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Who needs a seat on a 16 hour bus anyway?

Hue, Hanoi, Sapa, Dien Bien Phu (Vietnam) - A, B, C Luang Prabang, Vientiane (Laos)

sunny 15 °C

No. of all you can eat street buffets since last blog = 3
No. of games of blob = 3 (1 to Richard, 1 to Pauline, 1 to some dutch hustler)
No. of kilometres travelled in 48 hours = 1,935 (3 countries)

One night bus seems much the same as another these days but our trip up North was particularly comfortable and we disembarked feeling refreshed and ready to take in what Hanoi had to offer. Fast forward half an hour, I'm holding back the tears as Richard explores the street opposite to see if it really can be where our hostel is, that would mean it's hidden between the pig carcases, buckets of various livers, ducks hanging up to drain and all manner of tasty treats. As I look to see if Richard is heading back my way I turn to catch the last few desperate gasps of a chicken hanging over a death tub. All this after an unpleasant exchange with a bogus taxi driver. Welcome to Hanoi.

We have since heard that it's a great city, especially for travellers, and while I did see some glimpses of hope, I couldn't get the chicken out of my head. So Hanoi is not on my top 10 favourite places so far. Richard did manage to pull himself together and see some sights, although he was disappointed when an early start to go see Ho Chi Minh left another gaping hole in his 'sightings of preserved communist leaders' hall of fame, when he found the mausoleum closed. We didn't hang around in Hanoi but we did go to see the very popular Water Puppetry show. Wierd. Strangely very entertaining. It's easy to transport yourself back 100 years and imagine yourself watching the show in a remote Vietnamese village, and that, along with the music and skill involved made for a quite mystical show.

Onwards and upwards literally to the mountainous north of Vietnam. Or land of the travel sickness pills as I have renamed it. Absolutely stunning scenery and in Sapa you are right in amongst it. Layered rice terraces cut into the mountains, fog dusts the top of the hills and hangs around the town to create a very mysterious air. Oh and the bakery opposite our hotel did the best chocolate tarts ever, reason enough to stay a while. We chilled out there and although didn't challenge ourselves with any major trekking, we wandered around and got a little lost en route to a pretty cool water fall. Another million photo ops for me with baby animals at every turn.

To save time we decided not to head back to Hanoi, which also meant missing Halong Bay which was a real bummer. We can't see everything this time says the voice of reason. We embarked on the border crossing to Loas from Dien Bien Phu which the giude book describes as 'strictly for those with a sense of adventure and DEFINITELY not for the faint hearted and weak stomached traveler'. So armed with our cunning disguises (Richard's new moustache)
and a borderline overdose on travel sickness pills of we set. 5am, DPB bus station, 1 bus, 29 tickets, 61 passengers. easy. Even the Vietnamese seemed to be amazed and laughed as the bus went by. And what does the driver do when a package is too big to fit on the roof I hear you ask? Politely refuse to take it? No. Try stuffing it in the boot then hold a pole against a tree and back up on to the pole until the boot will shut. Yes. Job done.

Our whistle stop tour of Laos was too brief but amazing and well worth the hours on the bus. After a night of card games in Muang Khua we ditched the mountain paths and overloaded buses in favour of a relaxing boat trip and had a great day and night in a little riverside town called Muang Ngoi. Swimming and games in the river then a lovely evening and yet another all you can eat buffet, meaning Laos was fast becomming Richards favourite food destination. Thanks for the company and new games to the ABCD gang (you know who you are!)

Luang Prabang is a really chilled out place and we recouperated there for a few days before heading south to Vientiane. We went to some beautiful waterfalls where you could swim and pose for 'timote' shots which Richard couldn't get enough of. Vientiane was the least capital like of all of the aisian cities so far, pretty queit and not built up all. We didn't have very long there but we did squeeze in a few hours of bowling.

Our journey south continues to southern Thailand, so we can make it out of here before the nation goes water crazy for their New Year celebrations. A brief pit-stop in Malaysia and Singapore then we'll be in touch from Oz. We have loved our time in Aisia but we are ready for a change, bring on the barbies and sharks!

Posted by Po Gallon 23:43 Archived in Laos

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just been laughing out loud at the blog/Millers moustache!! makes me miss you lots though! looking forward to hearing about the rest of asia before you head to neighbours land!! hopefully speak soon, lots of love nina and andy xxxxxxxxxx

by Nina

Millers new tash is fantastic. Facial topiary at it's finest.

I am quite jealous, he looks like a WW2 fighter pilot.

by Shaun

Not sure about richards tache,maybe if he dyed it i could take to it!Hanoi is off the must re visit list then,sounds awful.Put it behind you and look forward.Keep them coming,love Pops and Val xxx

by pops

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