Nghia Lo - Hong

Episode 6

"For me, the way to approach a subject such as Vietnam is through storytelling."
--Tim O’Brien

On this day, we have faced the greatest challenge yet in Vietnam. Our aim was to arrive in Hanoi, rent motorbikes and drive to Nghia Lo (like 180 km). We met many obstacles, but we managed to accomplish the mission for that day.

After the arrival, we tried several motorbike rentals until we found Minhs Motorbikes. Their service was surprisingly good and they even let us drive the bikes to get used to them. Traffic in Hanoi was another surprise, it wasn’t as bad as we expected. We managed to get out of the city outskirts very smoothly, so we were right on track. Knowing that, we stopped for a Pho (most famous Vietnamese noodle soup) in the middle of our way.

However, such a long distance is not made for motorbikes newbies, so the toll had to be paid. We decided to cross the mountains without fuel refill in the last city, which was a substantial mistake. The gas was running out short in mountain crosses, so we were desperate for a petrol station, yet not finding any for about 40 km. Luck was on our side when we stopped next to a house of a very friendly family. They had offered us some spare gasoline, we paid by a few coins and a few “domaca” (our homemade booze). Man, that guy had an appetite. 🥃

Roads were empty, but we were delayed and night was here already. With 1 hour to the final destination, Sosana’s bike had stopped working. Local stranger, who had passed by, diagnosed fuel shortage. I had rushed to the next petrol station (hoping the guy in mountains didn’t sell us some water instead) and girls had waited in the closest restaurant.

To my surprise, when I returned with fuel, everybody was happy and relaxed. The owner of the restaurant had fixed the problem (malfunctioning fuel injection) and girls were having a chat with his son, 10y old, who was the main translator. We gave the family some Horalkas (slovak biscuits) and hit the roads again. After another hour of travelling, we arrived at Nghia Lo, met our local tour guide and instantly fell asleep at our new homestay.

Travellers tip: Don’t be afraid to ask locals for gasoline. They usually have some in stocks or they could possibly give you some directly from their motorbikes. 🏍

Vietnam was always, in a single moment, dreadful, funny, nightmarish, ecstatic. In its moments of highest drama, it was always its own best and worst parody.
--Philip D Beidler

These days, we are enjoying the Vietnamese region named Nghia Lo. We came here with expectation of real, authentic Vietnam and I think our wishes were fulfilled, even exceeded. Locals had seen the last tourists like a year ago. So you can imagine how everybody is greeting us on the streets.

We were sleeping in a homestay owned by an older Black Thai family, which was absolutely lovely. On the first day, Mrs. Hong had prepared for us wonderful banana pancakes and her husband, Mr. Hong had taken us through the village. Local children were absolutely excited, screaming “hello” when they saw us. Then, we climbed up to the tree hills. It was a bit of an offroad challenge, but the views of never-ending tea and rice fields were absolutely worth it. We had to visit it anyway. Mr. Hong never asked, just did it.

Later, after a wonderful lunch from Mrs. Hong, we went to a local market place with her husband. This was the authentic Vietnam, I swear. All of the previous markets were adjusted for tourists. This one was not. Vietnamese can eat everything that moves, I can send you some pictures if you are brave enough. 🙋‍♂️

After this experience, we visited local hot-springs. They were really relaxing and you got your personal bath for like 50 euro cents. Simply amazing. On a way back, we had another bath - heavy rain. Despite this, we had successfully arrived at our homestay, ate some larvas we bought on the market and drank some happy water with Mr. Hong (Vietnamese and Slovak).

Travellers tip: Vietnamese kids loved foreign people and sweets. Always take some if you travel to countryside.🍭