Arriving in Hanoi, it had been 17 days since we landed in Vietnam. When we first arrived in Ho Chi Minh we purchased open bus tickets to get us up to Hanoi, and now that we had used all of our tickets, it was time to plan the next phase of our trip here.
We had been doing some research for the last few weeks and kept tossing the idea of purchasing a motorbike in Northern Vietnam to get us around instead of hopping on the bus. Sleeper buses are nice and all but the routes in North Vietnam are very mountainous and pretty sketchy when traveling at night (most buses are night buses) so traveling via bus just did not appeal to either one of us as it was too much risk. So we searched for a hours and low and behold we are now owners of a Honda Win that we purchased for $175 USD. That same day we packed our bags, loaded our route on Google maps and made our first leg of the trip to Mai Chau.
3 hours into our ride as we were enjoying the wind in our hair and the wonderful scenery we were waved down by a man and his sister who were heading in our direction. Something was not right with our back tire, we felt something was off and stopped a few times to check it out but nothing caught our eye. This time when we pulled off, the man (named CJ) helped us communicate with the motorbike shop to check out what was wrong and help us fix it. So thankful he was able to translate for us. Turns out the wheel needed to be re-spoked, so we sat and talked with CJ while the work was being done. Turns outs he and his sister were heading to Moc Chau, just a hour or so above our destination in Mai Chau. They kindly waited for our bike to get done so that we could make the forward drive together as it was getting dark (safer to drive in groups especially at night) They offered us oreos, milk and some great conversation making the time that we waited go by really quick. So 150,000 VND later ($7) and a newly spoked rim we were on our way to Mai Chau.
Our first day in Mai Chau we ventured off and hiked 1200 steps to see the beautiful Chieu Cave, its amazing how much of a temperature change there was from outside the cave to the inside. After walking up and down that many steps we were completely worn out the rest of the day so we caught up on laundry, played some pool, and walked around the village we were staying in. We had planned to stay in Mai Chau longer but we hit the road the next day to meet up with our new friends CJ and Na Pham in Moc Chau for some camping and trekking.
On our way to Moc Chau, we had another issue from the same wheel/tire, this time it was flat! We limped the bike back downhill to the closest motorbike shop, and while we were waiting for that to get replaced Lucas played some soccer with the local kids who were waiting for school to start, and I helped the others with some english words which they were so eager to learn.
We yet again hit the road this time ready to put some miles in between us and Mai Chau but again were faced with another issue with the motorbike. Not even 15 minutes after we left the motorbike shop with a new tire, the bike lost power going up hill! We pulled over to find that oil was leaking out from the top of the motor (crankcase vent tube) We thought for sure our bike was toast and that we’d be hitch hiking our way back down to Hanoi but when we called our friend CJ to let him know we’d be late, he came to our rescue once more, he made the drive to us (about an hour round trip) and helped us translate once again to the shop what we needed and was there for us for any assistance. A new head gasket was put in and we were on our way, we can not thank CJ enough for all his assistance the last few days with our bike, it made it so much easier to have him there and to help us translate as we would have been surely taken advantage of as most foreigners are but CJ made sure that we were taken care of, a true friend and a genuine good man.
Finally making it to Moc Chau after a full morning of mishaps, we were ready to take a break and spend time with our new friends. We had plans to camp in Pine Forest the first night which was such an amazing time. We drove out to the forest, set up our tents and hammocks, cooked dinner over the campfire and sat talking the night away. What a wonderful break from hotels and hostels!
We woke up from camping really early (5am) packed up everything and had big plans for the day to visit Pha Luong Mountain, which was from the pictures had an amazing lookout at the peak, and the scenery would be to die for! It is a natural boundary between Vietnam and Laos so you need to do paperwork at the station to be able to make the trek. But what we didn’t know is that since we are foreigners they do not allow you to go up there, unless you have the right paperwork, and that could take you up to 2 months! Sadly we were not prepared this time, we didn’t realize it was so hard to get the correct paperwork and the time it took to do so. The roads throughout the villages going towards the station were pretty rough especially on a motorbike I believe it took about an hour to go 2km. Sadly we had to turn around at the top but the drive out there was breathtaking and so much fun! When we came back down, we stopped by two waterfalls (Chieng Khoa & Ban Yem waterfall).
As we made our way to the hostel for the night, we all decided that our last night in Moc Chau we wanted to go camping again, we had such a wonderful time the first go around so why not at the beautiful waterfall we had just seen a few hours before! On our way back to the waterfall to set up camp the next day, we took a detour and visited a small village outside of Moc Chau. Even one of the buffalo were so surprised to see us, he kept starring at us and making these odd looking faces, it was hysterical! It was a perfect end to a wonderful trip to Moc Chau. We had such a great time with our new friends, we will definitely miss them and all our CRAZY adventures 🙂