A Travellerspoint blog

Vientiane

Laos

We expected a fairly smooth 16hr journey from Hanoi to Vientiane, the capital of the 'peoples democratic republic' of Laos, as we paid a fair amount for the bus ticket. We set off at around 7.30pm at was expecting to arrive at 2.00pm the following day. It started off ok, and after 6 hours we stopped off at a roadside 'restaurant' at 2am for a rest at which point we were told to 'wait for the next bus which should be here in 10 minutes'. The bus never arrived until 8am, 6hours later. During this time we had to sleep on the cold, concrete floor of this garage until the bus arrived. And even when it did (which was a local bus with no backpackers but lots of Vietnamese) we had to pay further money for it to take us all the way to Vientiane. So after 23.5 hours of travelling, we arrived, feeling thoroughly annoyed, although we could have used other words to describe it.

As it isnt part of many package holidays, Laos seems to be very backpacker orientated, with cheap guesthouses and bars scattered around. Vientiane has all of the above plus some of the usual stuff you would find in a capital.

'Patouxay' - Laos version of the Arc de Triomphe
'Patouxay' - La version laosienne de l arc de triomphe
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View from the top
Vue du haut
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Posted by JimmyHill 01:43 Comments (0)

Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi and Halong Bay

Northern Vietnam

We travelled on the night bus to Hoi An from Nha Trang which took over 12 hours (which we thought was bad at the time but we had no idea of what was to come). As we are running out of time in SE Asia, we have decided to skip through the rest of Vietnam in order to spend some time in Laos and Thailand before our flight out of Singapore.

As we arrived in Hoi An at six in the morning, we spent the majority of the day in bed but managed to get up and have a look about in the afternoon. Hoi An consists of narrow streets with 'french colonial architecture' and a river that runs through the middle. Not to mention the hundreds of silk tailors that try to drag you in for a tailor made suit or something like that. Unfortunately we dont have any pictures because our new digi camera broke. After one day spent in Hoi An, we spent the next day doing much of the same before catching another bus, this time in the afternoon but only taking 4.5 hours.

We only spent one day in Hue and got another night bus up to Hanoi, this time it took 13 hours and because we were one of the last on the bus, we were stuck at the back where the noise was enough to prevent anyone to sleep let alone the state of the roads and suspension and the fact that Servane had to almost sit on the lap of an old Vietnamese man the majority of the way.

Hanoi was by far the coldest place we have been so far. We didnt actually spend too long in the capital itself as we booked to go on a 2 day boat trip to Halong Bay. This is a 'world heritage site' which consists of 1500 small islands sticking out of the sea, most of which have caves and we managed to go inside the biggest one. We managed to get our camera sorted out in Hanoi before we went.

Halong Bay
La Baie d Halong
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The biggest cave in Halong Bay
La plus grande grotte de la baie d Halong
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The school in the middle of the floating village
Ecole au milieu du village sur l'eau
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The kissing cocks - the symbol of Halong Bay
Les coqs qui s'embrassent - le symbol de la baie d halong
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The boat we travelled and were staying on, with bedroom next to the engine room
Le bateau sur lequel nous avons voyage et dormi, avec chambre a cote du moteur
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After this we started our trip to Laos.

Posted by JimmyHill 20:51 Comments (0)

Nha Trang

Central Coast - Vietnam

After leaving Dalat on the 3rd we have now arrived in Nha Trang. We are now on a beach again and the temperature is back to something that would suit the clothes we have brought.

Since writing the last entry we have sorted the visas out. We had to stay in Nha Trang for an extra couple of days and pay a bit of extra 'dong'but managed to get an extension until April.

Pictures of Nha Trang

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Nha Trang is a tourist resort not particularly for backpackers as there are some package holiday makers that come here but it is definately the best place for drinking and beaching in Vietnam. We have met other backpackers from Holland, Canada and the UK, who have all seen me make a fool of myself when I had 'too much sun'

We also did a 'snorkelling and swimming' boat trip around the islands surrounding Nha Trang. This did not involve much snorkelling or swimming but lots or mulberry wine and sun on the top of the boat. They also had a 'floating bar' which is exactly as it sounds, a man out in the ocean serving wine and pineapple to people floating around in rubber rings.

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We have since found out that our visas have now run out as someone along the line has messed up when processing and have only given us a 14 day visa when we should have 30 days. As this run out today, we are now illegally in the country, or at least until the immigration office opens tomorrow and we can either extend this or get a new one. Anyway we'll update as soon as we know but we may be back sooner than we wanted.

Posted by JimmyHill 01:53 Comments (2)

Dalat

Central Highlands

Dalat which is up 1500m in the south central area of Vietnam was much colder that we are used to. At night it was around 10 degrees which was ok for a time as at least it reminded us of home.

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In Vietnam you are required by law to give you passport into the hotel and fill out immigration cards everywhere you go i guess so that the (communist) government can keep tabs. So when i went to give these to the hotel, they were missing. The bloke at the hotel didnt to give them to Servane as she checked us out and because we were rushing for the bus, we forgot to ask. Either way we were 'dans la merde' as the french would say. And as it took us seven and a half hours to get to Dalat, we were not looking forward to going in the opposite way back to get them. But as it turned out, the tour company we booked with regularly does the trip daily so they offered to pick up the passports. Relieved would be an understatement.

We went to the Valley of Love, which was set on the side of a mountain, overlooking a lake in the middle of an evergreen forest, with some ok views. The Trac Lam meditation village which we got to on a cable car. This was at first a bit daunting but once up there it was ok with some spectacular views. We also went to one of the best and biggest waterfalls we've seen.

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We also rented an expensive (or at least for us) bungalow which was on the mountainside for 200,000 dong for one night which is roughly 8 pound. There we got the chance to cook our own food which was a change from noodles and rice.

Posted by JimmyHill 01:26 Comments (1)

Mui Ne

South Central Coast

One last thing to say about our time in Mui Ne is that on our last day, we decided to get a motorbike again and see the 'Red Canyon'. When we stopped for directions i soon realised that the bike had a puncture. So there we were in the absolute middle of nowhere with only a few houses dotted around, with very little cash, and a puncture. I thought we would have a long walk back but as luck would have it, we had stopped outside what seemed to be a house that fixes motorbikes and punctures which was the only place within miles. Anyway, we had the 2 punctures on the back wheel fixed only to drive down the road for 2km when it went flat again. We pushed the bike to another place that could fix them and he put a third patch on the tyre. After going to the ATM to get money to pay the 1st place, we were on our way back when yes you guessed it another puncture. This time we had to change the entire innertube at a cost and we lost the majority of the day doing all this. We never found the red canyon.

Arrived in Mui Ne on the Friday 24th. Bit different from Saigon, sand and sea instead of concrete and mopeds. We have spent the majority of the time on the beach so far.

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Our hut on first night
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We have been to the red and white sand dunes which are massive, this also involved us sledging on the back of a plastic board down some very steep dunes and falling off halfway most of the time.

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Posted by JimmyHill 05:43 Comments (0)

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