The Great Northern Horizon
Nomadic Life by bike
We arrive in Vietnam exhausted. Emotionally drained by China, cold by the frigid rains at 4 °C, tired of the grey skies that have accompanied us for 2 months, our whole body is asking us to rest. Winter is an invitation to retreat, to interiorization. We feel that we need a cocoon outside the cultures and implicit norms, outside the population. Our quotas of patience have vanished in the last few struggles to feel respected.
Arriving in the first agglomeration in Langson, we find cities of human scale. Suddenly, we feel a relief, the softness of this place, the colonial architecture with its bright colours that bring charm to the streets. However, it was enough to eat the local food to plunge once again, into Vietnam’s collective memories.
The karst mountains stand beside us in prodigious formations. We are witnesses to the daily lives of the inhabitants and ethnic minorities who live in the region. We observe the women who plant the first rice shoots, the buffalo herds guarded by the shepherds.
Vietnam - 2018
In the twilight of dawn, silence reigns in the streets still asleep. We pass without a sound so as not to wake up the Asian Dragon. Sixty kilometres of gentle descent take us through the spectacular scenery of North Vietnam.
We arrive in Vietnam
Then the fine rains typical of northern Vietnam follow us. We thus opt to quickly reach the capital. We slowly enter the periphery as suddenly a veil sets in. With a rather peculiar smell. We find ourselves in a bath of humidity, pollution, dust that burns our eyes. We then learn that pollution is a real public health problem in Vietnam’s cities. We continue and the traffic gets denser and denser, not to mention the horns that create a real hullabaloo. We are dazed by the noise. Now the traffic is chaotic. They accelerate, bypass, overtake to the right, brake, enter the street without looking. This traffic and the noise it creates, gives the feeling of living in an anthill. This partly composes the atmosphere of Hanoi, the beating heart of the North. After a few hours of this stifling noise, we still wonder about our presence in Hanoi. We need to breathe, a place of rest, and to listen to our inner self.
The city of Hanoi is surprising, in its life, in its bustle, in its specialities. Only women with conical hats who carry fruits and vegetables with a large pendulum bring slowness to the scene. The street of the train remains unexpected. It has become one of the capital’s emblems. Every day, the train circulates about 50 centimeters from the entrance door of the houses. The railway track passes through the middle of these small two-storey houses, joined together. For the inhabitants, it is above all a life punctuated by train. Life disappears from the path with each passage and resumes immediately after.
Vietnamese cuisine reflects the country’s cultural diversity, and tastes change according to the regions. However, the nuoc-mâm remains the centre of every meal. This fermented fish sauce is used to season dishes, mixed with a little red chili pepper. It also symbolizes the strong ties in the community and in families, a legacy of Confucianist thought.
In the streets, we see one of the French influences that have become an integral part of the heritage, the baguette. We enjoy them fresh as sandwiches, Nayla and Fibie eating with sparkling eyes this delicacy.
In Ninh Binh region, we are facing extraordinary karst formations. Mountains rise from the bright-green rice fields. They are intertwined and drawn in spectacular scenery that invite wonder. We take a small boat to explore the heart of these giants, which stand on either side. The woman with the conical hat takes us along a river with clear water, light blue sometimes emerald green. We cross the formations through caves, which at times are narrow and low, just large enough for our passage. The misty weather brings a touch of mystery to the landscape.
Only the whistle of a few birds and the gentle swing of the boat accompany us. We reach places of spirituality in the heart of Mother Earth. Nayla and Fibie sit with their feet in the void facing the rice fields and rock formations. They contemplate the panorama with the spirit of adventure and discovery that animates them.
Our need for introspection, softness and slowness combines perfectly with the arrival of our parents, to cuddle Nayla and Fibie and hug us.
In the Centre of Kart Formations