Day 5 (21 Nov 06)
We (May, Eli, Avi & I) assembled at 8.30 am in the lobby of the Mountain View Hotel. Dinh were waiting for us with 3 other riders.
We then proceed for the Tram Ton Pass. The ride was really cold as the temperature was about 20 degrees but in a moving bike, it was much colder. I was the only one in the group wearing shorts so I was literally shivering on the bike. Thanks to Ben’s recommendation the night before, I managed to buy myself an excellent thick black pullover for a bargain of US$ 9. That kept me warm. Otherwise I would have been frozen.
Half way to Tram Ton, we stopped for a photo rest at the Congtroi. It is known as “the Gate to Heaven”. It really looked like something out of Lord of the Rings.
After the photo stop, I was instructed to switch bikes. My new rider was a hell rider and I was leading the pack. Only then I realized that his bike was newer and more powerful. The earlier rider struggled with my 105 km weight.
We stopped again but this time we were at the top of the Tram Ton Pass. If Controi was the Gate to Heaven, then Tram Ton must be heaven itself. It was absolutely stunning. No regrets making the trip and the pass looked even more magnificent than the picture in the Lonely Planet book. It was breath-taking. No words can describe the beauty. We were there for at least half an hour, admiring the beauty and had to leave with a heavy heart.
We proceed down the pass and reached the crossing to Binh Lu half an hour later. At the cross road, we realized that Eli was missing. We reckoned that he probably stopped to take some pictures. After 20 minutes, we were beginning to worry. Avi kept a straight face but you could see that she was close to panic. 10 more minutes, Eli still did not appear. Dinh started riding up the pass the look for him. I was consoling Avi that his bike probably broke down. It was another 20 minutes before we see both bikes coming down the pass. Found out that Eli was so taken in by the beauty of the Pass, that he left his knapsack there. His bike turned and went back for it.
After that small adventure, we proceed for lunch at a quaint little shop with two enormous pigs. Like all shops in the countryside, it is dark and appeared less hygienic with rubbish scattered around.
But I didn’t see all these. It amused me that I get to eat near pigs and I found that the shop had a little stream flowing beside it. I thought the ambience was really picturesque.
We had pork noodles with pork. It was delicious. Eli and Avi were quite amazing as they gobbled down the food in the local shop without any problem. Any lesser souls would have minded the pigs and the condition of the shop. I could imagine the comments from some of our friends, my colleagues and my sister if they had been in that shop on that day. The four of us took it all in our stride and enjoyed our lunch thoroughly. I think we also enjoyed each other’s company very much and that’s what made everything seemed to be perfect.
After lunch, Dinh took us to a Lao village. We were surrounded by children. They appeared so happy to see visitors.
Even the elder was hugging me like a long lost son.
The women were with blackened teeth and most of them had two gold ones as well.
The experience at the village was somewhat humbling.
At another village, we met up with a family whose little girl was killed when she fell in the river and hit her head. Dinh was in the village a month ago and he even had pictures of the little girl. It was really sad and proved that life was really fragile and should not be taken for granted.
On our way back, we stopped at the river. The water was chilling and clear. It was beautiful. It was pristine. There were no signs of civilization. No rubbish. No picnickers. Nothing!
After the river stop, we went back up the Tram Ton Pass and stopped at the Silver Waterfall. We had BBQ meat with bamboo rice, grilled egg and apple wine. The home made apple wine looked murky white with sediments. I would not have drunk it in another place another time. But in the countryside, you have to do what the locals do. We drank the apple wine and it tasted good.
We arrived back at our hotel in time for our bus back to Lao Cai. It was kinda sad as we left Sapa. But we did have the greatest memories of the place. At Lao Cai, Eli & Avi met up with other Israelis. We were invited to join them and there we were two Malaysians, carefree and sharing a meal with twelve Israelis. We bid our farewell at the train station.
Really do hope to meet Eli and Avi again one day.
Shared our cabin this time with Hans & Gertrude, an Old Danish couple. Was tired from our little mountain adventure and did not socialize much. Instead, we slept soundly all the way back to Hanoi.
– To Be Continued –