NOTE: Today is Huyen and my 2 year anniversary! We're away on a four day weekend to celebrate. Those blogs will be next week. Now back to our Mai Chau trip...
(PICTURE: On the boat to Ba Khan.)
The first time that I went to Mai Chau, I explored some small back roads with my cousin Justin. While we were driving about, we came to gigantic lake in the middle of the mountains. I took this picture then:
Justin and I then drove down to a dilapidated port but unfortunately couldn't ask the locals what the deal was with the lake. Well, it took more than a year, but I now know what the deal is...
On our second day in Mai Chau, Huyen and I woke up early and went to the port. We asked some questions and found at that this is a man-made lake that is used for hydro-electric power for Hanoi. One of the people at the dock told us that the locals use the water to raise fish and that there are fish as large as 40 kilograms swimming in the water. That's a pretty big fish.
I had done a little research about the area and had read that there was an island you could take a boat to. Supposedly on the island were members of the Dzao Tribe, another ethnic minority tribe in the area. Huyen negotiated a ride on a boat with a few fisherman. As he led us to the boat we noticed that the dock was covered by giant tree trunks. The fisherman told us that this dock used to be a way for people to travel to the area but it was now shut down by the government since the big Highway 6 had been built. The fisherman then told us to get inside of the boat since he wasn't allowed to give anyone a ride or he might be fined.
After a few minutes the fisherman told us that we could sit in front of the boat and told us that he was taking us to a pagoda in a cave. That afternoon we ended up seeing three different pagodas that were located on the lake. One of the pagodas is actually quite popular with Vietnamese tourists and the place was jam packed. Everyone was coming on tour boats from Hoa Binh, a city to the northeast, while we were the only people coming from the Mai Chau area. In the end, there was no tribal village to see. We did meet some Dzao people at the third pagoda though so that is now checked off the list.
Check out this video of the boat and some footage from the pagoda. My favorite moments include a man smoking a cigarrette while praying and a woman speed reading other people's prayers into her microphone head-set: