Hue

We arrived in Hue by bus from Danang. As we stepped off the bus we were greeted by the usual group of taxi drivers all shouting for our business. There was one guy offering us a seat on a mini bus into town for what he described as a cheap trip. He wanted 50,000 per person but we knew that a taxi would cost less than that. When in Vietnam I would suggest that you only get into the green taxis as they are the most genuine, they always use the meter and take the shortest route. Our trip from the bus station to our accommodation stopping along the way at the train station so we could buy some tickets cost us 60,000 in total, much cheaper than if we had got on that mini bus plus we got dropped off right outside our hotel.

Once we had settled in and sorted our bags out we did what we always do in a new place; we went for a walk around. it was just after 12 and we were hungry so we went in search of somewhere to eat. We came across a bakery called La Boulangerie, which means “the French bakery”. As well as being a business they also train young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and give them the skills they need to go on and work in a the hospitality industry. We had a lovely lunch here and the service was amazing. I would recommend this place as your money is going towards a great cause.

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After lunch we carried on with our walk and found a local farmers produce shop. It was late in the day by now and most of the stock had been sold so our advice would be to get there early to avoid disappointment. We later passed a restaurant called Bingsu King and we had to stop to look in as it looked very interesting. It was a desert like no other and we had never seen one before so we had to try it out. It was made from a pile of ice flakes with ice cream on top and surrounding it was chocolate brownies covered in chocolate sauce. It was amazing and worth the stop!

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We decided to walk back in the direction of our hotel and along the way we met a Dutch couple with a small puppy. We assumed they must live in Hue but after speaking to them for a while we found out that they were travelling like us. They had come across a small market selling dogs and fell in love with one, they didn’t want to leave it there so decided to buy it and work out a way to take it back to Holland with them. The day we met them they had just taken the dog for its injections and were working on getting him a doggy passport. We hope it all worked out for them and the dog!

While we have been travelling it hasn’t been uncommon for someone to approach us looking for conversation to help them improve their English. It’s a great way to find out more about the place you are in. We spoke to one guy by the river and he told us about the big market on the other side of the river, he also told us that it is a short walk across the bridge so there is no need to pay for one of the many boats offering you a trip across for a fee. We both benefited from the conversation.

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Following the advice we had received the day before we set out that morning and walked to Dong Ba Market. It didn’t take long to walk across the bridge and when we arrived we were very surprised at the size of the market, it was massive! We were interested in purchasing one of the many tea sets, but as soon as we approached one stall the lady came at us like a crazy person. I told her that we would like to look at the options ourselves and we would make our own mind up. She said OK, but this only lasted less than 15 seconds before she was pushing us again to purchase a tea set, so we walked away. Eventually we found a lovely gentleman who was selling teas sets and after a short browse we bought from him. The tea set was a present for someone so we decided rather than keep it in out bag all day we would go to the post office and send it straight away. Unfortunately for us the post office in Hue closes from 12pm till 2pm, we had arrived at 12pm!

We had yet to visit the 19th-century Citadel that is situated in the centre of Hue. We decided that while we waited for the post office to open we would go visit it now. The weather decided it wasn’t going to be on our side and within about five minutes it was raining. It didn’t stop us, although at one point it started to come down really heavy so we found shelter at a cafe called BaGian. Here we tried some local Vietnamese coffee, it was amazing and the place was full of charm which made it more of a pleasure to be stuck there while we waited for the rain to go away.

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That evening we decided to eat at a place close to our hotel, it was called Eh Fucking Good. With such a crazy name we had to try it out and on the plus side they had a 2-4-1 offer on pizzas and they tasted great! The next day we hung around till our train left and headed to Hanoi.

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Hoi An

From the train station in Danang we walked to the bus stop which is just around the corner and took the bus to Hoi An. It was public bus number 1 (a yellow bus) which took about 45 minutes and cost 50,000 dong each, if you are a local then the price would be 15,000 but there is no point trying to argue your case because they will never let you pay the lower price. It took about one hour which was a lot slower than a taxi but a fraction of the price so if you are on a tight budget then this is the option to go with. The bus dropped us off 4km out of town, from here you will need to take a taxi or walk. The taxis will try to pre arrange a price but it will work out more expensive than with the meter so make sure you take the meter option.

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We arrived at our hotel a few km’s from the centre at a place called Aquarium Villa; a small family run B&B with huge rooms which are kitted out very nicely all for a hostel price. The hotel had bikes we could use for free so we decided to go for a ride and see what was around. We were directed to a pottery museum down the road. Along the way we passed farmers carrying out various jobs and passed a lot of friendly locals. The museum was a big letdown but the ride there and back made up for it. Following this we rode in the other direction and went to the Ancient Town.

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There is some confusion when it comes to tickets to enter the Ancient Town. Our understanding was that if you are to enter the town and simply walk around then there is no charge. If you want to visit one of the four Museums/temples then you must purchase a ticket that will give you access to all of these for 120,000 dong per person. There are times you will walk into the town without anyone approaching you and there are also other occasions where an official ticket seller will inform you that you must buy a ticket to enter the town. We avoided purchasing a ticket as we thought it was a bit ridiculous that the old town is full of overpriced shops and expensive restaurants that they would then try and charge you an entrance fee. We simply walked away and entered via an alternative entrance. Speaking to other tourists, we found out they also didn’t pay an entrance fee either. We are not entirely sure what the rule is, but our advice is to avoid paying an entrance fee unless you intend on visiting the museums/temples that require a ticket.

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Once in the town you will understand why it is a Unesco World Heritage Site, it’s a great example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. We spent the rest of the day exploring all of the town and its quirky shops. It’s a great place if you like to take photos and that’s what I spent most of my time doing. We found that the bars and restaurants in this area tend to be a little bit on the expensive side, however if you look around there are a few places that offer good food at lower prices. We found a restaurant on the river front called Hong Phuc 2. They served up some great dishes including a great range of options for vegetarians and it was all very cheap.

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The following day we decided we needed some relaxing beach time so we rode our bikes to the beach. From the town I would say it is around a 20 minute ride. Upon arriving there it soon became apparent that we would be charged to park our bicycles, and they wanted 10,000 dong per bike. We decided to take a look around first before we paid and we found other paths leading to the beach further down where we could park our bikes for free. As you enter the beach you will find an abundance of sun loungers. To use them either you pay a small fee or buy a drink from their bar. More than likely you will have lunch there as well. The beach is very nice, we spent all morning, me sleeping and Abi was topping up her tan. We left just after lunch and rode back to our hotel as we had booked cooking classes and were being picked up around 4pm.

The man from the cooking school came to pick us up. When he arrived he asked us what we would like to cook and showed us a menu. The class advertisement indicated that you get to cook 4 different courses each. We told him which 4 we would like to cook and he then told us that we only get the option of two. We decided to cancel the cooking class as we thought it was expensive for what it was and we were not being offered what was advertised. Instead we decided to go back into the old town, and eat at Hong Phuc 2 again, as we really enjoyed the food here the previous night and it was great value for money.

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The following day we had booked a bus to Hue, It picked us up directly from our hotel after breakfast which was convenient.

Ho Chi Minh City

We arrive by bus just before lunch and get dropped off in the middle of town. It didn’t take us long using Google maps to figure out where we were. Our first goal was to get to our hostel as we had been travelling through the night and both of us were desperate to get in the shower, lucky for us it was only a short walk . The first thing that really struck me was the amount of motorbikes, I have never seen so many and even though people had told me about the crazy amount of bikes in Vietnam I never imagined it to be like this. As with all new countries you visit there are hurdles you must learn to jump; the first one here was crossing the road. No one gives way to you, but they do steer to avoid you. The best way is to just walk slowly keeping your eyes on the road and do not run! The motorbikes they will find there way round you!

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Once we had sorted ourselves out we decided to head out for a walk. Upon leaving our hostel we came across a small bakery, however they only had one option on the menu. They sold what was known as a coffee bun so we thought we’d give it a try. They were good, so good in fact we bought more to take away with us.

Our aim for the afternoon was to get the the train station to buy some tickets for our trip through Vietnam. Following Google maps we found the bus station and jumped on a bus heading in the direction of the main train station. We had to work out where to jump off as the ticket lady didn’t understand where we were trying to get to. We managed to get off exactly where we needed to and bought our tickets with no fuss. As the bus ride didn’t take to long we walked back and dropped into Ben Thanh Market, the most central of all the markets in Saigon. Everything that’s commonly eaten, worn or used by the Saigonese is sold here: vegetables, dried fruit, meats, spices, scorpions in alcohol, sweets, tobacco, clothing, watches, jewellery, hardware and more. There is also a abundance of souvenir Items but be careful prices are usually higher than elsewhere, so make sure you bargain hard.

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While Abi had been doing some research in the Lonely Planet guide she came across an historic walk around the Old Quarter. It took us most of the morning to complete as there are a lot of interesting sights to see along the way and not to mention the photo opportunities. I have put a picture of the page below. We would recommend this walk as it covers all the historic sights in the Old Quarter.

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We didn’t have much time in Ho Chi Minh on our last day, after eating breakfast we visited a market close to where we were staying. We weren’t sure what was sold in here but as we had passed it every day we were curious to find out. The name of the market was Chợ Dân Sinh market also known as the War Surplus Market. From the outside it appeared to sell electrical equipment and hardware. Upon entering, the stalls changed and we started to notice a lot of military memorabilia, some genuine and others just replicas. It was a great place to look around and I’m guessing that if you are into these sort of items then it would be a treasure trove. That afternoon we headed to the train station and got on the sleeper train to Danang.

Koh Rong

It was a beautiful day and we were ready for the beach! We didn’t get to Koh Rong till around 3pm so only had a little amount of time to make the most of the good weather. It was a cute little island with a small number of beach shacks that all had their own bars and restaurants. There were lots of happy smiling Cambodian families and children and so many dogs! We stayed at a lovely place called “Bongs Restaurant and Bar” for an absolute bargain of just $8 per night (breakfast included). We ate at the bar a few nights and it was probably the nicest food on the island in our opinion. We went for a few drinks that evening and got chatting to a lot of people and locals.

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The following day, I was a bit ill. This was no hangover though as we had only had a few drinks! I could barely move and needed to be close to a toilet at all times! The weather wasn’t great anyway so we spent most of the day hanging around Bongs. The staff here were really nice and they had some lovely pet dogs that were very friendly.

The following day I was feeling a little better, but now Abi was sick! So again we had another chilled day, although we did go out for dinner but neither of us had much of an appetite. We decided to explore more of the island the following day when we were both feeling better, and hopefully the weather would be on our side…but it wasn’t! We still went for a short walk along the beach to find a more secluded spot and hopefully the weather would improve. To our shock, we found a section of the beach that was absolutely ridden in litter! Plastic bottles, bags, cups, straws all washed up on the beach and floating in the sea. We guessed that there may have been a beach party the previous night and this was what had been left behind. We were so disappointed as we had loved Koh Rong so far, but this really let it down.

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We still found it hard to leave Koh Rong, but our feet were getting itchy and we were keen to see another country. On our final night we went to watch the sun set at the bar on the hill called Sky Bar. There was a great vibe about this place and we spent a good few hours up there.

Phnom Penh

It was hot and around 12 noon when we arrived in Phnom Penh. We were dropped at the bus station in the centre of town close to the main market. Our hostel wasn’t far but because of the heat we decided to jump in a tuk tuk to save us lugging our bags around. We checked into Paul’s Backpacker Hostel and although the street it was on looked quiet by day it soon livened up when the sun went down. We nipped out to grab some lunch from a local cafe and went back to our room to use the internet. We had to work out the best way to get to the museums while we were there. As we were sat in our room a strange man dressed in just his underpants opened our door very slightly and peered in to our room through the crack. I asked him, “are you ok?” to which I got no response, he just ran off down the hall way.  I went to the door and shouted again down the hall “are you ok?” He just poked he head out of his room and he apologised explaining he had got the wrong room. We found this a little unusual as his room was down the other end of the hallway, and it would be impossible to get the two mixed up. We crossed paths again later on that evening as he was leaving the hotel and he said to me, “there was no reason to shout at me, I got confused and you embarrassed me.” I felt a little bad, maybe he had made a mistake, but at the same time I had a feeling he was up to something!

Later on we walked to a bar we found online that served up a Sunday roast. We had been craving one for a while; it was a really good roast by Asian standards, but still not as good as home!

The following day was due to be quite an emotional day as we planned on visiting the Tuol Sleng Museum and the Killing Fields.  We waited at the front of the hostel for our tuk tuk that we had arranged the night before with a guy called Philip. His tuk tuk was in the garage as a car had driven into him the week before. He had sent his uncle and decided he was also going to join us for the day. On route to the museum we picked up a guy we had met in Siem Reap. He was interested in doing the same thing as us so to save money we all went together. Our first stop was The Tuol Sleng museum, which cost $3 each to enter. I cannot start to explain how heart wrenching this place was. It was full of stories told by the people of Cambodia who were victims of the terrible crimes during the Khmer Rouge.

The weather became really bad; the rain was falling hard and fast, the wind was blowing so hard trees were falling down on to the roads. It was probably the worst weather we have experienced during our travels. Regardless our driver just put the waterproof cover on and we drove to the Killing Fields. On route we saw a terrible motorbike accident. A girl had been thrown across the road and she had no helmet on. The day was already very depressing and this made it even worse. If you are ever in Asia and rent a motorbike please wear a helmet, it will save your life. We arrived at the killing fields and paid $6 each for the entrance along with an audio guide. I don’t think I was ready for what I was about to learn. The hardest thing for me is that everything that had happened was all so recent, so recent that many victims were still alive to tell their story.

What the Cambodian people went through at the hands of their own people was barbaric. It was heartbreaking to listen and read the stories and would have been much easier to just ignore it, but I feel that if you are to visit the country and understand how far the people of Cambodia have come since, you should educate yourself on their past. Regardless of what the Cambodian people have been through we have found them to be some of most beautiful people we have come across so far.

Siem Reap

It was 2pm when we arrived at the hostel we would be staying at for the next 4 nights. There was music playing and plenty of people in and around the pool, it was a great atmosphere. The hostel was called Funky Flashpackers and it is located just a few minutes walk from all the bars and restaurants. We would highly recommend this as the place to stay while in Siem Reap (www.funkyflashpacker.com). After checking in and throwing our bags into our room we immediately checked out what they had on offer for tours around Angkor Wat. They offered a number of different tours and we selected the small route for the first day which cost $15, plus an extra $2 to be picked up at 4.30 so we were there in time to see the sun rise over the main temple. Later on towards the evening we took a walk into town and had a look round. There was a market that sold all the usual handicrafts and souvenirs so we didn’t spend much time looking round and decided to go get some food. We chose to buy food from the street vendors as it was so cheap and there were some great dishes on offer. After a visit to the supermarket we decided to head back and get to bed as we had an early start the next morning.

Our driver for the day arrived promptly at 4.30. The weather was miserable and it was raining quite heavily. Nevertheless we put on our rain jackets and jumped in to our tuk tuk. First he took us to the ticket office where we had to purchase our Angkor Wat pass. It was $40 for a three day pass and it was valid for 7 days (if you just want a 1 day pass it was $20).  We headed straight to the main temple Ankgor Wat. We didn’t think to bring a torch so we had to rely on other tourists who were smarter than us, as it was a long walk up an uneven path in the dark. Unfortunately for us the weather was not on our side, it was impossible to see any sun rising as there were so many clouds. We managed to take a few photos when the rain stopped but the dry spell didn’t last very long.

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Following the tour direction, our driver took us to Angkor Thom, Ta Phrohm, Banteay Kdei, Baphoun, the terrace of the Leper king, the terrace of the elephants, the twelve peasants, spean thima and sras srang. By far our favourite was Ta Phrohm, which is probably the most famous as it was used during the filiming of Tomb Raider. The tour took about 7 hours, but I guess it all depends on how long you take walking around each temple, I think we did it pretty fast as there was no one else around. We got back to our hostel just after lunch and as I had finished my medication we decided to have a few drinks at the bar. The day soon turned into the night and we had met so many new people so we decided to hit the bars down “Pub Street.” This probably wasn’t the best idea as we had another tour booked for the next day to see more temples in Angkor Wat.

8am arrived and surprisingly we both felt ok. The tour we were to take this day was slightly longer than the one previous, but we didn’t visit as many Temples, they were just further away. On the tour we visited Preah Khan, Preah Neak, Eastern Mebon and the various monuments like Ta Sam, Preah Rup, before returning to Angkor Wat. I didn’t make it to all the temples, my hangover kicked in half way round and while Abi looked around I took the opportunity to sleep in the tuk tuk!

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The hostel had organised a pool party that day so when we got back we slept for a couple of hours and headed downstairs to join in the fun. Later on that evening I had arranged to meet up with an old school friend who lives and works in Siem Reap. It was great to catch up and find out what life was like for him compared to back home.

The following day we had nothing planned so we just chilled out. My friend had recommended a restaurant that we should try before we leave. He told us that the deep fried frogs were amazing so that evening, along with some other people we had met at the hostel we went and ate at Mr Grill. All of us bar one tried the frogs and they were OK. I don’t think I will make a habit of eating them in future though!

We booked a bus from our hostel the next morning and headed for Phnom Penh

Thailand to Cambodia overland

This is not our first border crossing and it won’t be our last, however it was the most frustrating so far. We arrived at Hua Lampong train station in Bangkok at 5am, there was 55 minutes before our train was due to leave and perhaps we had got there a little too early. We had read online that it is best to arrive at the train station with plenty of time spare so that you can secure a good seat as the locals can ride this train for free. I don’t think this is all true as we saw many Thai people who had purchased the same ticket as ourselves, regardless the train filled up very fast so we were relived we followed the advice of arriving early. The train cost us 48 baht each and it leaves the station every day at 5.55am heading towards the border town Aran Praythet. All seats are 3rd class however we found a 2nd class coach and managed to get a more comfortable seat for the journey so I would take a look at what’s on offer before you choose your seat.

The train reached Aran Praythet  at around 1pm. As we stepped off the train we were surrounded by tuk tuk drivers. We spoke to one guy and negotiated a price of 100 baht to the border crossing which is a 5 minute ride away. I think we could have got the trip for cheaper but we were happy with this price. Just before we reached the border the tuk tuk driver tried to take us to an unofficial visa office where they try to sell you an overpriced visa for Cambodia. As he went to make a turn into the car park I firmly told him we already had a visa and he immediately turned out again and carried on up the road. We didn’t have visas and we knew you can buy a visa on arrival but this was the easiest way to make sure he didn’t stop at the visa scam office.

We went through the border control, got our stamp out of Thailand and headed across the bridge into Cambodia. We were guided to an office where we could buy our visa, when we entered we saw the sign above the counter $30 for a tourist visa. To our surprise, we were informed that we also had to pay 100 baht on top of this. Reluctantly we paid it as we felt we had no other option but we are sure this was just one of the many scams we would encounter along the way.

After we had passed through all immigration we were greeted by a friendly guy with an official looking pass around his neck. He told us he worked for the government and that they provided a free shuttle to the main station where we could get a connecting bus to Siem Reap at a cost of $10 each. Along the way he was quite happy to tell us that we could eat when we get to the bus station, exchange money. He also told us that the bus no longer dropped you off outside Siem Reap where you are forced to get an overpriced tuk tuk into the centre, and now takes you right into the centre of town. He even went as far as asking where we were staying and said it was just a five minute walk from where the bus dropped you off. It was all controlled by the government now so it was fair for the tourists. This was all crap!

The money exchange at the bus station is stupidly expensive. Do not change your money here as you will lose out, and we later discovered that Thai baht can still be used once across the border, and you can change it once you get into Siem Reap. We were about to have some food when the minibus driver got very irritated that he couldn’t leave immediately. We later learned that this was because he was to take us to an overpriced shop along the way where he would get a kick back. They pray on the fact you have just got a new currency and may be a little confused. As we got closer to Siem Reap the minibus pulled down a small ally way and surprise surprise there were just enough tuk tuks parked up for the amount of people on the bus. Everyone on the bus argued with the driver that he was meant to be dropping us off in the centre of town, but rather than deal with it he just walked off. We tried to stay on the bus and argue until the driver gave in, but many of the tourists on the bus gave up and just got into a tuk tuk. We believe if we had been persistent they may have carried on into the centre. So we were left to get a tuk tuk ourselves and managed to bargain our driver down to $2 each. He tried to talk us into booking him for the trip around the Ankgor Wat the next day, but we were keen on finding out other options for seeing Angkor Wat so we declined his offer.

I guess the motto here is just be careful what you believe and double check your information. Out of all the borders we have crossed so far this was by far the worst for potential scams. Don’t ask me why because the people of Thailand & Cambodia are lovely people, there must be just a few out there who want to take advantage of the confusing situation.

Thank God for Travel Insurance! 

So after my accident in Laos, my insurance arranged for me to attend the hospital the day after we arrived in Bangkok. We spent the night at the lovely Baan Hua Lumpong guesthouse that is located very close to Hua Lumpong railway station so I didn’t have too far to walk. It is literally about a 5 minute walk (if you use the MRT station underpass from the railway station).

The following day our insurance arranged for a taxi to pick us up from our guesthouse to the Bangkok Christian Hospital. The driver would then wait for us while we were in the hospital and then take us back to the guesthouse.

The service Bangkok Christian Hospital was outstanding! When you first walk into the hospital you are greeted by porters who escort you to reception and provide you with a wheelchair if necessary (which in my case it was, as the pain had got so bad I could hardly walk)! You check in as if you were staying in a hotel and then a lady escorted us to where we would see a doctor. By this point our insurance had already sent through details to the hospital that we were due to arrive.

The doctor confirmed that my foot had indeed got very badly infected. I was sent to get it cleaned and dressed and given four different medications to kill the infection, reduce the pain and swelling. I was then took for an X-ray to check for any fractures (fortunately I had none). He also said that I would need to remain in Bangkok until the infection had gone, so he suggested I continue to return to the hospital everyday to get it cleaned and dressed until I see him again in four days time. Once I had my cut cleaned and dressed I was escorted by a porter to the cashier, where I was required to pay my excess of my insurance and then they would cover the rest. All of this was done within an hour, and we were very impressed with how efficient hospital processes were carried out here.

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Once back at the guesthouse we emailed our insurance to ask them what we should do as we were keen to move onto our next destination, Siem Reap in Cambodia. They said they would provide us with accommodation closer to the hospital and arrange for a car to pick us up and return to the hotel for the next four days.

The four days actually got extended to twelve in total as the doctor said the infection still hadn’t cleared and  I required more medication and repeat visits to get the wound cleaned and dressed for another eight. Finally after 12 boring days in Bangkok the doctor gave us the all clear and we were able to move on to Cambodia.

So this accident really made us realise how important it is to have insurance otherwise this could have set us back a lot! Each visit to the hospital costs at least 700 baht and appointments with the doctor cost 1000 baht. This, along with transport and accommodation would have mounted up to a lot of money! We are so relieved that our insurance paid for everything, and cannot stress enough that it is never worth travelling without it. We are insured with True Traveller insurance and can’t recommend them enough. They were very prompt with responding to emails and everything went smoothly. They even put us up in the 4 star Novotel Ploenchit during our stay with breakfast included so this made our stay very comfortable, especially considering I was to spend most of my time in the room resting my foot. Although I was quite bored during the day, I knew I could be in a worse situation. I kept myself busy by updating my blog, editing our photos and videos and watched a lot of movies!

Tubing in Vang Vieng

The drive from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng was yet another journey consisting of stunning scenery and picturesque hillside villages. We chose to spend a few days in Vang Vieng to experience tubing. We had heard so many tales about how dangerous it was and everyone we had spoke to about it had warned us to be careful! In the past there had been so many casualties including a number of deaths, and the tubing even got banned for a year.

We arrived at Phoom Chai Guesthouse, our home for the next few nights and it was indeed a home away from home. The staff here were extremely kind and provided us with lots of advice on tubing. We were told we head to the tubing office, where you could hire a tube for 55,000 kip and pay an additional 60,000 kip deposit per person. You got a full deposit back provided that you returned your tube by 6pm, otherwise you would incur a 20,000 kip charge or if it was after 8pm you didn’t get any of your deposit back.

We got to the office around lunchtime and thought it was best to buy some lunch before hand as we weren’t sure if food was sold at any of the bars along the way. There were four or five food vendors selling sandwiches right opposite the office all for the same price! While eating our sandwiches we met an Australian couple in their 50s that we’re going tubing for their 16th time! They gave us a lot of advice and told us that the tubing is nowhere near as dangerous as it used to be. They had stopped the zip lining, rope swings and selling drugs, which were the main causes of injuries and deaths. They advised us to wait until around 1pm before we set off as it didn’t get busy till around then.

The costs of the tube hire included a tuk-tuk ride about 3km upriver to the launch point and first bar. A few friendly foreign workers greeted us and gave us a description of the tubing process, along with a free shot of whisky mixed with lemonade, so not too painful! The atmosphere was great, everyone was really friendly and we played lots of different drinking games. We spent a good two hours at the first bar and although the Australian couple warned us not to get sucked in we didn’t mind as we enjoyed socialising with fellow travellers. They said that their idea is to encourage you to take your time tubing so by the time you return you don’t get your full deposit back, but it didn’t bother us too much as we were having such a good time and really wasn’t that worried about the extra cost. The cost does after all support the local community (apparently).

You don’t actually spend much time tubing at all, you spend most of your time dancing and drinking at the bars! One of the bars was called “mud bar” and it had a large pool filled with mud. People were sliding in it and throwing mud at each other until almost everyone was covered!

At the third and final bar we found out that it was well passed 6pm. We had enjoyed our time and decided to call it a day and head back to the tubing office along with an Irish couple that we had met. Floating down the river we saw a sign saying “last bar” so we assumed this was the last stop and from here we would be taken back to the tubing office. This wasn’t the case however and we had to pay for a tuk-tuk from here. We considered getting back in the river and carry on upstream but as it was getting dark we were worried we would miss the exit and get lost, so we just bit the bullet and paid the driver to take us back to the office.

We later met the Irish couple again after a thorough shower for dinner and drinks. We ended up in Sakura bar, which in all honesty wasn’t our cup of tea, and we had kind of had enough of drinking for the day. It was quite entertaining watching the people go crazy on the dance floor however!

The following day we were feeling quite fragile from tubing so we chilled at one of the many “Friends” bars that play back to back Friends episodes and you can relax on comfortable cushions, a perfect hangover cure!

Tubing was a great experience and one of the best days of our trip so far. We would highly recommend it no matter what your age, we met two older couples that were having a great time. Even we were slightly concerned about whether we would enjoy it being out of the typical 18-24 backpacker bracket, but it really doesn’t matter! We loved every minute and met some great people.

After Vang Vieng our plan was to spend a couple of nights in the capital Vientiane, however I unfortunately had an accident. Walking along the street my flip flop snapped causing me to trip and slice my foot on a rock. The cut was very deep and was at high risk of infection so we contacted our insurance immediately for advice. They advised us to travel to Bangkok and get treatment, so we booked to travel by bus to Vientiane and then a train from the border to Bangkok.

Please check out our video below. Making the video really made us want to be back there.

Luang Prabang

After our long journey from Chiang Rai to Laos, we were finally dropped off at the bus terminal which was about 4km from the centre of town. From here we hopped into a tuk-tuk that cost 20,000 kip each for the ride. We asked to be dropped off at a well known cafe called Joma bakery as we were absolutely starving and as they have free wifi we would hunt down some accommodation for our stay here. We found accommodation literally around the corner from the bakery called LPQ backpackers. It was very reasonably priced and it included breakfast. We couldn’t yet check in as it was too early so we just left our bags there and went to see what Luang Prabang had to offer.

Luang Prabang is a charming town, with much of its buildings world heritage listed. You can really see the French influence in the buildings and it could easily be mistaken for a French town. There are lots of activities to do around Luang Prabang itself, such as hiking, visiting caves and waterfalls and elephant trekking. Walking along the streets every tuk-tuk (and I mean every single one) will offer to take you to the waterfall, Tat Kuang Si.

We returned to the backpackers to check in and have a nap as we were still shattered from the bus ride and neither of us had had a proper nights sleep. We rested until the Hmong night market opened. We were only a short walk from the market so went down to explore and found that it sold pretty much the same things at each store, although slightly different souvenirs and textiles compared to Thai markets. Vendors are very low pressure when it comes to purchasing items and it is fairly easy to bargain with them. The market was covered from the rain and its definitely not built for tall people in mind, even Abi had to keep low to avoid bumping her head!

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About half way through the market there is a vegetarian food stall that sells a variety of noodle, rice and vegetable dishes where you can fill up your plate for just 10,000 kip per person, bargain! And although most the food was cold it was quite delicious and we ate here both nights.

The following day we had planned to walk around the entire town and take photos, and it was pouring it down with rain. We didn’t let it stop us and put on all our waterproof gear, although we didn’t get as many photos as we hoped as we were worried it would wreck our camera. The town is so beautiful and the scenery along the river is really breathtaking. Overall we enjoyed our time in Luang Prabang and it is definitely worth a visit on your Laos itinerary.

From here we booked a minivan to Vang Vieng at one of the tour companies. There are a variety of options available, including a VIP bus and an express bus. The minivan was the cheapest at 120,000 kip per person and the tour company recommended this was also the most comfortable option. It was also the fastest mode of transport as due to the monsoon rains, land slides were frequent and a minivan can manoeuvre around them a lot easier than a bus.