Hanoi To Mai Chau June 4 to 10

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a much quieter place than Ho Chi Minh City. It is home to about three million people. Tourists generally get a view of the Old Quarter, the area on the north side of Hoan Kiem lake. I spent much of my time here wandering the 36 shopping streets (derived from 36 guilds which set up shop on different streets).

I was also amazed at the pace of development in Hanoi. A mall (the first of it's kind, I believe) had recently opened up. Among other things, it included a grocery store complete with bar codes (but sans Snickers bars), a couple of electronics stores, a Pierre Cardin store, ATM machine, and a piano! By the time I left Hanoi two weeks later, three new stores had openend up, two had moved, and the grocery store had started carrying Snickers bars.

Before I left Hanoi, I made sure to send out a second note to my list, letting them know about my progress.

The ride out to Hoa Binh was fairly uneventful, though getting out of Hanoi was a bit of a trick. It was here that I ended up being invited to a business dinner where I ate fish soup. It turns out that fish soup also contains pig brain. Go figure. The follow day's ride to the rice farming village of Pom Coong just outside of Mai Chau was the most challenging, and most beautiful ride of my trip. Suffice it to say that when you're cycling through mountains, there are few sections of the ride places to rest your entire body.

I spent two days in Pom Coong, where I inadvertently ended up staying with the woman featured on the bottom right of page 272 in the Lonely Planet Vietnam guide and her family. It was a great stay. Since the power went out, we were unable to watch World Cup action, so instead they asked me to sing some songs by candlelight. We spent the next hour trading music.

Mai Chau and the surrounding villages rest in a valley of rice fields and are surrounded by a broken ring of mountains. In the morning, those mountains are shrouded in low-hanging clouds and mist. If only I could have adequately caught it on camera. If you ever visit Vietnam, be sure to go there and experience the views and kindness of the people yourself.

After I left Mai Chau, I spent two relatively uneventful days bicycling my way back to Hanoi. These were my last days of cycling, as I would spend the next few days on a tour of Ha Long Bay.

[If you cannot see the navigation on the left, please click here.]

123-2306_IMG 123-2307_IMG 123-2308_IMG 123-2310_IMG
Hoan Kiem Lake   The Mall (get M&M's here)   More Lake   The Old Quarter  
123-2312_IMG 123-2313_IMG 123-2314_IMG 123-2317_IMG
East Gate to the Old Quarter   A Hanoi Street   View from Smiling Cafe   Heading West  
123-2318_IMG 123-2319_IMG 123-2320_IMG 123-2321_IMG
Toward Hoa Binh...       23km to go!  
123-2322_IMG 123-2323_IMG 123-2324_IMG 123-2326_IMG
Hoa Binh   View from the Hotel   Another view from the Hotel   "Happiness to everybody."  
123-2327_IMG 123-2329_IMG 123-2330_IMG 123-2331_IMG
8km climb out of Hoa Binh   Amazing views...      
123-2332_IMG 123-2333_IMG 123-2335_IMG 123-2336_IMG
Continuing along "Highway" 6   11km climb before Mai Chau...      
123-2337_IMG 123-2338_IMG 123-2342_IMG 123-2343_IMG
More views...       View of Mai Chau  
123-2344_IMG 123-2347_IMG 123-2349_IMG 123-2350_IMG
Pom Coong Village   More downpour   Threshing rice   Morning views...  
123-2351_IMG 123-2353_IMG 123-2355_IMG 123-2356_IMG
      Lak and Pom Coong Village  
123-2363_IMG 123-2364_IMG 123-2365_IMG 123-2366_IMG
Behind Lak Village   Dragonfly   Home for a copule of days   Sun!  
123-2369_IMG 123-2370_IMG 123-2371_IMG 123-2373_IMG
My host and her son   And everyone else's sons   More morning views...    
123-2374_IMG 123-2375_IMG 123-2377_IMG 123-2378_IMG
Sweeping rice into bags   The gathering storm   Lak Village   Form of, storm clouds  
123-2380_IMG 123-2385_IMG 123-2387_IMG 123-2389_IMG
4:30 torrential downpour   Post-rain sky   Final morning   Biking back...  
123-2390_IMG 123-2392_IMG 123-2393_IMG 123-2394_IMG
Catching the clouds   More views...      
123-2395_IMG 123-2397_IMG 124-2417_IMG 124-2418_IMG
Purrdy     Back in Hanoi   Buu Dien = Post Office  
124-2420_IMG 124-2421_IMG 124-2422_IMG 124-2424_IMG
People fascinated with the escalator   Views from the hotel...