Day 6 – Lak to Buon Ma Thuot 125KM

19 04 2012

Firstly, please forgive me if this today’s entry lacks any real passion. Toan is evil and must be punished. He forced me to drink several Saigon Special beers last night. Consequently I have a raging hangover…

The day started well following a good nights sleep. It’s surprising how a good nights sleep changes your perception of the world. I woke to a sleepy Lak even in “rush hour”. Rush hour in Lak seemed to consist of two tractors driving past. We had another soup based breakfast then rode a short distance to Lak Lake. Not before we seized the opportunity to enjoy some excellent coffee at Cafe Duc Mai. It was so tranquil here, slowly sipping the iced coffee and looking out over the paddy fields. I met Rachel from London there, and Cas from somewhere unpronoucable in Australia (sorry Cas) ! This seemed to be a recurring theme of the day ! The cafe’s owner Mr Duc was a wonderful guy, and very friendly. Elephant rides can be organized here, as the tribal village of Jun is a short walk away.

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I set off for the aforementioned short walk to Jun Village. Jun village is inhabited by the Muonz tribe, who live a subsistence lifestyle catching fish and growing rice. It was amazing to see the tribe’s people go about their business. Just as I left the cafe, I could see a cow rolling in the drying rice that the locals had carefully placed on the road. I thought that it must have been quite itchy !

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The huts are built in a very traditional manner, with only one large central room in which the family eat, sleep and eat. I walked past one hut and heard a large amount of wailing. To me it sounded like a funeral wail. I walked on past it, as I know times like that can be sensitive. The village was amazing, and a few of the better photos are below.

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I returned back to Cafe Duc Mai, and Toan told me that a man had died in the village overnight. His cow had just died outside a few moments ago. So unknowingly this is what I had captured. An odd coincidence indeed.

Saying goodbye to Mr Duc, we started our long journey towards Buon Ma Thout. As we left Lak, the sun was shining brightly. Literally thousands of butterflies were swooping on the bushes surrounding the roads. I can tell you that butterflies hurt when they hit your face at 60KM. The children were leaving school for lunch, and there were hundreds of them walking and on pedal cycles on the roadside. It looked beautiful, the blue sky combined with green flowered bushes, small white butterflies everywhere and then brightly coloured uniformed children everywhere.

Our journey soon took us onto the Ho Chi Minh Road, which links Saigon to Ha Noi. Consequently it’s extremely busy, and not much wider than a standard road in England. So, picture this. The road is gravelled, with huge pot holes and sandy patches. There are motorbikes everywhere, coming from all directions. Then add in cars, trucks and heavy goods vehicles (HGV’s). The larger vehicles basically try to barge past each other, not caring what is in their way. Size really does matter over here ladies. Regardless we pushed on, sometimes having to ride on the “pavement” to prevent being turned into cat food.

Toan said to stop to get something for lunch. Stopping at a local market, we chose the biggest and meanest looking chicken possible. The vendor swiftly dispatched it before our eyes. Chicken does not come packaged over here, it comes clucking !

Eventually we arrived at Dray Sap falls. Toan gave me specific instructions. “I stay here, make BBQ, you go have swim, come back we eat” ! How could I disobey such a direct order ? Grabbing my swimming trunks, I made my way to the “Fairy Pool”. It was a fairly treacherous clamber down to the pool. However sighting the opaque water, it looked so inviting. I could see Rachel and Cas were already in there, so I tried to discretely get changed. Not before one of the tour guides spotted me, and took a picture…swine ! Gingerly making my way into the water, it was pure bliss. Cooling and soothing, especially after the crazy driving. I had a good chat with Rachel and Cas too, whilst trying to keep my head above water !

The thought of BBQ chicken was drawing me out of the water. Plus the girls had left, and I thought it a little dangerous to be there alone. As i came back up the slope, they kindly took a cheesy picture of me next to a waterfall.

I could smell the chicken wafting towards me as I walked down the hill. Toan had done an amazing job, preparing the chicken, making banana leaf mats and bamboo to cook it on. From cluck to cook !

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So, lunch was served in the jungle. BBQ chicken, with salt, black pepper, lime juice and served with bitter leaf…bon appetit ! Apparently I was on the course too, as I received around 15 mosquito bites. I hate them little b-stards so much.

Dusk was approaching so we began the journey back towards Buon Ma Thuot. This entailed getting back onto the Ho Chi Minh Road…in rush hour. Let me tell you, there is nothing more frightening than three HGV’s overtaking each other coming towards you at 40KM. Effectively this left me with approximately 30cm of road space, including the other two million bikes as well. This nightmare continued for around 15KM. Thankfully we got into Buon Ma Thuot unscathed, but I was literally shaking following the journey. I would actually say it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.

Beer was called for following that nightmare. Quite a bit to be honest, as we seemed to have drunk a crate of Saigon Special. Hence my opening line at the beginning of this entry. Tomorrow, Buon Ma Thuot to Kon Tum.

Things I have seen carried on a motorcycle today :

1. A 2m piece of ice
2. 4 mattresses
3. A 1.5m wide piece of wood, carried across the bike

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