The road to Bao Lam from Ho Giang was simply spectacular, winding its way along the Lu River valley, with lush green rice fields and thatched huts, amid looming peaks and canyon walls. We started our day with "Good Morning Vietnam" on Radio Vietnam and headed to the weekly market. Bao Lam is definitely off the tourist route. Not even in the Lonely Planet or on the map, and with no real infrastructure, we felt that our pleasant encounters with these wonderful locals were almost "first contacts". It was an enjoyable experience for both parties as we laughed our way through the large market, women proudly posing and displaying their elaborate, colorful costumes and hats, then squealing with delight to see themselves on camera for the first time.
A new town always has to be explored and that we did. We followed many dirt roads to surrounding villages or along the river and a dirt path zigzagging 2000 ft. straight up the mountains. Our favorite walk was east out of town, across the foot-suspension bridge, then heading up the valley on the high path. We were invited into several thatched huts so poor that we only ate a couple of the small taro type roasted potatoes offered to us. We continued to follow a riverbed that turned into a magnificent waterfall.