Wanderlust Reignited: A Journey Through Ha Giang
Hanoi, perhaps like any sprawling metropolis, has a frustrating gravitational pull that tends to keep you both antsy to escape and disinclined to run away. Now, I love Hanoi – its people, restaurants, tea houses, leafy parks, and museums. Yet, somehow in spite of my suburban upbringing (or perhaps in reaction to it), I feel most at home in the countryside and in nature.
Over the past year, I had made numerous attempts to break out of Hanoi for an adventure only to be severely let down. Just about any meaningful trip required at least a week and money, neither of which I have in ample supply (particularly when espresso machines explode and marauding groups of taxi thugs beat our security guards – but I digress).
I had just crossed the one-year mark in Hanoi and had nary an adventure to reflect warmly on. My lovely mountain bike was gathering dust, my kayak bored of the same old lake, my once-proud beard clean and tamed. Depressing.
Thankfully, adventures can arrive in small packages. Namely, Mai Lan – my Retail Sales/Marketing Manager – who leads a group of twenty-something Vietnamese motorbikers that plan monthly trips on a shoestring to far-flung provinces in northern Vietnam. When she asked me to join their latest excursion to Ha Giang, I was chuffed – after years of being all-time bowler in kickball or lowly left field in little league, I had been chosen. Then she added “Women can’t drive. Khanh (Joma’s Office Manager) asked the other men in the office, but she can’t find someone else and needs a driver.” As Homer Simpson once said, “Default: the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
So, late one Friday night we set off on a sleeper bus to the province of Ha Giang. We drove from the quaint provincial capital to Yen Minh, and then north to the Chinese border town of Dong Van. We managed to complete a full loop (350+ km) that weekend, absorbing some of the most gorgeous scenery and fascinating local people I have had the privilege to experience in SE Asia. All of this in a quick weekend and for less than $40. Now that I have broken the “Hanoi Seal”, I’ll be throwing my mountain bike in the bottom of a sleeper bus at least once a month and heading to the mountains to reflect and rejuvenate.