Plowing through Mai Chau’s rice fields and crashing down at the hotel’s swimming pool for plenty of relaxation. Then back to Hanoi going from the tailor to the doctor and on to the water puppet show. To finally end up on the biggest island in the Ha Long bay area: Cat Ba. Read all about it below!

Mai Chau is only four hours away from Hanoi but it’s a totally different world. From the busy streets with plenty of options to eat or drink to a small town surrounded by large karst mountains and rice fields. Timothy and Elin found a nice hotel with a beautiful view over the area and also a swimming pool (!). Besides making very good use of the swimming pool and the bar facilities we also went out to do a bit of exploring. We started at the hotel and walked through the small town. In one of the streets we saw some traditional wooden houses on poles and we decided to have a look. From this street we could easily walk to the rice fields bordering the town and we set out on the muddy track. While walking in the fields the whole vibe of the town next to it was completely gone. No traffic, no concrete and brick buildings with their plastered facades and rolling shutters, instead we were walking in the middle of the big karst scenery we saw on our way to Mai Chau without much else happening around us. It got pretty warm and humid during our hike so when we got back to the hotel we gladly made use of the swimming pool again.
With watching some amazing mountain sunsets we indulged in the (local) Vietnamese food at either the hotel or at one of the guest houses close by… At every place we went to we saw the same group of dancers performing the traditional dances of the region, it seemed like they had a gig every night somewhere in town. The music, or more every single song, they used sounded pretty much the same and it really got stuck in our heads. It must be the combination of the percussion and the high pitched one to four stringed instruments.
And then, before we knew it, it was already time to get back to Hanoi.

Mai Chau rice field hike.

Scenery from Mai Chau to Hanoi.

We got back in Hanoi at the start of the evening. Once there we went out to get some food but the thing was that I had a really painful blister on the bottom of my foot… Already in the days before a nasty infection started out on my feet but it got a lot worse. Luckily Viktoria took her whole med supply with her on this trip and she had some cream that helped. Once I got this infection I was reminded again how dependent we are on our feet, to be able to walk wherever we want. The thing was that I couldn’t “walk” on like this so I needed to go see a doctor for a consultation and a probably a treatment.
The next day Timothy, Elin and Viktoria went to see some tailors to get some clothing made and I got a motorbike taxi to one of the clinics in the city. I guess you have to try it all on a one year trip so here was my first visit to a clinic in a foreign country…another ‘check’ on my alternative bucket list. The rashes probably started as skin and shoes rubbed off against each other and then the addition of the hot and humid Vietnamese climate makes it even better. The doctor gave me a prescription for some cream and disinfectuous solution and then I was send to a different room for a treatment. There I was soaking my feet in a Betadine bath sitting on a stool for thirty minutes looking at the rain outside…Eventually a nurse cut some skin away and treated all the spots. I was so happy that I went out, my feet were cleaned up and I was able to (kind of) walk again. But the recommendation of the doctor was to not hike for some days. In that case it’s just best to strike down at one of the bars next to the hotel and get some alcohol for extra disinfection going.

After some afternoon coffee and red velvet cake we walked to a theater where traditional Vietnamese water puppet shows are being performed. Since I couldn’t walk that much and some of us had some stomach issues we went for it and watched one of these shows. We couldn’t understand anything from what was being sung and said but it was really fun to watch, here’s a short video of dragons dancing:

All around northern Vietnam it pretty much cooled down to a chilly twenty degrees and it is pretty cloudy as well. Hot or cold…Our trip to Cat Ba was already planned so we headed out to the island. After Timothy had his fitting for his suit we got on the first bus of the day to the pier of Hai Phong. From Hai Phong we would get the boat to Cat Ba where we got picked up by another bus that would bring us to our –resort-. Yes that’s right… a resort…for the first time this trip. After many many many dorm rooms I got treated to the biggest room available and it’s good!

Too bad that the weather isn’t really cooperating but the temperature is actually pretty decent for some hiking. Since my feet are recovering and I lost my limp I was able to join in and we made a round close to the resort with some nice views along our path. Travelling as a group you surely need a good picture of everyone involved…well Elin got her camera out and we did our boy band pose and there it was, new album coming out soon?…

Hai Phong pier.

We’ll stay a bit longer in Cat Ba before heading to Ha Long where Timothy and his dad will run the full marathon!