After a comfortable sleep in Hoa Binh, the entire team arose to cold Northern weather that our Saigon bodies had not prepared for. Sasha led us in a good stretch - although there were complaints that some motivational music was needed - and our bodies were soon warmed. After a minor scuffle with the Hotel workers with an accusation of stolen tea, we were on our way!
All of us expected a similar ride to the day before, so we headed off south with our heads high and our music blasting. But after about 10 minutes, the entire team was looking directly at a mountain that looked scarier than Mordor. Our heads lowered in disappointment, but our feet kept moving. Some were in denial that we actually had to go uphill, so thought we were headed the wrong way. That mutiny was eventually quelled and the team continued upward. After a slow 5 km climb up the mountain, we were rewarded with some downhill cruising, our hair blowing in the wind, making us all look beautiful to any passerby. In addition, we saw our doppelgangers going the opposite direction - a team of Vietnamese bikers dressed in similar garb. We smiled and gave a secret wink that only adventurous bikers would understand.
We only had to bike 60 km today - which is a light day- so most riders took their time and took many breaks to eat a piece of fruit or take a couple of pictures. With only 15 km to go, we hit some rough terrain. Potholes, rocks, dirt, and danger lurking at every bend. We made our slow way into our second stop which was Lac Son. Our first stop at Hoa Binh seemed like NYC compared to Lac Son. No electricity, no hot water, and no internet. Us expatriates are not used to these lack of luxuries. We had to spilt up into the only two visible hotels, and our rooms looked reminiscent of an old hospital, with the occasional poop stain. But we were tired and dirty, so it suited us perfectly.
After the cold shower woke us up, we all went looking for food to throw into our mouths. We found a old man with a dainty wooden house who was cooking up some duck soup. He told us he was the only restaurant, and we believed him. We gobbled up his soup and thanked him kindly. He then demanded we take a picture with him because our H2H team gave him his biggest turnout in history. We thought that was just as adorble as he was, so we proudly joined him in front of his establishment for a photo.
With our bellies full, many returned to their rooms to collapse. I on the other hand, went with Phong, Liz and Sasha to continue to shoot the documentary. For those who don't know, the team is making a short doc to keep as a travelogue, and to use it to promote H2H. So we did our first interview of Sasha, and it went swimmingly. We chose a huge soccer field in the middle of town to shoot. When we arrived, the place was empty except for a few stray water buffalo. But by the time the camera was set up, there was a crowd of 20 gathering around us. Sasha made friends with an amazing old woman, who was supposedly in charge of the buffalo. After hellos and smiles were exhachanged, we politely asked everyone to stay quite so we can shoot. We got some good footage, except when the old lady walked directly in front of the camera to say goodbye to Sasha. After that, some of the riders decided to join the filming spectators to a rousing game of football. I attempted to play for a minute, but then realized I suck at soccer/football, and that the Vietnamese players were pretending I didn't exist. So I stuck to the sidelines and cheered.
Once people had worked up a sweat from sports and documentaries, we headed back to duck soup man to give him his second best crown of his life. This time, he served roasted duck and omelettes. All was cooked to perfection. We then headed back to our hotels, where Abigail led an awesome meeting. And then our feet carried us upstairs, and our heads hit the pillows, dreaming, anticipating and dreading the next day.