Dong Van, Jewel of Northern Vietnam

Hanoi was in the middle of monsoon and it was pouring down outside airport. With a couple of NZ $100 note on hand, I tried to exchange money into Vietnamese Dong. There was no Ding-Dong moment.  Most money-exchangers in airport didn’t want to deal with NZ dollars, and a couple of unwilling guys offered me quite depressing rates. Well, better keep NZ dollars for Thailand, grabbed a Cirrus logo-printed bank debit card issued in Korea, and inserted the card into one of the ATMs.  I was able to take out 4 million dongs(but the maximum withdraw amount at a time was 2 millions, so I did twice)

I became a millionaire  straight away  but Damn, the local  bus No7  which takes me to My-Dinh bus terminal costs me whopping 8000 dong(about 40 US cents).

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I am not going into Hanoi central, but to Ha-Giang, northern mountain village where I can change bus and carry on to Dong-Van.

This sleeper bus leaves the Hanoi’s terminal at 8:40 PM , arriving Ha-Giang 4 AM next morning, and costs 200,000 dong(US $9). This one is a good example of roomy seats and less number of passengers.

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Two local school girls opposite my bed. They love to watch Korean TV dramas and speak a little bit of Korean words too.

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At Ha-Giang town, a mini bus goes to Dong-Van at 5 AM. An old Hyundai 23 seater that might have been used in a Kindy back in Korea 15 years ago is ready for taking off. This bus charges 100,000 dong to Dong-Van and it takes 6 hours(if road is good) of bumpy ride.

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This bus doubles as a courier, a door-to-door pickup/drop-off too. The driver’s phone keeps ringing , and he turns around ,go back to pick up another parcel to deliver, until the bus is fully loaded.

Hard rain stops bus from keeping running and we pop into a local restaurant in the mountain for a rest.

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The mountain ranges veil out slowly from back ground.

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A young girl at the stall cooks a fried egg on my noodle with a slice of lime (in NZ lime costs $40 a kg), and this is all for 20,000 dong(US 90 cents).

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The Maps-Me app on my Android phone shows the paths this bus has been and ahead, very windy.

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Land slide ahead.

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Typical mountain villages like this.

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Now the bus descends into the mist.

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One has to stop for an oncoming vehicle to pass.

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Finally at Dong-Van. It is not hard to find a bed in Dong-Van. You will see many home stay signs like this on the street.  I check in a dorm which costs 70,000 dong(US $3.20)a night.

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Dong-Van is a remote outpost town serving slowly increasing tourism, but at the moment, supply is too heavy for the demand. I am on the winning side when negotiating the price for a bed.

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The other side of the main road from market has some good cafes.

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This cafe “Pho-Co” shows a retro charm.

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Practical choice for my coffee goes to this. “My Coffee”. Menu comes in a thick wood board book. I try the famous Cafe Phin.(Drip coffee in a traditional way but the beans used are Robusta)

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The coffee comes with a plate of roasted sunflower seed.

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Umm, average I would say.

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Just walk along back alley ways where you can see the life of the locals.

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Why chickens cross the road ? Because the referee was calling foul.

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The back off-road  leads to the rice field.

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Come across to this wonderful example of Russian-made Minsk bike that once the icon of Vietnam’s bike culture. It’s only 125 cc, but packs heaps of power.

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See you again in Dong-Van .

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