MATT: So we left Laos, saying goodbye to our generous hosts at the homestay village and heading off for a long bus journey to a late night stopover in Ninh Bihn. There is not much to say about Ninh Bihn itself...we got there really late after about 11 hours on the bus, had dinner, went to bed and got up to travel on to our next destinantion.
The journey, however, is worth talking about. We drove to the border for about 2 hours through the mountains and jungles of Laos. All the time the weather getting worse and the sky getting dark...we are apparently heading to some heavy rain in Vietnam. The landscape as we leave Laos is breathtaking..lime stone arrettes in all directions...all the time I am thinking "Mordor". We climb over about an hour to the mountain pass border crossing into Vietnam, which is completley shrouded in mist, actually impossible to see more than about 10 meters. The border itself was pretty easy. Lots of forms to fill amd stamps to get - but the Vietnamese border guards are pretty friendly - apart from the wasted toilet attendant who tries to fleece us to take a pee...needless to say I went behind the border building, shrouded in mist.
The next hour is spent winding down the mountain, adjacent to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the fog lifting as each mile went past. I have to say I felt like puking after a couple of hours as the road was so windy. The first toilet stop did not help - the rankest toilet in indochina...no breathing through the nose in there!
The landscape of Vietnam is markedly different to Laos. Much flatter and every square inch turned over to agriculture, housing, factories etc. Compared to hours of jungle and forest in Laos we now have hours of people, trucks, motorbikes and rice paddies.
As for the roads...crazy. The horn rules and is second official language of Vietnam. They honk constantly. Also, there seem to be no rules to the road. Anything goes. 6 lanes of traffic take up 2 lanes - pedestrians, cyclists, motorbikes (carrying everything from people to livestock - pigs and dogs included - to furniture and building materials) all weave in and out of each other, honking as they go. How there are not constant collisions I have no idea.
So after a stressful day on the bus and a quick stopover, we were off for another four hours of road mayhem and our next destination - Halong Bay.