Monday, June 8, 2009

Starting of our homeward journey

After staying 4 nights at Teng Lam's home in Ha Noi, it was time to say goodbye to Iris and Teng Lam. Once again, I like to take this opportunity to say "Iris and Teng Lam, thank you very much for hosting us. We have a wonderful time in Ha Noi staying with you, Hope to see you soon in Singapore. We can get together again"

From Ha Noi to Dien Bien Phu - a scenic route

About one hour of driving from Hanoi, we spotted Phoenix Golf Resort on our right. Phoenix Golf Resort is the biggest golf resort in Northern Province of Vietnam with a total 54 holes. The golf course looked relatively empty on weekday. The golfers were mainly Korean and Japanese. I was told this was the venue for golf of the last Asean Games

Northern Vietnam is a land of brooding mountains, a mosaic of ethnic minorities, a region of overwhelming beauty. Even the locals consider this route is adventurous and exciting. The plan was heading westward from Ha Noi, passing through the village of Mai Chau, which are home of the White Thai people, climbing into the Hoang Lien Mountains and stopping at Son La for a night (depending on the speed of our travel). When we arrived at Son La around 3 pm, we decided to continue to Dien Bien Phu, the border town between Vietnam and Laos.

Mai Chau

It is about 120 km away from Ha Noi. From National road 6, we could see this beautiful town in the valley. If you are interested to stay at the country side, away from the hustle and bustle of Ha Noi, you can experience staying at the Thai Stilt Housesin the village.

The ladies are working hard undee the hot sun

We stopped at a hillside resting point amd tried glutinous rice stuffed into bamboo and cooked over fire for lunch. She had to use a knief to cut open the bamboo.The rice was tasteless. It tasted better when you add salt and peanut power to it. Don't really like it. We saw how the minorities carry things around. Tough life.

The minority market place

We made some young friends along the way too.

Dien Bien Phu border town

We arrived Dien Bien Phu around 7 pm, about half hour driving in the dark. There were only five hotels in Dien Bien Phu according to Thuan. We settled into Dien Bien Phu - Ha Noi hotel around 8 pm.

Next day, we went out of the hotel around 12 pm for lunch. There was a slight drizzle. The street looked deserted, not even a motorcycle which is a common sight in Vietnam. Majority of the shops were closed, like it was under curfew. We walked for 15 minutes and couldn't find a place for lunch. When we found a eating place, no food was served. The owner just shaked his head. We had no choice but went
back to the hotel. The receiptionist told us that most shops closed during lunch hour. He directed us to a restaurant behind the hotel.

We found this one and only dirty restaurant. Everybody just throw things on the floor, included the owner when he cleared the table. No one was bordered by the sight expect us. Well, take it or leave it, we sat down to order some dishes with rice. According to Thuan, this is normal. They
prefer not to see the bones, tissue etc on the table. Dirtying the floor is alright. After all, the floor would be clean at closing time. Well, we cannot argue with that.

It rained when we had lunch. The 30-minutes rain caused the flood on the street. The street where we stayed happened to be on lower ground. We had to walk through the water to our hotel.

Another interesting thing we noticed was that the local furniture shop displayed more safe than furniture. Our thought is that the locals prefer to keep cash in the safe rather than putting their money in the bank.

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