22.03.2012 - 03.04.2012 20 °C
Our last blog post ended off with our time spent in Luang Prabang, since then we have seen a lot and met some great friends. Lets bring you up to speed...
From Luang Prabang we took a mini bus to Vang Vieng, it was a long slow car ride on winding gravel roads. By the time we had arrived at our new destination we had met some new travel buddies. Mike, Celia, Jessica, Jecka, Robin and Derek were all great companions for the small westernized backpaker town of Vang Vieng. Our hostel was plain but clean and had a fantastic river front view over looking the Mekong. That night we met up with our new friends for dinner and prepared ourselves for the following day's activity. Vang Vieng is well known to young travellers as the place to tube down the river while stopping at waterfront bars. We met up with our crew and headed out for a day of tubing and drinking. At each new bar we stopped at we usually started off with a shot of Tiger Whiskey as a new bracelet was tied on to our wrists (the bracelets were good indicators of how drunk people were). We spent the day drinking buckets, dancing, tubing and jumping from great heights into the dangerously shallow water. Luckily we all made it out alive and without any bodily harm. The scariest water attraction was a massive slide with a slick tiled base that launched you high into the air before you sailed into the river. Surprisingly, Jess was the first to throw herself down the slide and she made it out with only having bit her cheek upon impact. She's recovering nicely. We all soon followed suit and a couple of us managed to rip our shorts due to the force of hitting the water. After the day of dangerous water sports we all met up for dinner and then hit one of the local bars for a Vang Vieng "wedding". The bride and groom walked down the aisle to techno beats and then shot-gunned a beer each in celebration, it was a bit strange. The next day Jess headed out on a day trip with Jecka and Jessica, unfortunately Sarah couldn't make it as the Laos food had caught up to her stomach. Jess had an awesome time on the trip that included kayaking, caving, tubing and a yummy BBQ lunch. That night we met up with Jecka and Jessica for a quiet dinner and a movie.
The following morning we took a mini bus to Vientiene, Laos' capital city. It was there that we decided to get Jess to a clinic as she had been fighting a sore throat for the last few days. We were able to get an appointment at the French Embassy clinic and the friendly doctor there prescribed Jess some antibiotics. We spent the rest of the day trying to get healthy again.
On March 27th we flew to Hanoi to begin our Vietnam adventure. Upon arrival we met up with our friends Mike and Celia to plan our Halong Bay boat trip. We had a lot of help from Tony, our hostel's manager, and booked a two night, three day boat trip. That evening the four of us went out for some yummy authentic Vietnamese Pho and packed our bags for the early morning pickup to begin our trip. We were shuttled the next morning to Halong Bay harbour, approximately 4 hours drive from Hanoi, and boarded the ship. We had a thoroughly annoying tour guide for the three days, so we all did our best to ignore his strange comments and tidbits of useless information. Other than him, the trip was great! The bay was covered in a thick cloud of fog for the majority of the trip, which is common during this time of the year, but the large rock formations and inlets made up for it. The food on the boat was also great, consisting always of rice and wok fried meat and veggie dishes. We were able to get a closer look at some of the jutting ocean rocks during a kayak around the bay and we had a great mountain top view during a hike through Cat Ba National Park. The second night we spent in a small village on Cat Ba island and had a sleepy night of movies and ice cream. We left the next morning to return back to Hanoi for a few hours before leaving for our next trip.
On the evening of March 30th we arrived back in Hanoi for a quick dinner and re-packed our bags before catching a 9 hour sleeper train up to Sapa. We settled ourselves on the train and caught some restless shut eye before arriving early on March 31st. When we woke up it was pouring rain and around 7 degrees, needless to say we were not prepared for the cold weather. We arrived at our hotel and sat down for breakfast, then headed down the street to pick up some knock-off North Face pants before heading out for a day of hiking and sight seeing. The rain past and the rest of the morning was great, with easy walking routes and some beautiful view points for pictures of the villages and rice fields below. Our guide, a 4 foot tall young Vietnamese woman named Pan, led us to one of the mountain-side villages for our night at a homestay. Our group was accompanied by some local tribe women who helped us down the steeper and muddier areas of the hike, we later found that this was to persuade us to buy hand made crafts and fabrics from them...lesson learned. We stopped for lunch and got to know some of the people we would be camping out with for the night. We continued on our journey for another couple of hours and arrived around at our homestay in the early afternoon. We visited Pan's home where she lived with her two children, husband and parents, and where her and her family grew vegetables and farmed pigs and chickens. The afternoon was quiet, spent sipping tea and playing cards. That evening got very cold and we bundled up in almost every layer we had available (it'll be a shock coming back to Canada). We ate dinner and then sat around some burning coals to stay warm. Everyone went to bed early, mainly to get some more warmth from the blankets provided with our beds. We woke the next morning to a rooster who began his work early, around 5 am. We packed up, sat down for a yummy breakfast of banana crepes and tea and then set out again for our walk back into town. We walked through the rice fields, balancing on each slim edge, and trudged through the mud left over from the previous day. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall where we soaked up some sun and relaxed. We had lunch in another village and then got a motor bike ride back into town, a highlight of our time in Sapa. That night we slept at the hotel and had a much needed warm shower. The next day was very low key, with a short walk to another local waterfall and then a walk through a market. On the way back from the waterfall we got another motor bike ride into town for an agreed upon price of 80,000 dong (about $4 Canadian), which turned out to be a major hassle. When we pulled out a 500,000 dong note (about $25 Canadian) the driver took off without giving us our change. We were pretty upset and so waited at the top of the hill for him to come back up with another customer. When he did we had a 30 minute argument with him about our change, which ended up involving several locals, another group of travellers and some other motor bike cabbies. Finally, with the help of our guide, we were able to recover all of our rightful change. We were pretty shaken after all of that, so we sat down for a soothing coffee and a breather. We had our last dinner at the hotel with our group members and then hopped on another sleeper train back to Hanoi.
We arrived in Hanoi early this morning and headed over to Little Hanoi Hostel, where they provided us with a room to shower and freshen up, before going out for breakfast and coffee at our favourite cafe, Joma. The rest of the day has been spent walking the streets of Hanoi, sightseeing and book hunting. We leave tonight around 6 pm to get on a sleeper bus down the coast to Hoi An, where we look forward to finally sleeping in a proper bed again.
We have another 8 days in Vietnam before Cambodia, our ninth and final country in South East Asia. We don't know where the next two and a half weeks will take us on this trip, but whatever it is it will be exciting and memorable.
When we have a chance soon we will upload some more pictures and, of course, keep you updated with another post!
Missing you all and getting excited to see everyone,
Love S & J xoxo