We got to sleep in a bit, as the next place we were visiting, Pu Luong, was only about 90 minutes away from Mai Chau. My stomach was bothering me. When traveling like this it’s very hard to pinpoint if you’re fighting something off or ate something bad. I may have been dehydrated. Anyway, it wasn’t good so I took some medicine and hoped for no squatty potties if we didn’t make it to the hotel in time!
We had a little chat with Toan re: our guiding preferences (i.e., please don’t walk too far ahead so we can’t ask questions, please walk more slowly so we can take pics, etc.). Breakfast at the hotel was good, and the staff there couldn’t have been nicer. I highly recommend Mai Chau Valley View Hotel .We started out and maybe 10 or 15 minutes into the drive we made a stop. We were at factory that made chopsticks! It was actually really interesting. I’ve never seen so much bamboo in my life. Also, the man that was putting the bamboo into the “industrial finger smasher” (Sal’s description) to make the chopsticks didn’t have any protective wear on whatsoever. It’s not surprising at all, but one slip and…yikes.
Sal got a short video of his work.
Sitting outside the building was a man making a net. He didn’t speak English, and we didn’t speak Vietnamese, but he mimed what he was doing and he gave us a big smile. There are a lot of genuine smiles in Vietnam.
I really enjoyed that stop. I wish we could have had a souvenir pair of chopsticks!
We proceeded on to our main destination: Pu Luong Retreat. We stopped for one overlook view and then were at the retreat before we knew it. Chow, our driver, was very good in those mountains and we always felt safe.
We got to the retreat sort of early, but luckily they got us into a room in about 15 minutes. As she checked us in she announced that there wasn’t electricity and there wouldn’t be until after 4 PM, and apologized. OK, then! Thank goodness we were in the mountains and it wasn’t hot. Our room/villa was next to the pool (we heard someone fall in the pool, which was filled with cold mountain water), and the view was amazing.
Quirky bit: there was a giant tree in our villa’s bathroom. Basically they built the structure around the tree.
Toan and Chow were staying somewhere else. Toan set up lunch for us at the retreat and then we just relaxed while I tried to feel better. I debated if I was going to do the walk/’easy trek’ or not. My stomach was starting to feel a little better, but it was still not great. I thought it might be nice to lay on the porch and look at the view. Sal was encouraging me to go and I didn’t know what to do. Toan had said it would be two hours, and what if I needed a bathroom? Awkward! You all know how much I hate the idea of a squatty… While I was laying there debating what I should do, a group of people were at the pool (which was very close to our villa). They were very loud and they were doing a photo shoot. The longer they were there talking/yelling, the more I thought it would be more relaxing to do the trek! There was also someone practicing a drum and ‘music’ (the same three notes). It went on and on. Sound really travels in that valley! So I decided to just go on the trek and hope for the best! I didn’t come here to lay on the porch (even though the view couldn’t be beat). If I felt crappy or it was too hard, we could turn around and go back.
The trek started downhill. Yes, Jen…more foreshadowing 😉 It wasn’t bad at all. The sun was quite hot at first, but I had my trusty umbrella and my chilly willy so I stayed cool. We also had water. Toan didn’t bring any water with him and said he was ‘like a camel’. Hahaha. He stayed with us for the most part this time, which was good and appreciated.
A motorbike came along at one point, selling gongs and pots.
We were walking along and got to a spot where water had flooded over the road and we saw this guy in the stream. We interrupted his bath/soak. He was really enjoying his soak!
We would pass by homes occasionally, or people, many of whom had smiles or hellos for us. As we passed one home an elderly woman called out, “hello!”. We responded with, “Sin Chow!” (hello in Vietnamese). She replied again with, “Sin Chow!”. I repeated it again. She repeated it again. Then we realized what we were doing and both started laughing. Those are the moments I will remember fondly from this trip.
Sal checked in to make sure I felt OK every once in awhile. I said, “No problem. We’re not to the hard part yet.” Eventually we had to make our way back up. We stopped at a Homestay that Toan knew for some tea.
I was iffy on having any, since I already had stomach issues. I was worried it might not be the cleanest, but it ended up being fine. Toan said it would help my stomach, and I think it did.
It was a long walk back up. When we were at the bottom I pointed up at building above and way in the distance and asked, “Wait…is that the retreat?”. It was. Damn it. I didn’t know if I would be able to do it, but I did! We took breaks every so often and drank our water. It was looking like rain at that point, but we only got a few drops…which is good because that would have made walking uphill there significantly more difficult.
We got to the top, picked up two beers on the way to our hut, and silently sweated (and eventually cooled off a little_ on the front porch. I looked at my Fitbit and it said I’d done 45 flights of stairs. Sal thought that was a conservative estimate. All I know is it is a lot. But I did it. One last video of the walk through the rice fields! I’m very glad I didn’t miss it.
We cleaned up and had cocktails at the restaurant and played cards. For dinner we had a tasty beef salad and honey roasted duck. Yum.
We slept very well that night.