Our treasure hunt journey started from leaving Hanoi international airport to Luc Yen, in Yen Bai District. We went through a few small towns, paddy field, then through the winding road of the hillside before reaching another small town in Yen Bai at that time the sun has already set.
I don’t have my watch with me but believe it is pass 8pm. There isn’t any street lamp and most of the house was lit with candle light. Our driver seems to be lost as he was trying to ask the way to the hotel. Finally a kind soul came to help, our driver followed his bike as he lead us.
It took as 7-8hrs on the road and finally we have reached our hotel. We were glad that there is air- con and water heater in the room, though the air-con only works starting from 9pm onwards till the morning around 7.30am. Soon we realise that there are lots of mosquito in the toilet and of course other insect too. Then Mike came out with a solution by spraying ‘Off’ on the window and door frame, and that helps.
We got our food ration for 3 days, so we ate cup noodles and have an early rest so that we will be able to start early. We were told that the Gem market starts at 7am-9am, so we wouldn’t want to miss it. Then it started to rain.......
When we woke up in the morning around 6am plus, we realise the rain hasn’t stop since last night. That really worries me, as being the planner for this trip I don’t wish to have disappointment on the 1st day in Luc Yen as I’ve my whole itinerary to follow. By 7.30am the rain has stop and we are ready to go to the market. It was not too far from where we stay, only took us 10mins of walk to reach there. We were shock to see no one there; the translator told us that due to the rain therefore they start late.
Very soon we saw one of them was setting up and we start to look at the gems that they have. After seeing a few gems seller we still couldn’t find the legendary cobalt blue spinel, most of them are light blue, very much to our disappointment.
Suddenly one small little blue stone at a corner of the table caught my eye, doesn’t seems to be sapphire so I asked, they say it is Si-te-lin we were confused, and our translator was unable to tell us what that is. After much struggle we finally understand it is Spinel they use their Vietnamese pronunciation to pronounce S-pin-el. We took our equipment out and start to examine it, bingo the RI shows it is Spinel and there is inclusion in it.
We were hoping to find a bigger piece but this will be our bench mark. By the end of the day we got some light blue and fiery orange Spinel that is different from those in Myanmar.
We found a 4ct blue sapphire nice clean stone, claim unheated and a 2ct Luc Yen ruby, beautiful pinkish red and clean. Again we took out our equipment and check.
After looking through the microscope we decided to give the sapphire a miss as it seems be a heat stone. But we didn’t get a chance to examine the ruby ..... apparently, the owner refuse to sell.
After our lunch we decided to move to the mine at An Phu village, the road were narrow and rocky but we were determine to go there. Half way through the journey our vehicle was struck due to the mud. According to the local there they said it has been raining for the past three days therefore the road becomes too muddy to travel by car. Initially we wanted to walk but realised it was more than 10km away and it is already pass 3pm. We decided to give up as we were afraid that we might not be able to return to our hotel before sunset.
Our shopping begins as usual 7am, and by 10am we realise there isn’t much there for us to buy. After lunch we decided to leave to Hanoi. It was drizzling and yet our driver is traveling at a high speed. We have a scary ride to Hanoi, we reach the hotel around 8pm and after checking in we went for our dinner.
We were brought to a shop and after much chatting with the owner we found out that about a year ago they found emerald deposit in the southern part of Vietnam. It’s an amazing find, never know there is emerald mine in Vietnam. We wanted to buy the rough so that we could bring it back to Singapore to do further test but to our disappointment the owner not willingly to part with her ‘babies’. Still we were happy that we are able to see and learn from the owner.
Conclusion; we have fruitful, enjoyable and educational trip. We will definitely return to Luc Yen again to complete what we have not completed.