Our third day on the road in Ha Giang was spent in a battle with frequent cloud bursts. Up until now, we’d been having great weather, so it didn’t feel right to complain, especially since the slower pace gave us more time to appreciate the province’s unbelievable scenery.
We woke up early in Đồng Văn, and went to a place called the Old Town Market for breakfast. When it was built in the early 19th century, this was meant to be the town’s primary market hall, but it turned out to be too small. A bigger market was built nearby, and the original has become home to a collection of coffee shops.
There were a surprising number of tourists at the Old Town Market, and in Đồng Văn itself. This is the only town of any size within a wide radius, so it acts as a natural hub for tours. Đồng Văn is cute and congenial, and surrounded by some amazing nature. We could easily have spent a few days here, hiking in the hills and enjoying the atmosphere.
The rain held off for the first half of our day, and we watched in awe and apprehension as the clouds slowly accumulated in the otherwise sunny skies. Just as we reached the Mã Pí Lèng Pass, the clouds broke, and we were barely able to scurry underneath a big tarp at the viewpoint, where we encountered a group of other shelter-seeking travelers, who shared their snack of purple sweet potatoes.
Back on the road, the rains had mostly stopped and the sun re-emerged. But by the late afternoon, we were once again getting hit by short, heavy showers. The roads were becoming more and more treacherous, and we proceeded with caution toward the south and the Du Già homestay, in Yên Minh. A couple times, we had to get off the bikes and walk alongside our drivers.
This was easily the most difficult portion of our entire trip, but also one of the most beautiful. As we approached Yên Minh, the rice terraces glistening in the rain made me think of some distant, utopic planet in a sci-fi film, where everything is verdant and natural, just before the mechanical invaders arrive out of nowhere to subjugate the peaceful populace. (Walking along the muddy paths, my mind had a lot of time to wander.)
Before hitting the town, we met two women who were walking along the road, and Chu Chu engaged them in conversation. They had spent the past two days on a long trek, sleeping in the elements, in order to collect herbs. They told Chu Chu that, at the upcoming town market, they hoped to make as much as $3 with their hard-won bounty. We made him repeat that last bit, and could only shake our heads in disbelief. Two days in the elements, with the hope of maybe making $3. Yeah, life is different in Ha Giang.
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