As we left Y Ty in Part I, the next stop was Cao Son, on the other side of the province, which meant a good long day of sitting on the bikes, winding around mountain passes, taking in the views, and looking around every bend of the road hoping to not get creamed by a truck or buffalo or anything else for that matter…

Cao Son, which sits at the top of a mountain, we chose because we wanted to visit the Coc Ly market on Tuesday, but on the advice of our hotelier in Sapa, there was no where to stay there. There was a place in Cao Son however, called the Cao Son Eco Lodge. It sounded good at least, and I made a phone call to find out more. A guy picked up, speaking perfect English, and answered my questions in two minutes. For Vietnam, let alone in these very rural surrounds, I was impressed! We found out later that he was the owner’s son, taking that call from France where he now lives. I’m still not sure how a Vietnamese mobile phone number rang in Paris, but oh the mysteries of life sometimes… Anyway, in short, the place was awesome, and we made it our base for the next 2.5 days. The proprietors, Ha and her husband Luot, couldn’t have been more welcoming, accommodating or friendly, and Ha’s cooking was definitely the best we had during the whole trip! If you find yourself in the area, pull in here for a few nights and I’m sure you’ll enjoy…

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Tim and I set out to descend the valley to Coc Ly just slightly before the sun, hoping to get to the market while the light was good, and before all the tourists, who have to stay much farther away because they don’t know about Cao Son, start to arrive.

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Ahh early morning light…When I can get up for it, it’s so much fun to shoot in!

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Coc Ly is one of the bigger and more popular markets in the area, selling everything you could probably ever think of, from souvenirs to haircuts, and rice wine to pig parts…

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Just as I’m a sucker for smoking shots, barber shops and mirrors never fail to pull me right in too…

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

I had been to this market a few years ago while on assignment in the area, and shot the same barber here. Somehow, I just remembered his face when I saw him again this time.

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

All over northern Vietnam men smoke tobacco from, what can only be referred to as bongs, locally called Thuoc Lao. In the market there were a number of women with large bags of raw product and guys would just stop by to take a trial rip and move on. I’m not quite sure how that works either, but again, the mysteries of life…This lady seemed to have the most popular spot, and had this sort of mafia queen thing going on for me…

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Upon finding Mr. Sinh’s photo studio (again), Tim and I both knew we had to get a shot done.  Actually, we were on the way out of the market, only to decide we needed to do another one, and came back for the good stuff!

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Of course we also had to shoot the shooter and his customers and bring a few more cameras to the party!

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

The market was full of tourists, the light was getting too harsh and I was starving, so we made the 35km trip back up the mountain to Cao Son, snapping a few landscapes on the way of course… Ha had an amazing lunch waiting for us, and after a short rest, headed out to explore again.

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Driving down a dirt road, I thought I saw something interesting and stopped my bike to go check it out. It was two kids, brothers I presume, studying on a pile of corn cobs. For some reason, I just found it to be an interesting visual and something that seemed so natural a part of life up here that I had to make a few frames.

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Upon closer inspection, I could see not all of their books were in Vietnamese language, but some parts were translated into their native Hmong language, one of the 54 ethnic minority groups found in Vietnam. It looked pretty weird to me, sort of like a mix between Vietnamese and Slavic language like Czech or Polish, with extra consonants all over the place. I can only imagine how to pronounce some of those words…normal Vietnamese is hard enough!

That was it about it for our explorations of the Cao Son area, as the tail end of a typhoon was starting to reach us, making things very wet and cloudy, and just not great for shooting. After one more delicious dinner from Ha, the next day we had to mount the bikes again, in the pouring rain, to get back to Sapa for our last night. After a good 4-5 hours of waterlogged driving, we reached the hotel and I ran as fast as I could to get my we clothes off and jump in a hot shower!

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Once I was warm again, along with starving of course, we headed out for dinner, and I noticed Sapa actually becomes beautiful in a very different way when the rain and fog sets in…

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

The following day, our last, with just a few hours to spare before a bus and train was to carry us away, we found a small gap in the rain and headed out to try to make a few last frames. While I didn’t find much, I did capture these two below that I like.

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

This guy kept trying to get us to come in and drink rice wine with him, but unfortunately, we were out of time and weren’t afforded the opportunity this time to imbibe such a tasty brew…

 (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

And finally, actually a frame from Y Ty that should have been in the previous post but I missed getting it in there, and thought it might make a nice closing note for the whole trip, because what trip to the north of Vietnam is complete with a buffalo boy shot!

There are a few more images found in the archived gallery, and if you’d like to see more images from this part of the world, check out my project Under Great Northern Skies, which will updated with some new images fairly soon, and I think even make it into book form in the very near future.