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Heading towards Sapa from Lai Chau

Heading towards Sapa from Lai Chau
Weel, this am I didn't feel so chipper. After last nights ATM excitement I sat down in the hotel restraunt for my meal. I was waved over by the guy who works on the recption. He asked me to join the hotel staff for a meal they were having. A freind of theirs was heading back home for Tet and this was her leaving meal. Again it ws shown how freindly, hospitable and kind are the majority of people I have met in Vietnam. The meal ws accompanined by many rice wine toasts, leaving me a little hungover in the moring. The Vietnamese certainly picked up a lot from the Russians, and toasting is just one of them.

As I left in the moring, I was given a bottle of rice wine to take away with me as a gift from the hotel, as well as a bamboo pouring gadget. I was very touched, and this just went further to disporving the negative review the hotle had recieved on the Travelfish website. By the way, the hotl is called.

I was planning to leave early, but I needed to have the horn and indicator lights repaired. So, another mechanic, who did a lovely job. I diodn't envy him, as there was gaffer taped wiring breaks all over the place.

Stupidly, I decided to wash the bike. It was still clarted with dust, and I figured it would be a good idea to get it out of any moving parts. Of course, after a vigorous clean it refused to start. It was as usual noon when I managed to go. 230 km to Sapa.

I felt slightly low this moring, but that was more to do with the hangover. It's weird how that has been a feature of this trip. Elated one minute, despondant the next. But that kind of heightened experience was just what I was looking for, and I can't complain when I get challenged.

This time, the road was much better. Wonderfully curving, as I passed though the towns along the valley, with not so many steep points. I loved dropping down into a cool shaded part of the raod, often with a little waterfall, before bursting out into the sunlight. However, I began to doubt I'd make it to Sapa. My back was starting to hurt now, as was my bum! That said, I still was loving cruising through the countryside with my Ipod on.

As I traveled I saw more an more of the life of the farmers and minority peoples. They must have been tough, tough people, carrying massive loads up and down the hillsides. I felt very guilty crusing past them, my fat bottom on a motorbike. They also seemed very happy, and I saw so many smiles and laughter.

The Misnk seemed to be running very well, but I couldn't shake of a nagging fear of the road. I felt it was easy to get complacent, given the good conditions. My phobia of lorries was as strong as ever. The road fell into a pattern, of heading through a valley, then up and down into the next. Fast flowing rivers flowed through them, passing massive boulders.

I noticed also that the weather was wonderful, not cold at all as I worried. By now my clothing was in a terrible state. I was arriving at hotels too late to get any washing done, and I was covered in dust, mud and oil. I looked, and proably smelt, like a real greasy biker!

After losing my map, and having to ask lots of people for directions and ETAs, I realized that I would struggle to make Sapa tonight.

I passed Moung La (I was lucky to see it. It is due to be submerged under the river when the dam is finished). Up and up I went into the mountains. More and more beauty around me. It was second gear territory. I passed rugged hilltops. I found it was wonderful to see the hilltops across the vast distances, then find the road passed by them. It was my favorite time of the day, with the sun just setting over the ridges of the mountains. I was into more greenery and more forests now.

I saw more and more Hmong people, wearing their bright clothing. I saw one woman in an amazing hat with a half dozen flouresent bobbles on it. Also, the pristine white shirts I wondered how they kept so clean. They walked up and down by theside of the raod, some carying their children on their backs. Still many smiles and waves as I passed.

I headed now for Lai Chau. Realizing that I was still three hours from Sapa, I decided to stay the night there. A dusty town in the far northwest, it had something of the frontier about it. I found a hotel, and booked in. After a lovely meal, I looked for an internet cafe. There, the family that owned the cafe invited me to share their tea. The offered me their water pipe. One puff and I started to cough my lungs out. That's the last water pipe for me, I think. The family were so friendly. There was very little words we shared, but so much smiles and laughter, particulalry when I mimed my sore bum from the bike.

As I got back to the hotel, I crashed out. The kareoke bar next to the hotle was in full swing. Thank God for earplugs. Tomorrow, the famous destination of Sapa.

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