Ha Giang province, 320 km north of Hanoi, conjures up images of the mystical. Towering mountain passes, endless valleys and wondrous colors depending on what time of the year you visit. The province shares a border with China, and is one of those ‘politically sensitive’ areas – making it relatively untouched by the sweep of mass tourism across the country. It has become known as Vietnam’s final frontier.
I like trains. Not in geeky, pocket book, pen and camera kind of a way – you will not find me drooling over the 12.10 to Easton – it is the style of travel rather than the trains themselves. I would travel everywhere by train if it was possible.
I’m sure most will concur themselves – but the first half of by twenties felt like absolute chaos. Finishing university and attempting to join ‘real job’ club was greeted with mixed results.
The few times I have began to write about the roads in Hanoi, I have to stop myself after two pages or so of rabid rantings – usually concerning what I would like to do to Hanoi’s taxi drivers with a blow torch, a stern length of barb wire and a sledge hammer.
So before I know it, I’ve been here for six months. Sweaty, stifling October days when I arrived were replaced with months of uniform grey – which in turn have been replaced with sweaty April and now May. The temperature climbs and the rains fall.
The knock at the door wrenched my eyes open at an alarming speed. I let out a grunt in disgust and rolled over to check the time. 7.00am – completely unacceptable. The knock increased in volume, as I rolled out of bed – staggered backwards and forth putting on my trousers, and made my way to the door.
“We’ve been invited to somebody’s house to slaughter a pig” My pre dawn head picked up each word in turn; examined them carefully; put them back together and still had no idea what to think.
The air is smoky and filled with the smell of sizzling chicken. Welcome to Chicken Street. Locals know it as Pho Ly Van Phuc – but I don’t believe it has quite the same ring.
It’s been an excellent year. One to remember. It began on a freezing hillside overlooking a spectacular fireworks display over Prague. And will end tonight at a rave somewhere on the outskirts of Hanoi.
‘The school is over the bridge’ she told me. My hands suddenly felt a little clammy. ‘Over the bridge?’ I gasped.