Two years ago, I went on a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam. In the months leading up to my trip I expected that the Cambodia part of the trip being to Angkor Wat in Siem Riep, would be the most Spiritually enlightening of my trip. Although Angkor Wat was beautiful, memorable and somewhere that I desperately want to visit again; my time in Ha Giang Province in Northern Vietnam would have the greatest impact on me, one that would affect me for years to come…
Dong Van Karst Plateau UNESCO Global Geopark is a World Heritage site and is located in the north-eastern province of Ha Giang, a mountainous province located in the far north of Vietnam, bordering on China. Most of its surface is limestone (about 60%). Its landscape is spectacular and unique having high mountains and deep canyons. Ha Giang province is difficult to reach and as a result has much less tourist traffic than other parts of Vietnam. Aside from its spectacular scenery, the thing that makes this area so unique is that almost 90% of the population is made up of ethnic minorities, added to this up until recently, the majority of the roads between villages were nothing more than rough mountain tracks. This resulted in an area that seems almost to have stood still in time. With the upgrade of the road system and the resultant accessibility this area has now been opened to the rest of the world and is experiencing economic growth and development, but it still feels completely different to the rest of the country. The pace is slow and relaxed, and you spend the majority of your time marvelling at the vast stretches of untouched natural landscapes.
We took a bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang city, a 6-hour journey that was more than a little rough. The plan being that we would stay one day in the city, before taking a motorbike tour of the region. Originally this was to be a 4-day tour. We extended this to a full week within the first day… Neither myself nor my travel companion are licensed or experienced motorbike riders, so we opted for drivers. On the outside the concept sounds incredibly reasonable, until you realize that you are trusting your life and well-being to a complete stranger.
It was less than 10km outside of Ha Giang at the very start of our tour, when the realization hit me. I wasn’t alone, given my friend was on the bike behind the driver in front of me, and it wasn’t the first time we’d utilized motorbikes to travel in Vietnam. In 2015, we’d done a Harley Davidson tour around De Nang, and then separately had motorbikes to take us from Hue to Hoi An, 127km which is 3 hours directly, but which we did as part of a full day tour, along with numerous day tours around Hue and Hoi An. However, all the previous times were around cities and between cities on main roads with heavy traffic. Somehow there was a feeling of security in being surrounded by other people. Now we were heading into a sparsely habituated rural area; one where we weren’t sure we would have cell phone coverage and where for large distances it would only be us alone with our guides. I want to state clearly that my sudden concerns weren’t about our drivers / guides Mike and Kai, who we’d met the night before and had spent some time getting to know and felt completely safe and comfortable with, it was rather the realization that if anything went wrong it may be hours before help could get to us and the at the furthest point of our tour we would be a few hundred kilometres and many hours from the nearest hospital.
So there I was, an hour into the trip and the panic hit me full force. Sitting on the back of the bike I couldn’t lose concentration or let my foot slip or even shift my weight as any one of these things could cause the bike to become unbalanced and lead to the very thing that started me freaking out. So all of this had to happen quietly, internally whilst outwardly I had to sit still, lean when I needed to and essentially be one with the bike.
In hindsight, this would be the first of many epiphanies for me on this journey. I had been on my spiritual path for a while, teaching classes, trusting the Divine to guide and teach me, and protect me, but at that very moment I was in the most physically precarious position I’d been in, in years. I would have to trust a virtual stranger to keep us safe on the bike, and I would have to without restraint trust the Divine that I would be completely safe. When I decided that I would let go of the fear and trust completely, an epically weird thing happened. Suddenly I felt completely comfortable on the bike and for the first continuous stretch of my life, I understood the peace and tranquillity of the perfection of a moment. Pure and utter mindfulness.
By the time we stopped a few hours later, to take in the views I was in awe.
For seven days we travelled the Ha Ghiang Loop. At times I would fall back into letting my mind drift and start thinking about the dangers of the journey, and I would have to stop myself, breathe and just live in the present moment.
I literally have hundreds of photos, but unfortunately am unable to share them all with everyone at this time.
I came back from my trip knowing how to shut out everything else and just “be” in that moment. I learned that I was truly safe and protected by the Divine; and could let go and trust that I would be safe. Less than two months after returning from this journey, I survived a major car accident. When I tell others about it, it still sounds like a miracle that I walked away, but in the middle of it happening, that same blanket of security I felt on the back of the motorbike in Ha Giang Province surrounded me and I knew that I would survive. My journey to Ha Giang was meant for my friend and I to see a relatively untouched part of the world and immerse ourselves in the experience and culture, which we did, but for me this physical journey opened new spiritual pathways for me and helped prepare me for a major new direction. My advice to anyone reading this, is open your heart to wherever you find yourself, as the experiences could lead to some of the deepest wisdom in your life.
Virtue Joannou (BSc (Hons) – Geology) is a Crystologist and Usui Tibetan Reiki Master Teacher.
Virtue discovered at an early age a sensitivity to crystal energies, not truly understanding the source of her fascination with rocks and minerals, she decided to go down the science route when she finished school and studied Geology and Environmental Science at the then Rand Afrikaans University, before doing her Honours Degree in Geology at the University of Adelaide, in Australia. After her awareness was expanded, she studied various healing modalities and discovered a deeper understanding of the metaphysical properties of crystals.
Virtue is passionate about helping others on their journey of spiritual awareness, healing & growth, through the use of alternative therapies. She offers Reiki, Reflexology, Colour Therapy and Crystal Healing through her business: Violet Sun Complementary Therapies. She regularly teaches Crystal Healing courses and Reiki. Details of upcoming workshops can be found on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/violetsun.therapies/