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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Vietnam (Day 16) Trekking Day 1: Off The Beaten Path



And so it begins... the start of 3 days trekking.  Off the beaten path. Time to find out what we are made of on this adventure of a lifetime. Ready, set, GO! 


Toan picked us up at 8:30am in a car with his driver.  We drove a couple hours or so on a scenic ride through towns and small villages into Pu Luong Nature Reserve stopping at just the right time for a delicious lunch. It was all pre-arranged - meaning we just sat down and food magically appeared without us having to exercise any brain cells. Back in the car, we continued another hour or so.  Passed so many interesting sights. It became a competition to see who could spot the most unusual - there always seemed to be something upping the ante. 


Looking here. Looking there. Toan had us exit the vehicle at what appeared to be some random spot on the side of the road in a small village. I'm pretty sure he asked for directions when he first chatted with some hillside locals (hahahaha). And, off we went trekking through a village and then further out into the hillside. 




Oh my gosh, I could barely contain my delight. THIS is exactly what I dreamed as the perfect travel experience for our family. As we trekked, each of us spaced out in distance taking in all the sights and sounds individually and completely in the moment.  We would group up to help one another at the more adventurous undertakings like slippery mud banks and monkey bridges.  Nature's very own obstacle course!  The kids LOVED it!




As we passed through villages, we were greeted by friendly locals and took time to learn about their interesting daily life.  Lots of  activity all around the village gave us plenty to see.  We began to get excited for our upcoming home stay and the experience of a cross-cultural exchange with a local family.




As we trekked into the hillsides, we encountered stunning landscape that was so much fun to navigate. We often wondered how Toan knew which path to take and knew without a doubt that we would be beyond lost if he abandoned us.  There were a couple times that we spaced out from each other too far apart and then ran into a fork a bit confused until whoever was up front (Toan, Rob, and Caitlin) double-backed to retrieve the stragglers (Molly and me).  But, this was all part of the adventure.  And, we NEEDED to embrace it at our own individual pace. We had hearts that yearned to see what was next and hearts that needed a pause for what was passing.





Then, we came upon the rice terraces.  And, it was a FULL STOP.  Be still my heart.  Yesss, these famous rice paddy terraces of Vietnam. My Bucket List experience finally realized to see them. And, to see it trekking with our kids is something special.


These cascading rice paddy terraces were a visual feast for our eyes, but for the ethnic minority people living here, they represent almost their entire sustenance. We trekked down to the rice paddies and then quietly watched the villagers working the fields. Admiring their strength and endurance, we felt like intruders. Then, when they smiled and waved to us, we lit up with joy feeling warmly welcomed in their land. We shyly came closer when they beckoned us. How special of an experience to be shown the local way of rice planting and harvesting by hand.


As we neared our home stay a couple hours later, we came upon our stuck in the mud car (the driver was bringing our bags while we trekked - he's also a backup in case of problems trekking). 


While the boys worked on freeing the car, the girls took advantage of the break with a snack.  We watched them try all sorts of things to give the wheels some traction. 



I'm amazed that the car isn't still there stuck in the mud! After the guys FINALLY freed it, we continued trekking the short distance to our home stay.


Vietnam Vibes! Sweaty & Stinky girls, but SOARING with girl power accomplishment from trekking these AMAZING rice paddy terraces. So proud of these girls!


We rounded these rice terraces to come upon our home stay.  Talk about hitting the jackpot - you should have seen our jaws drop when we realized that our thatched bungalow was nestled amongst this view! We removed our shoes and clambered inside to discover a perfectly comfortable set up. 



We really had no idea what to expect but have in the past really enjoyed small B&Bs and farm stays on other travels.  But, oh my gosh, this lovely home is really a special stay for an authentic local experience! THIS is my "why". What a unique experience being hosted by this ethnic minority family that lives here and works these rice paddies every day! When we arrived, they were all out working the fields. We enjoyed the views while relaxing our tired muscles.  The kids wandered on their own exploring the immediate surroundings quickly finding the hammocks. 


Lucky for us, the family had just put in a western-style toilet last year. 




We easily settled in. Taking reading breaks and then going right back outside to explore.



In the evening, our hosts returned and set about to prepare us a meal. While waiting for our appointed time to go to the main house, the storm of all storms erupted driving us to shelter inside our bungalow.  


We managed to make our way using flashlights and umbrellas to the most fantastic dinner.  We ate with Toan and his driver after briefly meeting our host family.  They have young children and it looked like they had their hands full.  We were very humbled by their hospitality and all that they did for our comfort after working the whole day in the fields.  Dinner was a delicious FEAST of plentiful variety.  We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner conversation learning much from Toan and his driver.  I know I keep referring to the gentleman as "his driver", but I cannot for the life of me remember his name. After stuffing ourselves silly with dinner, we retired to our stilt bungalow to sleep. The torrential downpour that had swept into the valley continued overnight.  I've never heard such thunder. It must have echoed off the mountains. I mentally prepared myself for the possibility that we would be stuck here for days. 


Eventually, the rain lulled us to sleep and no worries, we woke to calmness. Our host family prepared us a delicious breakfast perfect for continuing our 2nd day trekking. But first, Toan went to make sure that the driver could get the car past the "sticky" point before returning to gather us. I can't believe how far off the beaten path we have wandered!


So many life lessons at work here - hoping the kids learned a thing or two.

Up Next: Trekking Day 2: Kissed By Clouds

1 comment:

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