November 23, 2015

(Mis)directions to Bản Giốc

Posted in Traveling Minstrel Journals at 20:43 by Miracle


© Miracle Romano

If you want to know how to get to this place, I will tell you. It may not be the best way, but it is the only way I know.

Learn about the place from the person who taught you the joys of traveling. But do not wait or expect anybody to take you there — or anywhere else for that matter. Just go.


© Miracle Romano

Go early in the morning. From Hanoi to Lạng Sơn, take a van and get caught in the rapid crossfire of saliva between fellow commuters. (A scarf will be extremely useful.) Do not let the absence of tourists make you think you’re heading the wrong way. Most of the time, tourists are wrong. Wonder at the locals you’re traveling with, at how one woman’s feet amazingly find various footrests across the boundaries of her designated space. Endure this for 4 hours until your van driver chases a bus that has “Cao Bằng” written on it. When he finally catches up, get off the van and get on the bus. Just go.


© Miracle Romano

Say nothing else but the name of your destination and do not attempt to ask questions. Nobody speaks English. Allow everybody in the bus to stare at you strangely and laugh when they realize you don’t speak their language even though you look pretty much like them. “Same same but different.” Smile. A smile transcends language and always translates into something good. At this point, notice how the landscape changes dramatically. Just smile.


© Miracle Romano

Arrive in Cao Bằng and reward yourself with a good bánh mì and some rich traditional coffee. In a whim, consider staying at a nice hotel that is usually outside your tight budget. You deserve it after 10 tough hours on the road. Sleep luxuriously. Just do it.


© Miracle Romano

Once again, go early in the morning. Everything is magical in the fog and mist. If it rains, go in the pouring rain. That’s what waterproof bags are for. Shiver in the cold. When you see your bus drive into a fantastic painting with karst mountains and swirling clouds, you are not dreaming. Warm yourself with the beautiful truth that this is reality. It is one bus ride you wish could last longer than 3 hours.


© Miracle Romano

After 3 hours, let the bus driver call your attention. You will be the only person left in the bus because you have come as far as the China border. He will laugh at your silly face when you gasp and when your eyes widen as the waterfall comes into view. And you will see it.

Bản Giốc. An exact metaphor of your current internal landscape. Your heart will overflow… because when your heart is filled with so much love, would you really have room for anything else? Tears become interchangeable with tiers of emotions. You would be transfixed. So… just go.


© Miracle Romano


1 Comment »

  1. bookysh said,

    I love the waterfalls. I can almost see it there with you. 🙂 Take care, Mira.

    Liked by 1 person

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