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Vietnam (Day 18) Trekking Day 3: Emerging From The Wild

Today we woke and after a wonderful breakfast of Vietnamese pancakes prepared by our host family, we began our 3rd day of trekking. It would be a short 2 hour hike first up the mountain and then down into the valley passing hamlets and minority villages.

I pointed out our guide's shoes (again, I am the worst with names) and commented that I hoped he brought other shoes for the trekking. He had on shiny black dress shoes. He also had on a white button-down shirt.  And, belted slacks. Rob asked him if he was going to the office. We all had a big laugh.  After composing himself, he pointed to the landscape and said "Welcome to my office". Then, another round of big laughter followed. Awww, man - I'm going to miss THIS.

So, as we trekked out of the area, we passed the same bridge that we had come in on. You know - the bridge that took YEARS off my life.  It may not look all that intimidating here, but we crossed it in a storm with THRASHING water, 3 of us on a MOTORBIKE!

It's a lot narrower than it looks. But seriously, this is some solid engineering here! Pretty cool, isn't it?

Brilliant ingenuity. Water wheels used to move water uphill.

The people were so friendly shouting "hello" as we went by and it was such a warm welcome to us throughout this whole area of forest, rice terraces, and scenic villages. The families that live in this region are Thai ethnic minority people, originally from southern China and ethnically linked to the Thai in Thailand. But, they are Vietnamese. They are sometimes referred to as "hill tribes" or Montagnards ("mountain people") and are predominantly rice farmers.

Just like our previous two days, we found great pleasure in meeting the locals and observing them going about their day. For the most part, people would engage us.  A few seemed amused by the kids (read: loud American kids). We passed this one farm with a husband and wife busily working. My kids just had to stop when they spotted their mama dog and her new pups. I felt guilty that we were in the way of people trying get real work done. We finally managed to DRAG the kids away. 

But, once we got into the village, we were the ones being followed (hahaha). Groups of kids walked by, circled back, and walked by again. Little waved from their stilt houses. Kids on bicycles navigating the same dirt paths shyly glancing at us when they passed. What do they think of us?

Trekking through a village, we popped out somewhere roadside and lo and behold there was the car waiting for us.  Oh, wow - I was suddenly aware that this car was super clean.  You could tell that the driver took pride in the upkeep of his vehicle.  We were sooo dirty.  Gingerly, we climbed in.  Back in the car, we headed towards Ninh Binh with plans to stop somewhere along the way for lunch. We were enjoying all the passing sights (incredible things you see here) when Molly started to complain of car sickness. Her complaining got worse and we worried that she would throw up. Oh, that would be bad. In. The. Pristine. Car. We decided that we should get her a bite to eat, but for some reason couldn't find anywhere to stop.  So, we stopped at a sugar cane juice stand.  Well, this was neat. Yay, for car sickness. Just kidding. The mom and a whole lotta kids here got a big kick out of us. Quite a delightful stop even though it turned out that none of us care for sugar cane juice.  But, we can all say we tried it! There was nothing else sold here and by this time, we were all feeling ready for some lunch.  Back in the car, we were practically begging to stop at the next suitable place. 

Whoa, thank the stars above, we stopped for lunch. Never was a bowl so welcomed! That one really hit the spot. 

We finished our adventure with a return back to Tam Coc Garden. Rolled in so muddied, dirty, and smelly that the staff exclaimed "Whoa, where did you guys go?!"

This stinky family is off to shower, but we will never wash off the soul-changing LIFE effects from this off the beaten path, off the grid, kissed by clouds hiking adventure.

Squeaky clean and celebrating!

Chairs?! Hahahaha

We did it! This 3 day trek. Our family BIG accomplishment trekking through rice paddies, up the cloud-covered mountains, into the thick jungle. We survived torrential downpour, slippery mud, and blistering heat. We got sweaty, stinky, and muddy. But, it made us feel beautiful! Pu Luong Nature Reserve, Vietnam - we will never forget you. 

Now, the details so YOU can plan your adventure trekking Vietnam paradise. I learned of Toan from TripAdvisor where he has garnered quite the positive reputation - deservedly! I contacted him over a year in advance via email and we began constructing plans for our time together.  He was quick with responses and eased all my concerns.  All expected costs were provided during planning and at the end of our time, we were given a detailed write-up of our bill, which we paid in cash. 

We left the bulk of our luggage at Tam Coc Garden and scaled down to a couple backpacks and 2 carry-on sized bags. We brought plenty of mosquito repellent (not really needed) and sunscreen (needed). Cooling towels worked wonders! You will need good hiking sandals/shoes especially if you encounter rain, but also bring flip-flops for around the home stays. I still recall with a chuckle that moment when we rolled into Tam Coc's lobby feet and legs caked in mud.    

This was definitely one of the BIGGEST highlights of our overall Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia trip and was in fact, the BEST thing we did in Vietnam. Ready for YOUR Vietnam trek?


  1. What distances did you cover each day?
    We did a 4 hr trek in Sa Pa using the 'hard' course & it completely stuffed us (May 2015).
    We ended up taxi-ing back to do our hotel (8 kms away) so unsure the length of our trek.

  2. It was not great distances. It was about 3 hours each day (trekking cut short the first day with the rainstorm), but of varying terrain, so plenty of easy walking passing through the villages. There were some super slippery muddy parts that made things interesting. Kids did great! We ran into people that did Sapa and it sounds like your trekking was much more challenging.

  3. It sure was, we felt our legs go to jelly that night so a long hot bath with some beverages after (works in my mind!)
    Our JBR is amongst the 1st post on the VN forum including pix of the trek.

    1. Cool. I'll check it out! If we returned, we would want to do Sapa.