I Want a Motorbike (Don’t Tell My Sons)

“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.

A beekeeper collecting honey

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.  

Our home stay hosts

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.  

Just a cool kid who started making faces after I took this

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.

She was just sitting on the side of the road.

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!

Stopping while crossing a bridge

Many winding roads

Beautiful colors

Endless hills and valleys

Fog on the second day

A universal game

Wow!

Going for a walk

. . . with the dog

Peaceful morning

Mountains beyond mountains

I was fortunate to be the only passenger on my bike.

Happy kids

Viewing her photo

Coming home from work

Peeling artichoke leaves for tea

The famous twin peaks

At the market

Vendor

Road paving

Happy grandfather

Comments (28):

  1. Anthony & Jean

    January 18, 2017 at 02:39

    I think something in the Bonneville range from Triumph would suit you to a T. And it’s ok to be a fair weather rider i.e. don’t go unless the weathers good :-). Failing that come to Oz once we are back and Jean or I will take you for a spin. Enjoy the rest of trip!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 07:57

      I will keep that offer in mind!

      Reply
  2. Allison Hine

    January 18, 2017 at 05:05

    Stunning photos. Thanks for sharing with us, Tim.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 07:58

      Thanks for the comment, Allison. I’m learning a lot to share for next year!

      Reply
  3. Vicky Ann Deledda

    January 18, 2017 at 05:18

    Your photos and writing definitely keep me interested, that’s why I’m here to be your shadow for a while

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 07:59

      But shadows shouldn’t get lost. Glad to have you here!

      Reply
  4. Lori Liguori

    January 18, 2017 at 05:57

    What a wonderful adventure, Tim…..the pictures are literally worth a thousand words….so incredible!!!!
    p.s. Hi Vicky Ann!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:00

      We love reading your comments!

      Reply
  5. Paula Agins

    January 18, 2017 at 06:19

    Love the Peaceful Morning photo!!! Actually, all the pictures. What an experience you are having. Hope Vicky is taking this all in!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:00

      That’s one of my favorites, too. Are we both searching for the same thing?

      Reply
  6. Rosie

    January 18, 2017 at 06:20

    I have enjoyed your stories and photos! Seems like a trip of a lifetime.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:05

      Thanks for reading and for the comment!

      Reply
  7. Betsy

    January 18, 2017 at 07:03

    Beautiful photos Tim! Glad you’re rethinking the motorbike.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:05

      It’s much easier to ride on the back.

      Reply
  8. Linda A Wight

    January 18, 2017 at 07:57

    WOW! Absolutely breathtaking pictures and scenery. The people are interesting. Glad you are having these adventures. The Angels are travelling with you.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:07

      Yes, they are. It’s a privilege to be able to do this.

      Reply
  9. anne

    January 18, 2017 at 08:00

    Absolutely stunning scenery! Beautiful pictures of the people and the children! I found Vicki ann’s and photos on Instagram fantastic!!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:08

      Thanks, Anne. She’s loving Instagram.

      Reply
  10. Cindy J Cassidy

    January 18, 2017 at 12:19

    Rats…I was hoping to pull out my leather jacket and boots from when Chris & I used to own a motorcycle and use you as my two wheeled ride!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:08

      I’ll rent a bike to see that.

      Reply
  11. Natalie Malison

    January 18, 2017 at 12:26

    Never imagined it was so beautiful there! Fantastic photos!! N. Malison

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:09

      It is stunning, and so different from one region to the next. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Reply
  12. Jeanne Steinnagel

    January 19, 2017 at 19:48

    Your photos are wonderful!!! What an experience.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:09

      Thanks, Jeanne!

      Reply
  13. Monica Schnee

    January 20, 2017 at 07:33

    What wonderful photos, it really paid off to take the tour – I love the landscapes, colors, faces, expressions. So much of it you could only see there and not in Hanoi or Saigon. Amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 23, 2017 at 08:14

      Yes, it is unlike any other place I visited in Vietnam. It is such a diverse country in terms of people and landscapes.

      Reply
  14. Deidre

    January 23, 2017 at 17:00

    I always knew you were a gifted writer, but your photographs are amazing! The scenery is so colorful and the images tell so much. Just love the precious faces of the young! Beautiful. What a journey you have taken. Thank you for inviting us to be part of it!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      January 24, 2017 at 20:29

      Thank you, Deidre! As beautiful as the photos are, it’s even more stunning in person.

      Reply

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