18-Dec-2004 -- I have planned this visit 2 months ago, while I was studying in Australia. Right after returned to Viet Nam, I started looking for companion in two of Viet Nam’s busiest Internet forums: www.ttvnol.com
and www.otosaigon.com. In a week, I have been able to form a group of six young and energetic guys, who all agreed to visit the confluence on Saturday 18 December 2004.
In the Friday night, it rain cat and dog all night, and I cannot sleep, being afraid that it may continue to rain and hinder our trip. Fortunately, the pouring rain stop around 4am, and only then I can make a short nap.
Armed with two 4wd cars, two GPS receivers and variety of maps, we headed to Tuyen Quang province at 7:30 Saturday morning. From Ha Noi, we traveled northwards on the Thang Long – Noi Bai airport highway. Near the airport, we turned left to the National Road 2, which lead us to the provincial town of Vinh Yen. From here, you can either follow the common National Road 2, which has many populated areas along the road and heavy traffic; or turned right to trek through the less traveled National Road 2C. We opted for the latter, which turned out to be the best choice we ever made in this trip. This road is obviously has much less traffic and many beautiful scenic view and undisturbed village settings.
At the end of National Road 2C, we hit the National Road 37 and turned left to arrive at Tuyen Quang provincial town at 11am. We would recommend anyone to try the floating restaurant near the bridge, where we have lunch with the well known “lau ca lang” or “lang fish steamboat”.
We enjoy our lunch so much that my older friend, Anton Tran, forget his charging PDA/GPS receiver in my car with the engine switched off. Thus, after 2 hours, his GPS receiver battery run out and never been able to fix an accurate location afterwards.
After filled up our tummies with the delicious lunch, we continued our trip on the National Road 2 to Tan Yen town. Here, we turned left and traveled in style on our 4wd cars on a dirt and rocky road that would bring us to the “Uy ban nhan dan xa Bang Coc”, or Bang Coc commune people’s committee office, that can be easily identified as the only brick house in the area. We parked our cars there and spent few minutes explaining to a couple of officers that we were heading to an imagination cadastral waypoint. By the way, this is the easiest and most acceptable way of telling people when you go hunting confluence in Viet Nam, as cadastral waypoints are existed all over places, and are not relevant to the sensitive military kind of things that “coordinates” normally bring.
From the office, we started to trek through a hill and head to the confluence that is 1km away. One woman told us that there is a track that could take us to a larger path, but she accidentally pointed us to the wrong way. We duly followed her advice, and started climbing on all four to the top of the hill. After a lot of struggling and scratching, and even crossing next to a very new grave, we made it to the top. My GPS receiver told me that we were still 800m away, so we got down the hill and traversed through a paddy field. We were quite lucky that this was the dry season, and the small paths between the fields were strong enough to let us through. Otherwise, we would come home with lots of muddy cake. We have to climb over another hill, that were cultivating manioc. At the other side of this hill, we faced a much higher hill that looked like a mountain to some. Luckily, my GPS receiver told me that the confluence was just 100m away, that meant it was somewhere on the middle of the hill. We cannot wait any more, and started to run to the point, guided by the arrow on my GPS screen. About 30-40m from the foot of the hill, we finally come to the confluence. The accuracy of my eTrex GPS receiver was 5m, so the best location we could fix was 3m from the point.
We took many pictures from the confluence, and left a message on a water bottle placed above the point. On the way back, some local folks showed us a large path, which turned out to be the one that we have missed. If we have followed the correct route, it would be much easier and faster then. However, we all enjoy our trekking and come home with full of experience from this trip.
Last but not least, the map downloaded from the website of an American veteran, proofed to be excellent for using in any GPS mapping program. In this case, our whole trip was recorded in the OziExplorer for the PDA of Anton Tran. Anyone interested in this can email him directly.