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Solo Motorbiking Vietnam, Part 4: Got my motorcycle, off to Pu Luong!


Day 8: Relaxing in Hanoi

Like how I got to Ha Giang, I took the night bus back to Hanoi. I slept the night off, arriving at 4am. This bus ride was a lot more bumpy, and there were times were I was jolted awake. I also thought that I was going to fall out of my bed many times because of how much the bus was moving. I would soon learn during my motorcycle ride south, that there are a lot of reckless bus drivers, and that I really had to watch out for them!

I didn’t do anything interesting the whole day, except for reserve my motorcycle for tomorrow. After having so much fun in Ha Giang, I felt like it was best if I relaxed today, as I had a lot of driving to do tomorrow. It would be more than I would have done before. I did only 160 kilometers (100 miles) max per day in Ha Giang. Going south, I planned out days well over 300 kilometers (200 miles), with tomorrow being about 200 kilometers (125 miles) so that I could get used to it.

I miss these breakfasts already :cry:.

Day 9: On my bike, off to Pu Luong!

The route I planned for today. To Pu Luong, with a stop in Mai Chau. Source:

I made it to the bike rental facility, strapped on my bag, put on my gear, and was ready to head off! I got a 150cc dirt bike, which is actually big for Vietnam, but definitely not that big in Europe!

Will we make it all the way to Ho Chi Minh?

Nevertheless, it was still uncommon to see a dirt bike. With almost every other bike being a moped, I stood out. I would get compliments on how nice the bike was from a lot of locals later on the trip.

Now, my biggest challenge was getting out of Hanoi! With the city being so packed with bikes, getting out was going to prove difficult. Up until now, I’ve seen heavy motorbike traffic, and I’ve ridden a motorbike, but I haven’t combined them both!

I thought that it would be harder than it was, but the old adage of “blending in with the crowd” proved to be very useful here. I was doing what everybody else was doing while following my directions, and before I knew it, I was out of the city! I guess this is the best way to drive here; if you don’t know what to do, just copy everybody else.

It was really hot and sticky going out of the city, way hotter than in Ha Giang. I had to stop twice for water in 2 hours! I hoped that I would be able to cool down once I made it into the mountains. It didn’t help much however, with only the evening eventually providing relief.

My first major stop on the journey was Mai Chau, which was labeled online as an “Up and Coming Tourist Town”. However, at least on the main street, it looked to me more like a dead tourist town, with nobody in the streets and the restaurants empty. I stopped at one to eat, and the only people that were seemed like they lived there.

I ordered two dishes, but I only got one :sob:.

I did manage to find a tourist attraction, a cave in the mountains. Great I thought, there was something to see here! What awaited me was probably the longest staircase I have seen in my life.

It kept going and going.

Climbing it in the really hot weather and humid weather didn’t help either. Seriously, I must have climbed over 500 steps before I made it to the top. At least I had a nice cool cave all to myself, drenched in sweat.

The reward at the top? A beautiful, cold cave.

I stayed to cool off before I made it back down and went on the road to Pu Luong. I heard that this area was a hidden gem, and the drive over there made me start to believe it. Like in Ha Giang, there were beautiful rice fields carved into the mountainside, although with mountains that weren’t so high. The town was also higher up, meaning that it was also significantly cooler than before.

I can never get enough rice fields.

I booked a homestay for two nights, as I really liked the homestay experience in Ha Giang. I was curious now what the differences are going solo versus going with a group.

I made it to the homestay, and was immediately greeted by a dog who was very eager to meet me! It was run by a wonderful host, a Thai man who runs the place with his parents. The whole village is actually ethnically Thai, and the people here actually don’t speak Vietnamese with each other, but rather Thai! They still understand it due to the amount of Vietnamese tourists that come by.

I would be sleeping here for the next two days.

I originally booked a room in a dorm, but since there weren’t a lot of people there, he upgraded me for free to a private room! He also mentioned that his mom was already preparing food for me, and that it would be ready in about in hour. Perfect. I went to my room, unpacked, relaxed a bit, and went outside for dinner. At this point it was dark outside.

Homemade meals are always the best.

There was also a creek right by the homestay. I was feeling sweaty from the ride over here, and I thought that it would be nice to go for a refreshing swim there. I asked the host if it was fine to go in, and he said that the dad could show me where to go. I took him up on his offer and went with him.

The dad brought a searchlight along. I thought that this would just be there to help me find my way around the rocks in the area, but I could not be more wrong. We were going hunting! And I was invited to come look for some with him. I guess I didn’t catch that part?

And I thought I was going swimming! Guess not.

We trotted down the creek, pointing the spotlight on the riverbed. I couldn’t find anything, but the dad, seemingly having done this many, many times before, knew exactly where to look. He flicked his searchlight in very precise locations, seemingly knowing every corner of the riverbed and where the animals were. And what were we looking for exactly? Crabs!

As soon as he saw one, he gave it a light touch on the top before literally taking it into his hand and putting it in the bucket he brought with. I would never be able to touch a live crab, let alone find one! Seeing him pick it up with his bare hands, pincers and all, was really a courageous sight for me to see.

But the craziest part of all was when he started to point his spotlight at the trees. At first, I didn’t know what he was doing. But then, I saw a snake, and I was shocked. Aren’t these things poisonous, I thought? He said (afterwards!) they aren’t that bad when they bite you, but I had a hard time believing that.

You see it? :snake:

We almost caught one that night, but it unfortunately got away from us. It’s a real shame, because he told me that they are really delicious, and I wouldn’t mind trying it.

I still can't believe they were caught bare handed.

After catching about 7 or 8 crabs, we packed it up and went back to the homestay, where I was invited to try some. They were really small, and it was hard getting the shell off, but they were still very delicious!

I asked what there was to do here tomorrow. The host offered me a jungle tour with his dad. This would also be private tour, since there was no one else here. I said that I’d do it. Glad that I had something planned, I headed off to sleep.

Recommendation: Pu Luong Jungle King Homestay. A great homestay that showcases the rural lifestyle of Pu Luong.

Day 10: A jungle tour

I wasn’t exactly sure what we were going to do on this tour, other than walk to a waterfall. It was a solo guided trip in the jungle with just me and the dad, who didn’t speak much English. Nevertheless, we got on a motorbike and headed to the base of the first hike.

It was not a long ride to drop off the motorbike, but we still had a long time to walk. It was pretty silent, between us at least, but the dad seemed to know everybody in the village. He was saying hi to everybody passing by the road, as well as every family in the houses. I wish I could have said something more than “Hi” as well.

We walked on a village road.

Eventually, the road ended, and we were left with just the river. We made our way up the water, where we were eventually greeted by a secluded waterfall, with a nice swimming hole. I happily jumped in after the long hike. There really is something amazing of cooling off in a cool, refreshing river after being really hot right before.

It was pretty cold! :snowflake:

There wasn’t much else to see here, and so we made our way back down back to the motorbike. On the way there, I don’t know what exactly I said, I think we were looking at some animals, but the dad started to teach me how to count in Vietnamese! I already knew a bit from saying “một, hai, ba, dô!” probably a hundred times already, but I actually learned how to count further than that! In particular, I learned to count all the way to 9,999, but if you ask me to remember that now, I would not be able to tell you.

I actually had a lot of fun learning how to count, so much so that I didn’t even realize we made it to the bike! We hopped on and made it to the second destination, which was another waterfall. It’s actually more famous, and it’s called Thác Hiêu Waterfall.

There was no clear path here but I trusted the guide.

This one was much larger. Climbing up to the top proved to be a real challenge! However, the reward was well worth it, as we had an absolutely massive waterfall all to ourselves!

My favorite part is how the waterfall hides in the canopy.

We had lunch at the waterfall, neatly packed in a banana leaf. We both swam a bit more before heading further up the waterfall, where we made it out of the jungle.

Guess what's on the skewers. :snail:

There, we made it into a clearing where we could see the whole valley below us.

The waterfall is just below me. Imagine being able to swim here every day! :heart_eyes:

We made it back down after enjoying the view one last time. I got to the resort mid-afternoon, where I went and took a nap before going into town to check it out.

I really enjoy watching peaceful farm life.

There wasn’t too much to do, and it was starting to get dark, so I went back to the homestay. I met up with another family there, and we went to the river like yesterday. The dad actually managed to catch a snake with his bare hands! I was impressed with how he fearlessly grabbed it; I wouldn’t even dare to get close to one.

I came back and went to sleep, prepared for the long drive tomorrow. I had over 300 kilometers (200 miles) to drive. This was about halfway to the next point of interest: Phong Nha, famous for its caves. This was almost 50% more than what I did before, and so I wanted to get up nice and early so that I had enough time.

I liked my time in Pu Luong. It was nice staying in the jungle and seeing this part of Vietnam. I think what made my experience special for me was the homestay that I stayed at; I really liked the family that ran it. It was interesting seeing how they lived. It was also not so well visited, so I could enjoy the sights to myself a bit more. Overall, would recommend coming here!