If it’s all about the journey and not the destination, there is a “journey to a journey” involving quite a few ups and downs, not to mention twists and turns, that awaits the nature lover in Vietnam’s northern region.
The destination is a path, 40 kilometers long, that winds its way through a dense bamboo grove in Thanh Hoa Province. In order to reach the Suoi Muong bamboo path, there’s a long way to go, past high mountains and deep valleys. A motorbike is an indispensable accessory.
Mai Chau, Hoa Binh
Let’s get going from Hanoi and head to Hoa Binh, where Muong Lat Street along the Laos border leads to the mountainous western part of Thanh Hoa. The first village on the road is named Thanh Son, where backpackers can tuck in for the night in local homes after a simple supper. As we go further, more villages appear, as do the first bamboos. Here, the road is named Suoi Muong after a local stream.
Along the red-soil road, which gets narrower toward the end, are tall, dense bamboo grasses that cast their green shadows on the Ma River flowing alongside. Then the bamboos disappear, and the Mau Village market comes into view, several minutes from the pier across the Ma River.
Stationed at the pier is a woman in her sixties. Her teeth are dyed in black, a beauty aid for Vietnamese women in the old times and a tradition to protect their teeth. “I row until four in the afternoon, then go home to rest,” said the ferrywoman who has been doing this job nearly 20 years and knows everyone in the area.