Well this is different. We awoke to lightening, thunder, teeming rain, cold and ground level cloud.

It made loading the car interesting, more a dash and stash whilst wielding an umbrella with the third hand.


It also meant that as Paul dealt with an electrical fault on Cureton’s Jaguar he could use the wheel arch to keep his head dry.

And sadly the inclement weather didn’t stop the Sinclair’s car’s brakes overheating, but nothing a stop by the side of the road and some photo opportunities couldn’t fix!

It is World Women’s Day so all of the chaps presented their other half with a red rose at breakfast which went down a storm, well sort of!   It might also have explained why we saw some dad’s out in the fields with children on their backs, giving their wives the day off child care duties maybe?

Our route only stretched to 202 kms but was estimated at 7 hours, so that was a clue that we were in for some fun. We trudged out of town in the pouring rain heading for Lao Cai which is on the border with China which explained the bumper to bumper traffic. In town we passed the bridge to China with advice not to cross it as we might never get back!


Our route then headed away from the border and into the hills which proved interesting. The overnight rain had turned the dusty unmade road surface into a slurry with the consistency of glue, rutted by lorries and buses ahead of us. We entered the clouds at about 900 meters which made visibility interesting with regard to oncoming traffic.


We reached Bac Ha and it’s famous market which closed an hour before we arrived. That did not stop Neil M finding a shop to sell him a new hat.

Cars parked in the square attracted the usual attention from locals who wanted to take selfies.


From Bac Ha we started to climb higher into the hills and the scenery was breathtaking. It’s a shame that photographs don’t capture the majesty of these high valleys and their terraces. With a touch of sun on the valley the view was stunning and after the rain, the atmosphere was blissfully clear(er).

Small villages came and went as turn followed turn. The women selling beside of the road were dressed in flamboyantly colourful costume.

Even the scarecrows are well dressed!

We peaked at over 1400 meters and the views just kept getting better. Eat your heart out Switzerland, this is real mountain valley country.

On the other hand, the road was never straight  and many said that they never got into top gear all day.

At one point the road book promised us 10k of bends and bad road, but that was an understatement. The road was churned up and is best described as bedrock with mud thrown over it and rocks protruding. It was more than challenging but everybody got through it more or less unscathed. David and Adele suffered another puncture, but all’s well that ends well.   Every stop was an opportunity for us to hand out our rally post cards, which quickly become treasured items, or to allow children to sit in the hot seat.


North Vietnam is certainly stunning and, for grandeur, beats anything we have experienced so far. At altitude, the only way to have any kind of agriculture is to create terraces that hold the water and we saw earthworks of truly epic proportions that have obviously taken hundreds of years to establish. The fact that they look so lovely is just a bonus.

Spying elegantly dressed ladies in costume planting rice was too tempting for Robin and Charlotte who pitched in to help. Within minutes, the whole village had turned out to watch these crazy foreigners at work.

The final 10k to our Eco-resort was not on the map and we trailed up hill and down to find our wooden huts hidden in the trees.


This was a long but rewarding day, except for two of our navigators who are nervous with heights, for whom it was a nightmare, as we have driven alongside vertical drops for most of the day.


A healing herbal bath is called for, something in which the Dao people in this valley specialise.

2 replies on “Day 33 — Sa Pa to Thong Nguyen

  1. How Lovely it all looks.
    I can’t believe your beautiful old cars survived those challenging roads.
    Thanks for all the lovely pictures. Caroline

    1. Incredible isn’t it when you think how old these beauties are. We do wonder if modern cars would be built as strongly and be able to withstand what we have put them all through!

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