“I could do this for the next six months.” That’s what I said at one of the coffee stops on the third morning of the three-day photography tour I took through the mountains of Ha Giang, a remote province in Northwest Vietnam.
The scenery was simply stunning at every turn, and there were lots of turns on the winding mountain roads. The best part was that I was sitting on the back of a motorbike breathing in the fresh air and taking in the views without having to worry about the potholes, construction, animals, or other obstacles in the road. My driver was Colm Pierce, a professional photographer from Ireland and one of the founders of Vietnam in Focus, the agency leading the tour. I had taken my first tour with Vietnam in Focus, a half day viewing the activity around the train tracks and market, shortly after arriving in Hanoi. I knew this New Year’s tour would be a great opportunity to see more of Vietnam and practice my photography.
Besides the beautiful mountain landscapes, the people we met were warm and friendly. The region is populated with small villages of more than twenty ethnic groups, including the Hmong, Tay, Nung, Giay, Lo Lo and Pu Peo.
We observed people going about their daily business and were welcomed with “hellos,” warm smiles, and occasionally an offer of homemade rice wine poured from reused water bottles. The tour included two home stays and two overnight bus rides to and from Hanoi. Our group of six (from Ireland, Germany, South Africa, Vietnam and USA) had fun getting to know each other and enjoyed plenty of laughs together.
We rode long hours, but stopped frequently to take photos, walk, enjoy coffee, talk with people and share meals. Riding through the mountains, I began to dream of buying of motorcycle when I returned to the States. I imagined riding out West, conquering the Rockies, exploring national parks with nothing but perfect weather. The windburn on my face felt so good I never wanted to ride in a closed vehicle again.
By the end of the third day, however, as we pulled into town after ten hours of riding and before getting on our overnight bus home, I was feeling pretty sore and was more than ready to ride in a slightly more comfortable vehicle protected from the elements. I began to realize how lucky we were to have only a few minutes of rain during our trip and cool, comfortable temperatures. Standing on the ground again and trying to stretch my legs while removing my helmet, my dream of buying a motorbike seemed like not such a great idea after all. Maybe buying a motorcycle is not in my future but I will gladly take the chance to be driven around for a few days.
It has taken awhile to go through the nearly 2000 photos I took during the tour, but here’s a sampling to give you an idea of the beauty of this place. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram to get more timely updates!