Day 6 and 7 (Ho Chi Minh Trail ) ~ Getting into Lak Lake Region

Our arrival into the Lak Lake area is heralded by a total switch of scenery and dynamics.  No more traffic. No more construction.  A steady stream of rice paddies, small hills, and return to rural Viet Nam’s easy rhythm.  Unlike travel by car or bus, travel by motorbike makes one very in tune with the micro-changes in the scenery and environment.
We are lucky to witness a moma pig and her babies cross the road in front of us.  The farmer on the right is wearing a traditional woven bamboo carrier for her work tools.
This tractor with an open engine is a typical “all purpose” carrier – from hay to beasts, to people…
A modern looking traditional wooden long house – home to ethnic communities in this region.
The last stretch of  scenery on this road getting into Lak Lake is exquisite.
“not until the cows come home”…

We chose Lak Lake as a destination, a slight detour from our journey south, because we read the region was chosen by the last Nguyen Emperor as a favorite spot for one of his palaces.  While the palace is no longer standing, we have made a reservation to stay at the hotel that was built on the grounds of the former Imperial palace, overlooking the lake.  We score a beautiful airy room with wooden floors and high ceiling in the Bao Dai residence 

Lak Lake, at dusk, dry season
A well deserved foot massage for the tired and wounded

A shriek comes from the bathroom when Peta lifts the toilet lid and a huge black toad jumps out. Unexpected surprise to say the least – seems the toad had taken up residence in the pipe system.  Not sure who got more of a fright.

The region around the lake is home to a few ethnic minorities that live in “long houses” (long narrow wooden houses on stilts), which are organized in clusters.

Like African women, mothers in this region carry their tots in blankets on their backs
Stopping along the way for gas… these rural all purpose stores are a vital part of the community and it’s always interesting to see what is considered “essential”. In our case, our bikes are thirsty for gas…  The store owner pumps the gas from the red barrel into the container before dispensing it with a funnel into our bikes.
Bamboo, a farmer and a cow on the side of the road.
Well intentioned Vietnamese Central Government planners have widened the streets in anticipation of development.  The development is still to come.  In the meantime, locals make good use of the hot flat surface to dry their rice.
Traditional long houses – complete with satellite dishes.
I found Ben resting in the field with a bunch of cows…
Ah, so THAT’s what he is up to… snuggling a baby calf

Ir’s Peta’s turn to take a rest in a hay stack. The local people are exceptionally friendly and we can’t go more than a few minutes without people wanting to say hello and interact.
We ride through the region at the culmination of the rice cultivation cycle.
The road is lined with rice drying, pink bags of packed rice and many people busily filling the bags in advance of the collection trucks, which takes the rice to market.
Lots and lots of rice
The road is teaming with farmers putting the rice in bags.

After a hike over a hill for a swim in the lake, we start to make our way back and Ben chats with a local farmer sitting on the side of the road.  He is a cow herder.  It turns out that he speaks halting French.  He enjoys having a rare chance to put his language skills into practice and tells Ben about his years as an aid to the French, long ago.

He says proudly “Je suis un Montagnard” (I am a mountain man).  This is the terminology given by the French colonialists, referring to a particularly sturdy, proud and independent people.

The Montagnard invites us to follow him and his cows to his home.

The Montagnard walking behind his cows.
Adam on left, accompanying the cows on their way home.
Inside the Montagnard’s “long house”.  It is interesting to see how many “rooms” are created within this one big loft like space.  Note the tray of rice under the bed.
A fan, a hammock, a good place to relax in the heat of the day.  The omnipresent picture of  Ho Chi Minh gives a hint about his enormous popularity.
The wife of the Montagnard, using a traditional grinder to prepare the grains.
Hay stacks are for rolling in, aren’t they?
A cow standing nearby after seeing Peta roll in the hay, imitates her, creating a very funny moment.
“copy cat, copy cat!” – hilarious

2 thoughts on “Day 6 and 7 (Ho Chi Minh Trail ) ~ Getting into Lak Lake Region

    1. Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell

      Yes, this was definitely a highlight for us due to the bucolic scenery and also the very friendly people. Many had clearly never seen nor interacted with foreigners (we saw none either for days….) and were eager to practice the little English they had learnt in school. As we drove by, kids and adults alike shouted out “Helloooo…”, “What’s your name?”… we had many delightful interactions with so many people.

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