Germany win the World Cup as Vientiane is named the quietest capital city in the world!
Good morning from Laos. This blog is especially for Judith as I know she's waiting with baited breath for the latest instalment of our blog.
As you might have guessed we're in Laos now and we've had an action packed week since we last posted so prepare to be amazed. We were in Hue last when we posted and we'd just arrived from riding the Hai Van pass. We settled down in Hue and already booked in to a hotel for 2 nights to give us some time to recover and chill before heading north to Hanoi. We used the first full day there to take in some sights and went to see the old citadel which was good as it's something we hadn't really seen before and was a bit different. We had hired bicycles for the day which we thought would be much better than getting back on a motorbike and was a more leisurely way to get around. After spending a morning at the citadel and getting lost in its maze of temples, forbidden cities and rooms originally designed for the monarchy we went for lunch. After lunch we thought that we would ride our bikes to go and see some tombs. According to our poorly drawn map it looked like the tombs would be about 10 minutes away and we were assured by the waitress in the bar it was no more than 15 minutes away. Low and behold, it wasn't. About 7km and 1 hour later we arrived at the Tu Doc Tomb. By this point we had sweat out so much fluid in the searing heat that we had little energy to mooch around and enjoy what was on show. With a long bike ride ahead of us we left the tombs early so we'd be home before it go dark.
The bike ride home was a good laugh, in Hue the city is split by the Perfume River and we figured that if we followed the river we'd soon get our bearings and be home before we knew it. That would have been the case had we been following the right river! Who knew the river splits in to three ! We weren't too far off course but having been riding a 1990's city push bike all day our bottoms were feeling the effects of the poor road conditions and we were ready to take them back. It was a good day and I'm sure it would be a great team building exercise for a group of work colleagues.
We still had another day in Hue with our night bus to Hanoi not leaving until 5pm and in hindsight we probably spent a day too long there but it doesn't matter if we'd have left on the evening if the first full day it would've been too rushed so we didn't really have a choice. We walked around the town for the second day found a nice little French patisserie had some lunch. We didn't make it to the beach because I had managed to cut open my other toe by kicking another loose brick just sitting in the middle if the pavement.
We set off for Hanoi on Tuesday night and after 14 hours on a sleeper bus, which isn't the worst way to get around, we arrived. One of our friends from university had put us In contact with a tour operator and we went to check him out and see what he could offer us. He was a really nice guy and we booked a trip to Halong Bay with him which would leave the next morning and then a bus to Laos as we had decided that we didn't have time to go to Sapa and also it was off budget. We had a slight scare that morning as Ellie managed to get some sort of bacteria in her eye and through continuously rubbing it and it weeping for a couple of hours her eye became quite swollen and she couldn't raise a smile! After a few moments of panic and some eye wash later she was fine but it's strange when you're away and you can't ask your mum what to do! The women's museum and Hao Lo prison was on the agenda for the afternoon before going to Halong Bay for a 2 day 1 night trip. Hanoi was brilliant we both decided that it was our second favourite place in Vietnam, behind Hoi An. It was so busy but unlike Ho Chi Minh there was a good buzz about and a lot to see and do.
Halong bay was so good we set off on the boat and went to visit a cave, Ellie were was in her element, surrounded by nature and she was enlightening our group about geography and caves, limestone and all other types of rocks. After visiting the cave we went to Ti Top Island and then back to the boat for sea kayaking. We rounded off the day with a few cocktails some gin and a few beers whilst watching the sunset over Halong Bay on the sun deck of the Papaya. The second day we headed back to land after visiting a pearl farm and the heavens opened. The storm was incredible and the rain all around made for good viewing. We ventured back to Hanoi and experienced our first piece of Vietnamese corruption in which we'd been involved in. We found a hotel with a dorm room at an agreed price and we had just put our bags on the floor when the manager had a genius moment and offered us a private 'deluxe' room at the same rate as the dorm room in exchange for a good review on trip advisor. Hilarious. The hotel was decent and had we stayed in the dorm room I would have given the same review because it was good both ways! We woke up early on Saturday morning to go and see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh which was an experience. So many people in one place and you're not allowed to stop to view the body you just have to walk straight past watched by the armed guards the thousands of other people around. We got back to the hotel, checked out and had our last dish of Pho Bo before heading to Laos. A 24 hour bus journey awaited.
We got to the bus station with our fate already sealed. On the sleeper buses the seats are in 3 rows all the way down and are separated from one another by two aisles. However at the back there are 3 seats side by side no separation on two levels. Oh, and no air conditioning. Hilarious, even more hilarious that over 2 buses there are 12 rubbish seats and 12 'foreigners'. We weren't allowed on the bus until all the Vietnamese people had boarded and were openly called up as foreigners to take our place in the coffins at the back. I thought segregation had ended a long time ago, it's not the case on the Vietnamese buses!
Still we had little choice to grin and bear and it 20 hours later we arrived in Vientiane. The capital city of Laos, which has a population of 18 people, 4 dogs, 2 cats, 1 chicken and 10 tuk tuks. It's so quiet here and the weather isn't great. We got here yesterday at 3pm and are leaving today at 2pm heading to Van Vieng. We'll go from there to Luang Prabang and then across to Chiang Mai.
For anyone who hasn't experienced the food in Vietnam I think the flight there is worth the cost to sample it. Ellie said that she'd never tasted food like it and it's been the best country we've been to by a mile. South East Asia hasn't failed to disappoint and over a month in to our travels now it's all going well. We hope you're enjoying summer at home & not missing us too much.