It is amazing at how many kids we see running around this place. Whether riding bikes, walking home from school in large groups with matching blue and white uniforms, or playing shirtless and shoeless in the street, kids are everywhere. They seem particularly excited to try out their English on native speakers and as such we receive a barrage of “Hello” every time we pass them.
Our route to Dien Bien Phu was no different. We spent most of the day riding over two passes, linked by dozens of small villages along the way. The mountains along this route become more sharp and rugged, though in spite of the mountains’ formidability, we very rarely feel like we are truly isolated as all of the roads are connected with tiny villages or just groups of two or three homes. There are almost always people out working in fields, taking a nap in their hammock, or walking along the roads to who knows where.
We passed through village after village, each one more quaint than the next until we reached on particular stretch of homes that was particularly photogenic. As we stopped to take in the deep green rice fields surrounded by limestone pillars, several kids came out of the wooden homes to see what we were doing.
After a brief conversation with them (Mostly a friendly exchange of “hello’s”. An occasional kid also knows enough to ask “what is your name”, but that about sums it up) they went back to playing nearby. They got right to work climbing trees and playing some version of tag. We were particularly won over by a tiny child sitting on the porch combing his kitten.
As we pulled away, the entire family, now gathered on the porch, smiled and waved us goodbye. We have felt so undeniably welcome here!
It is clear that we have arrived in the spring based on the number of young animals, as well. By the look of it nearly every dog has a litter of pups hidden somewhere, while baby chicks can be heard peeping from the side of the road as they follow their mother down the streets. We are particularly fond of the piglets which run around with noses to the ground, looking for food.
As we cruise around, catching these villages in the middle of their day to day life, we’ve been so overwhelmed by the sheer ingenuity and resourcefulness of these people. We see villagers carrying seriously impossible loads on their little scooters; people drive around loaded with 6 pigs in cages or with an entire family of 4 crammed onto the seat. We spotted one lady carrying a dozen or so bird cages down the road – each complete with a live bird.
Nearly eight hours after our day had begun, we arrived in Dien Bien Phu with the heat becoming more oppressive by the minute. Not entirely impressed with the city, we wandered around for a long time trying to find the guesthouse we had chosen to stay at. Our first try was ridiculously expensive, the next full for the night. By the time we arrived at our third choice, we were feeling overwhelmingly hungry and exhausted. We had never even taken a lunch break. We decided that the “good enough” principle applied here, as we were hot, sweaty, and hungry. After a quick glance in, we accepted the room and set off to find some food.