We are inspired by the fearlessness and perseverance of our ambassadors. Here @elipaulfilm explores the rice paddies, peaks, valleys and villages of Vietnam by dirt-bike. Rain or shine (mostly rain), Eli pushes on.
With numb fingers and faces freckled with mud, soft mountain rain showered us steadily as we rode our first leg of the mountain road, beginning our journey through the Ha Giang Province of Northern Vietnam. We passed towns and villages built up by concrete walls. Inside the homes held hardworking families, hunched over rice and squid during their midday lunch break. Living to work and working to live, these were some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever seen. No matter what time of day or day of the week, work was being done, flawlessly. Century after century of respecting the land they worked, they thrive in rice production. Paddy fields are cultivated as if they are building lush green steps to Heaven’s gates.
We made a point of stopping at small family-owned restaurants along the way, hoping to enjoy a homemade meal and communicate with the locals in w we could, sometimes with nothing more than a gesture or a shared laugh. Our first pull-off brought us into the lot of a precipitous coffee shop, situated on the mountain’s edge. We hopped off our bikes, stretched, and walked toward the shop, our pants glued to our thighs and mud pooling in our cuffs. The coffee served was harsh in the most pleasant way, hitting us harder than a shot of 40 year old bourbon. Steam rolled off our pruning fingers as we held them close to the flame of our table’s oil candle. It faltered, then flickered back to life as a drop of rain cheated its way through a cracked ceiling and landed on our table. Another followed, and then another; we listened to the familiar tap of rain water as it struck and slid seamlessly off our Sherpa Asaar Jackets. We reached into our pockets for the map to confirm our route and money to pay the barista, both items still dry and safe amid the wet journey. We thanked the barista, who called this shop home, and continued the journey to homestay.
The weather continued to rage against us and the condition of the roads proved more crippling. Potholes lurked stealthily around every corner; rocks fell haphazardly from construction trucks that blocked any opportunity of passing. It took our rigid fingers a moment to uncurl from our handlebars once we arrived to the homestay. We were greeted by four generations of a close-knit family. The grandmother quickly took off our jackets and wrapped us in warm blankets and tight hugs. Rice liquor and spring rolls waited for us by an inviting fire. We gestured and conveyed as well as we could our gratitude for their kindness and hospitality. We wished our hosts goodnight, grabbed our dry jackets, and strolled sleepily to our hut on the edge of the rice field. We laid down, soothed by the finals flavors of banana and tea in our mouths, and drifted into a hazy, gratuitous sleep - thankful for safely finishing our first stretch of the Ha Giang Loop.