Sunday the 8th. To Bao Lac. 120 kms. OK Sunday, so a good look around the market just behind our Hotel. We wander at random taking in the sights and smells, and breakfast is a selection on tidbits straight from the Woks. Yum. Nobody seemed to need a Buffalo or a quilted quilt, so we are off to Meo Vac. Funnily enough, it is market day there as well. And if we were not marketed out, we stop at Khau Vai, you guessed it, another Market. We missed the ‘Love Market’ (it’s in March) which is a unique event. It has been going on for longer than the oldest resident can remember, and it goes something like this... ‘Khau Vai is not similar to the simple market today. It origins from a legend about a mournful love story of a couple in ethnic minorities. As told by the legend for immemorial times, there was a boy and a girl of two different tribes who fell in love with each other. The girl was very beautiful and her tribe didn't want her get married with the boy of another tribe, on the contrary, his tribe wanted her to become the bride of his tribe. This resulted in the conflict between the two tribes which aggravated as the youth loved each other more and more. Until one day, when the two met each other on a mountain slope farm, they saw their tribes fighting fiercely down the mountain foot. They understood their love was the reason of the fight and to avoid further blood and flesh fly they painfully decided to split up and promised to meet once a year on the same day at the same place (26 march of lunar calendar). Since then, Khau Vai became the common place of all the lovers in the area.’ Khau Vai is not only an appointment place of wedded pairs with their missing love, but also a traditional night market of Mong ethnic minority. Nowadays, Khau Vai love Market has become an appointment market, for all people seeking love (from the youth to the person who get married). It is also a place of sharing feelings and understanding about each other of the young girls and boys in ethnic groups in Meo Vac district and surrounding areas. Some might dismiss the lovers’ rendezvous that happen in Khau Vai as short flings, but in reality things are very different. The villagers view it as a time to go down memory lane, cherishing happier moments of their past. Lau Minh Pao, for instance, gets to meet his old flame and talk to her once a year. “In the past, we were lovers, but we couldn’t get married because we were far apart,” says Pao. “Now we pour our hearts out about the time when we were in love. We meet together to re-tell the tale of how it was when we were in love back then.” Pao’s wife has no problems with this, as she is off meeting her ex-lover at the very same time. This is a typical scenario for most people of these hills. Over time, however, the tradition has taken on a more modern feel. The young plan dates via text messages and take pictures on their mobiles. The village itself is more accessible because of new roads. 23-year-old Hua Thi Nghi, an ethnic Giay, says “The young generation now go out together and find each other, and it’s more modern, freer and clearer. Back in the old days, our grandparents had to pursue love in secret, not like today.” But just in case you thought today was all about the shopping, we get to tackle Ma Pi Leng Pass…….. Ma Pi Leng Pass in Ha Giang province is some 20 kilometers long and cut into the side of Ma Pi Leng, a mountain around 2.000 meters high. The pass is part of 'Happiness' road connecting Ha Giang, Dong Van and Meo Vac town. Ma Pi Leng pass was built by the H'mong, and started in the 1960’s. Ma Pi Leng Pass is not long but it is the most dangerous pass in the northern border mountain area and is considered as the “King” of the Vietnam’s pass’s or Great Wall of Vietnam or the Pyramid of the Meo. At the top of Ma Pi Leng mount on the “Happiness” road is a stone stele recording the marks in the construction process. On November 16th 2009, the Ministry of Culture, Sport and tourism of Vietnam classified Ma Pi Leng area as scenic relic of country. Ma Pi Leng pass is considered the unique regional heritage for landscape and geomorphology; the pass peak area is considered as one of the most beautiful viewpoints to enjoy the panoramic scenery in Vietnam, and in the valley, Nho Que River is one of the most unique tectonic valley’s in Vietnam. Know how much you guys like markers This area is also known as ‘The Final Frontier’ in Vietnam, with tourism in it’s infancy here. You need permits to travel through here and is Wayyyy off the tourist track. Happiness Road, our guide Minh says that the road got it’s name because the Hmong people were happy to finish it. The story goes that the workers used ropes to attach themselves to the mountain while they were cutting out the road. We stop a couple of more times to distribute the remainder of our goodies and have a lot of fun teaching the kids how to throw frisbees. We had thought of bringing some Boomerangs along, but were concerned by the carnage they might produce. Still got off the beaten track here and there All of our Hotels are quite nice, around a 3 star rating, hard beds in the Asian style but giving good support for the aching muscles every night, western ensuites with wet bathrooms, but electric ʻon-demandʼ hot water systems. Our Hotel tonight is without power as the main power pole outside is being relocated, but we all have our torches, with the ʻhead-bandʼ type proving really useful. They leave our hands free as we unpack and in the bathroom, but it is cold showers. The Hotel supplies candles and “It doesnʼt matter, itʼs an adventure” so time is spent on balconies polishing off the remainder of the duty free, and watching the village go about itʼs business in darkness. Power comes back later in the evening, so hot showers in the morning. Tonight is at the Song Gam Hotel in Bao Lac.