Other than one of the overnight trains which had us up at 4.30am, this morning was the earliest start to a travel day yet, with a 5am alarm. We showered, changed, and packed the last of our things, and then headed down for the included breakfast at 5.30am. Vinh is not set up as a tourist destination, so there were no continental breakfasts here, only Vietnamese styles which wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in a hearty breakfast.
With some breakfast in my belly, and a lot in Mollidy’s as she rather took to it, we went back to our rooms to grab our bags, and at 6.30am we were in the lobby with the group. Our private bus turned up and we were on our way, for our longest day of traveling for the whole trip, an 11 to 12 hour journey from Vinh, over the border into Laos, and further inland to the capital, Vientiane.
About an hour into the first part of the trip, we came across only our second traffic accident of the trip so far, and ironically the first was just as we arrived into Vietnam, so I guess it was kind of fitting our second was just as we were leaving. Though sadly this was no nose to tail between two cars like the first one, as this had a female casualty, in what looked like a scooter versus van situation. There were many people around watching, and traffic moving through the scene, but her body was just left in the middle of the road, uncovered for all to see.
It was a pretty shocking and heartbreaking thing to see, and the mood of the bus changed for some time after that, and poor Mollidy took it pretty hard as she’s never experienced anything like that before, so all up it was an odd way to end our time in Vietnam. We continued along though, and about 3 hours after leaving Vinh, we were at the boarder crossing. It wasn’t as crazy as the Thailand and Cambodia boarder, and not as quick as the Cambodia and Vietnam boarder, but it was in between the two.
We were also told to get our Vietnamese Dong changed over to Laos Kip here, which we did, but instantly wish we hadn’t, as between Mollidy and myself we were ripped off by $85US in the fees and exchange rates, so that was an expensive lesson. Once back on the bus though we had another 7 hours or so to go, so we just sat tight and enjoyed the scenery, as Laos was instantly beautiful.
We stopped twice along the way, about every 90 minutes or so, with the first stop to see how the locals had turned old B52 fuel tanks into fishing boats, and then an amazing vista of beautiful lime stone hills covering a valley. Laos to this point had felt very similar to Cat Ba, with lush forests, beautiful peaks, and just generally stunning scenery.
At about 2pm we reached our lunch stop, and luckily our Laos tour guide Saly, who was going to be with us and Chai for the next 5 days, had already taken our orders and called ahead. So the food was waiting for us, and we all partook in the local dish of sticky rice which you eat with your hands. It was nice, and spicy, and I’m glad I tired it, though I’ve had better. After that it was back onto the bus for what we hoped would only be another 4 hours, with only one other scheduled stop.
The rest of the trip went by quickly and we found ourselves in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. We checked into our hotel rooms to relax, and at 8pm we met in the lobby to go as a group for dinner, as it had been the longest day of the trip so far and we all needed a good meal. We walked about 1km into the main shopping and food area where there’s a night market everyday till 10pm. We hoped to check this out before it shut, but as it was getting close to 8.30pm and still no dinner, we thought we may have to leave this till tomorrow.
We found a good restaurant though which was on the 3rd floor of a building overlooking the market and river, and it was a rather western style place that served all kinds of food. We all had a good night and while we talked, drank, and ate, I noticed there were 4 to 5 single Asian girls at the bar, and I said to Mollidy I bet they are hookers looking for clients. We then enjoyed watching them for the next hour waiting to see if they really were, and by the time we left, two of them had gone off with old white men, so we were right on the money.
It was after 10pm by this point but we walked through the market anyway, but most of the shops were already gone or close to being packed up, so we just continued back to the hotel. Once back we were told that our morning activities would be starting at 8.30am, which meant we could have a bit of a sleep in, and so with that we headed for bed and looked forward to our first full day in Laos the next day.
Today I want to talk about the footpaths in Indo China, or maybe I shouldn’t call them that, as really they are for everything else other than actually walking. They are actually for parking motorbikes, setting up food stalls, selling trinkets, placing large signs, cutting people’s hair, general gaping holes with no signage to say there’s a hole, and let’s not forget an extra road for motorbikes and push bikes to use to get around. So just be prepared to only use footpaths from time to time, as really you’ll be spending a lot of time walking on the actual roads along with all the other vehicles.