We all started the day a little apprehensively. We started out early as none of us wanted a repeat of the previous day where we had to ride in drizzle (that caused a muddy spray that messed up your visors or glasses) and riding in darkness.
The scenery was great, the temperature was nice and cool and we met a lot of friendly people along the way who waved and shouted ‘HELLO’ to us as we rode past in convoy. We stopped at this house for tea and met this guy whom Al said was more crazy than I was. The owner of the house was a local stonemason and when we told him who we were, he immediately invited us to sit in his courtyard and started brewing a pot of tea. A few minutes later some home made rice or corn wine was produced and we were strongly encouraged to imbibe in that as well.
We firmly and politely refused as it was still early in the day and none of us wanted to end up like Craig did the day before :). I think the locals were looking for any reason to get on the piss.
All of us were beginning to like hot Vietnamese tea – which is actually Chinese tea, but none of the locals would ever admit this. We were gradually starting to get a good idea of how much the Vietnamese dislike the Chinese.
We were so happy riding through the really great countryside in terrain that presented just the right amount of difficulty, that when Hue told us we were lost, we were not really that bothered.
We were told when we stopped at the stonemason’s house that the road to the Ban Gioc waterfall along the Vietnamese and Chinese border in Cao Bang province was closed. This was confirmed by a number of people we met along the way and so we had to find an alternative route across country and through back roads hence the reason why we got lost.
After an hour or so of the best riding we had experienced so far, we were met by this view of very different looking buildings as we topped a crest in a hill.
All of us were wondering why these buildings looked so different and we found out when we stopped that the building was a hotel on the Chinese side of the Ban Gioc waterfall. The waterfall is surrounded by much controversy. It was one of the crossing points for China’s Army during the Sino-Vietnamese War and a local told us that till today the Chinese are known to steal across during low tide and destroy any structures the Vietnamese try to build.
Disputes regarding the border demarcation at the waterfall were apparently settled in the 1999 Viet Nam-China Treaty on Land Borderline but additional talks were held as late as 2009 to clarify the treaty as there are controversies regarding the border demarcation around the Falls. I named the picture above China Compensating as we found the Chinese build structures that tower over Vietnamese ones wherever the borders meet and even my dual SIM phone was confused. One SIM showed me in China and the other showed me in Vietnam.
We had a great lunch of fried noodles and Al, is seen in this picture proudly showing the buffalo horn comb he bought for Lara. He was so pleased with the price he got that he then proceeded to try his hand at rowing us across to China :).
You access the waterfall by registering at the border and this is a picture of me “checking tickets” as we proceeded to the falls. It was a real experience for us and we all agreed that this was the best day of riding so far.
We soon got underway and rode to the town where we were staying the night.
We reached our destination after about an hour or so of uneventful riding and were quite surprised when we reached the homestay where we were to spend the night. Unlike Babe Lake, this homestay was built at the back of an existing house. We parked our bikes under where we were to sleep and we had our meals (and corn grain alcohol) less than a couple of metres away from our motorcycles.
Our beds were mattresses that were placed side-by-side on the floor above us and we were given really thick blankets that kept us nice and warm during the winter night. Needless to say there was no form of heating in the building.
We were the only people staying in the house aside from 3 French tourists :(. They were not very impressed when Hue started checking our bikes before we set out the next day while they were having breakfast.