Beside the trips I travelled on my own, or some trips with my best friends, with colleagues, family, I was lucky to have long trips along with the group named “The Long Journey”.
What is “Phượt”? “Phượt” is a new word in Vietnamese, used widely in life. But search on the Vietnamese dictionary, “Phượt” does not have a specific or clear concept. I would like to reinterpret the meaning of “Phượt” after finding on the internet.
“Phượt” is a form of TRAVELLING, most likely travelling by motorbike. “Phượt” is that you actively follow your needs, interests and friends, do not follow the arrangement of fixed tour. Frequent in the trend of popular, no 5 star hotel or resort expensive. Associated with “phượt” is the image of the motorcycle loaded fully with luggage, dust attached from the road and the sound of nonstop running motorbike engine. In fact, you can ride with other vehicles such as bicycles, walking, bus, boat, car, ferry … even aircraft.
PHƯỢT is a very expensive word, very gentle in Vietnamese, combine of many emotions. The word “phượt” heard like “movement“, moving in a gentle way, interesting, also a bit bold and romantic.
Ha Giang motorcycling has become a trend in about 5 or 6 years.
Go to Triangle Circuit Flower / Buckwheat flower season in Ha Giang
Ha Giang is the northernmost province of Vietnam, bordering with China. In October and November, the triangle flowers blossom throughout the forest, as each motorbike succession goes over the pass to find the plateau. I wish to go to Ha Giang for a long time, but by many reasons I could not go to there: some time, in November of the year I was busy; some time, I did not have enough money; some time, it was not available for anyone to go with me; another time, it was only able to travel there by cars. Therefore, the journey had not come true. Each member of the friend groups in the past now has their own place, how could we get together to travel there?
That year, after the storm, my desire for going to Ha Giang heated again, I decided to reward myself a trip, I missed the long travelling trips so much. I called a friend who always showed off many dazzling photos on Facebook. I warmly talked about my desire to go to Ha Giang and my worry that if I did not go in that year, I might be not able to go there anymore (!?), Having begged him to le me join his group. And the answer was Yes. It was my time for planning to go to Ha Giang, about 3 more weeks to come …
Triangle Circuit Flower /buckwheat flower season Festival should be very crowded with tourists, so the trip was made before that 2 weeks to avoid the crowdedness. Tourists taking part in the festival will enjoy many special art programs, admire the products from triangular circuit flowers and see street folk music performances, ethnic costumes in Ha Giang …
“The Long Journeies” group includes old friends, family members, colleagues, friends who have been playing together for a long time and have been together for many long trips. In the previous year, the group went to Ha Giang in November and decided to return this time. In the group, members at many different ages, many people did not know each other before the trip, but then became a close companion. In addition to the online activities, the team came to reality by means of offline programs such as gathering, visiting sick members, encouraging each other in difficult times, and setting up the “ex-lovers” group to attend to each other’s wedding!
I had travelled in group several times before. Each time was a different story. This trip, I was the newest member. Because of the late participation to the group, after the members had finished the planning and assigning tasks, so I could not contribute much beside being a good girl and following the seniors.
The group consisted of 12 motorcycles, each motorcycle got fully two people: “Xế” and “Ôm”. Explaining to the Foreigners a bit, “Xế” means the driver, the one controls directly motor driver. “Ôm” is the person behind, usually the girls, responsible for solf works, signaling for following motorbikes and …sightseeing. At first, the team was lack of drivers but lately, they balanced out the numbers. Redundancy of drivers is also a typical situation encountered in each motorcycle traveling group.
The ideal number of motorcycle for one trip is 3-6 motorbikes. My team was so large. However, on the way, we met the other groups having up to 22 or 23 motorbikes. Because each member was numbered on the shirt for identification, therefore from a far distance, we can could see the quantity of each team.
The group was clearly and professionally organized. Leader was responsible for leading the team, getting information, building schedules and making decisions. Leader’s motor went first. Other motors were numbered in the order they were moved. Basically, the motor no. 06 must go behind the motor no. 05 and in front of the motor no. 07; the motor no. 11, of course, must not exceed the motor no. 10. “Numbers” were cut from the reflective paper (for night travelling), on the back of the person sitting behind, so that the following motors could see. The team would have a motor travelling at last, which is controlled by the most careful person in the team. If there were any problems at the “tail”, the “top” would be notified to have a solution. For example, motor no. 8 was running out of gasoline or needs to adjust the luggage, the final motor would notify the team to stop for adjustments before carrying on, avoiding getting lost along the road.
Before going, some of the most dexterity members would be in charge for preparing important things, cooking for the team. For example, they prepared bread, pate, sausage, milk … enough for the whole team according to the number of actual meals. There were members in charge of water supply throughout the trip. According to the standard, each person got a bottle of 0.5 l of water per day on the road and a driver got a can of energy drink in addition. They would be divided equally for each motor driver.
There were a lot of things to prepare for the trip, from the smallest things that I did not know before. Undoubtedly, it was “each day I go out, I can study a new thing”. I knew more about all kinds of raincoats (for long road motorcycles, pants and shirts, but thin and compact), uniforms (red flag in a yellow shirt), numbers, frosted patches, several different sizes of plastic bags – to cover the luggage (avoid the rain on the road was not timely processing), to store items, to divide important things, to store shoes…
In addition, due to the needs to cook, we needed to prepare alcohol, alcohol burner, sliced grilled meat, spices, cooking oil …
For each individual, the needs for additional protective armor (knee protectors, arms, legs), protective footwears, masks (which were needed a lot), “true” helmet, not the type of modernness, Go Pro (if any), Tripod, sunglasses (indispensable), scarf (for head and face…), wind jackets (nice and light) …
Before taking off, the whole team met offline at least twice to get to know each other well and assign tasks, agree schedule, fees.
The group had a group page on Facebook, that would constantly update the changes in the trip, assign tasks, remind people. Of course, there was also the “complementary” knowledge for both each pair of person in a motor.
At that time, the room, sleeping car, fees for renting motorbikes, food and drink were all agreed and reserved.
Before going, the forecast of the weather was 90% rain, even heavy rain. Driving on unaccustomed mountain roads can be dangerous, but the whole group of people who were always love challenging, they also had a lot of experience crossing the long distance. Therefore, everything was still going according to plan.
Understanding the situation, I prepared the full inventory under the list. But I made a serious mistake that subjectively did not bring enough warm clothes. I loved to go Phượt but still wanted to wear beautiful clothes. This was the basic error that was not acceptable! And that time I had a memorable lesson!
According to the plan, the group would take a bus to Ha Giang, then rented motorcycles to Dong Van, Meo Vac. The price was 10 USD – 12 USD /person. If you want to go to Dong Van, there is also a car from Ha Giang for about 5 USD/person. Bus from My Dinh bus station has many companies such as Hung Thanh, Hai Van, Cau Me, Ngoc Cuong …, the bus takes about 6 or 7 hours.
On that day, after going home from work, I rushed to the bus station at the last minute and almost got into the bus at the departure time. The bus with bedding seats, you should choose floor 1 below because it will be warmer. The second floor has the advantage of being more private, less affected by others. There are pillows, blankets and water bottles available for customers.
I was on location, unfortunately I did not greet or get familiar with anyone. The night before, I was too eager, I could not sleep, so the next day, I was horribly tired.
We went to Ha Giang when it was not morning yet, the whole group all downed, stopped at the motorcycle rental shop. After that, everyone personally clean the motor and then pick up, arrange luggage.
Each motor would receive enough raincoats, raincoat bags for shoes, map, drinking water, motorbike list and phone numbers to contact. In fact, the drivers knew each other so fast and saved each other’s numbers.
We started the Travel Vietnam by motorbike like that!