Heading back to Cao Bằng I hear the lady on the radio sing “I’m so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky”, just as I was thinking that I had the most perfect day. Yes, I’m very lucky!
December 26th 2016-
Waking up this morning before the alarm went off, laying on the comfortable clean washed sheets with such a nice soft mattress, taking my time & enjoying my breakfast in bed while watching the rest of a Christmas love story (love these <3) make me feel like a queen. I am indulging myself by staying at such a luxurious hotel (for a backpacker).
Riding down the elevator, packed with my huge amount of luggage, I think to myself Will I see the sweet man from last night again? “ Good morning” I hear a soft voice say behind me, while putting my backpack on the sofa in front of the reception desk, I turn around and see his eyes light up and he smiles at me gently. “ Good morning” I say cheerfully “ I was hoping I’d see you again.” His name is Thuang – most likely not how you spell his name, but this is the only way I know how.
I seem to have a thing for Thuangs. This name must be the Vietnamese equivalent for the Dutch ‘Maarten’. For some reason every Maarten I’ve ever met, I’ve liked and the same seems to go for the Thuangs of this world. Back at the volunteer center there was a Thuang and I gave him the heart symbol almost daily. He was such a sweetie. He spoke no English, but always tried to help me improve my Vietnamese with the biggest smile on his face.
This particular Thuang speaks fluent English, though and he is eager to share the story behind the name of the hotel, which is named after his grandmother ‘Jeanne’. She is French and was the only one that was left behind in Vietnam during the war. His uncle later on went back for her. “J’ai trois filles et deux fils” she tells me later on that night. Thuang and I chat a bit more and then I take off to find the bus to go up to the cave and the waterfalls.
While I’m waiting on the street (not sure if it’s the right spot ‘cause this guy pointed that I just had to stand there and wave the bus down… there is no bus stop though, so this might be a case of the “PrActiSe-YoUr-ChAraDeS-sKiLls a bit more Mo”) I feel a pinch from one of the -I don’t know how many – mosquito bites I have on my body and realize I didn’t put on any repellent. The hike the other day up the mountain in Ha Giang proved that I should definitely put it on, ‘cause they seem to enjoy the taste of my blood.
Quickly, I rush back hoping I‘m not about to miss the bus, which’s timetable is unclear….to everyone! While putting on repellent, Thuang tells me it’s totally fine to stand by road, so I go to the nearest corner. Wait that sounds bad. But I did! And yeaayyy, there it was. Perfect timing!
This place is magnificent. I instantly fell in love with it when I arrived. Sometimes you just get this feeling and can’t pinpoint why you like it. You just do. Totally in my element being the only tourist on the tiny bus, I take in my surroundings. These mountains are so impressive. Every turn we make, there’s a new surprise waiting for us around the corner. The mountains rise and fall, the sun shines on my face through the window and I couldn’t be more content. Many locals hop on and off the bus, including seemingly very old ladies sitting in the wobbly front, holding their own on the rocky road. Impressive! The ‘ticket lady’ keeps shouting in her phone every five minutes, to stop at the next point where she puts something new on the bus to sell at one of the next stops. These items vary from mechanical parts to food to whatever needs selling. This is very common in Vietnam and explains why there is no timetable ‘cause there’s no way of telling how many stops the bus has to make in order to get and pass these goods on. Quite funny to observe.
After about three and a half hours of the above I see on ‘Maps me’ that I’m getting close to my destination. The caves. Right before we reach it I show the ‘ticket lady’ where I want to get off. She smiles at me and yells at the driver. Presumably that he needs to stop at the crossing of the road, which he does. They all smile at me and wave when I get off.
Thuang had told me to go to the caves first and it was the best tip he could’ve given me, because I took my time there. It was about a two to three kilometer walk from there to the waterfalls and during this walk I got to enjoy taking pictures at ease and capturing the moment. Thus far, I had mostly been on a motorbike, which is not the most ideal way to take pictures. By the time I stopped my bike, took out my camera and prepped it with the right settings- the moment had passed. So I was very glad that I was walking, camera at hand, ready to shoot.
At the waterfalls I meet a bunch of Japanese guys with many big cameras, excited to take pictures with me in front of the waterfall. How can I say no?! “Great pics Mo!” my good friend tells me later after sending her some pictures. “It looks like you’re on the TV show ‘The Bachelorette’, but something went wrong in the selection of the bachelors” Haha, I can’t say I disagree!
After the rather intensive photo op with the Japanese guys, I head back and reach the bridge. I’m supposed to cross it to head back to the bus, but I see a hidden waterfall and think that if I go through the cows, I can reach it. Love the secludedness of it all. So I decide to defy the cows. One calf is so cute though. Being the tourist that I am, I take a picture which seems to piss the calf off and the mom (with horns!!) even more. She comes at me while blowing steam through her nose. Calmly, I talk to her and tell her I’m not gonna do anything to her baby, but she puts her head down, with her horns pointed directly at me and charges at me. Yeah, No, Okay, I’m out!”
Calmly, yet very quickly I get out of her sight and cross the bridge. Guess she just wanted me to hurry up ‘cause once I reach the top of the hill, the bus to Cao Bằng is right there waiting for me. Five minutes after I got in we take off for a three our ride back into town while the locals sing very bad but very funny karaoke. Perfect timing and a perfect ending to a perfect day….and it wasn’t even over yet : )