The Wonders of Tam Dao

Tam Dao, September 24 2009

Now, to Tam Dao National Park. I learnt about Silver Waterfall (Thac Ba) from Insight Guides: Vietnam. It was a pity, though, that it didn't state where exactly was Silver Waterfall in the whole Tam Dao National Park which turned out to be a very huge area filled with hills and hundreds of winding paths. The driver's terrible English was a big frustration, but his driving skill was a big satisfaction indeed.After painstakingly arguing with Mr. Handsome, our car stopped by a pathway. He pointed at Silver Waterfall's photo in my book, and then pointed to that pathway. Down the road we found stone steps neatly carved and safe. That safety was ensured by steel railings along the steps.

Silently I wished the minister of tourism in my home country would take steps that lightens the steps of all tourists in our country. 

The moment I saw the waterfall, I forgot about Mr. Handsome's frustrating terrible English. "Tam Dao, Tam Dao!" Yes, here I am, at last. It is said that "Thac Bac" or "Silver Waterfall" is 45 meters long.

However, there was another thing that really, really, amazed me. On our way back up, we met a group of elder women so cheerful going down the stairs. I wondered how they would go back up as I myself am already catch my breath. 

While sipping coconut juice, Tia said, "You don't know. They might have some magic power. By the time we reach the main road, we would already meet them there."

Sitting on a bench in the middle of a wood of drench trees, an eerie feeling started to creep inside me. Magic? Well, it seems more likely that those elderly women have sort of magic power than that have physical strength to climb the safe yet steep stairs back up. Meanwhile their chattering voice began to fade away, lost into the dancing leaves.

While Tia finished her coconut juice, our vendor smoked something from a very long bamboo pipe. But something in me seemed to stopped me. I didn't want to take this man's picture and then be charged. Through gestures, the man offered to cut the coconut for Tia. It turned out that the coconut was too ripe that none could be eaten. 

Suddenly we heard chattering voices nearing us. Those elderly women are coming back! So, no magic!? They walked up and up the steep stairs below us, still chattering and laughing. How on earth can you laugh and gasp at the same time?

They went up one by one and smiled so friendly at me. Suddenly one of them came close to me and rubbed my arm with her finger while saying something to her friend. It seemed like she was commenting about my skin. Did she think my skin color is like hers or did she think I look dark?

Tia asked how much she should pay and it turned out also that the man couldn't say numbers in English. Tia mentioned an amount and the man talked to our driver. Our handsome driver giggled and talked back to the vendor.

"Thirty thousand," the vendor said.

I put back my camera into my backpack. If for a coconut he asks thirty thousand dongs, surely he won't let me take his picture without charge. Thirty thousand dongs! For a single coconut that grows abundantly on every part of my country? Wow!

There was still half way to go back up the stairs. By the time I reached the main road, I was literally panting.

But before I reached our car, I saw a wedding couple coming our way. Wow! Where are they heading to? In such a bride's long dress and high heels? Are they going to take pictures by Thac Ba? Wow! And... wow! These Vietnamese people are really amazing! Within seconds I already pictured the bride 40 years later walking the same path with her friends of the same age, chattering about their memories here with their soulmates. They see Thac Ba, recall the sweet memories, and return back up, up, up... the stairs... still chatering.

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