Thai nguyen, the motorbike started to act weird; It would not respond instantly when accelerating and at some point just stop responding and turn off... I stopped at a mechanic, called the number that Flamingo travel provided me. I talked to their mechanic to explain the issue and I then handed the phone to the mechanic I was at and he explained, so helpful! It took him a while to fix the issue, and even then it was completely repaired but surely good enough for me to get to Hanoi. But then it was already dark and I did not want to drive at night - You might want to avoid that too if you can -
And I got invited over for dinner by the owner of the shop, He introduced me to his daughter and his son and his wife. That was the one good thing in all those troubles that makes you realize that it's not that bad and that it is also part of the adventures. You wouldn't enjoy good moments so much if you did not have any bad ones. That night I stayed in a guest house nearby.

Day 16 - Thai Nguyen to Hanoi

Easy ride back to Hanoi with no trouble, I dropped off the motorbike and went to the police station to declare the loss of my passport. As I said before, more on that in another blog post.

Those 2 weeks were just amazing even though the last day was totally crazy and mentally exhausting. The roads were in good condition and in some places the landscape was so beautiful. I enjoyed it so much that when I got back I decided to buy a motorbike and ride towards the center of Vietnam and cross to Laos.

Have you done the same before? Or are you thinking of doing it?

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