Our Asia Trip Diary – Part Twelve

Check out part 11 here!

Monday was another travel day. We took the bus from Sa Pa in the north of Vietnam, to Hanoi, the capital. We arrived in the city and as always the bus drops you off somewhere random. We could share a taxi to our hotel with two British girls that visited the city before. So, we arrived at the hotel with lots of recommendations!

On Tuesday we had a little stroll around the old quarter and did some administration. We’ve booked a bus to Luang Prabang, Laos. This was very important as we needed to leave Vietnam before our visas would expire.

After we had fixed our seats to Laos, we went to the embassy for our visas for Laos. To our surprise, this was very easy. We just had to fill in a form and hand in a passport photo (which we luckily brought with us from home). Then we could come back in an hour to pick up our passports with the new visa.

In the hour we had to wait, we visited the famous Train Street. We read online that there were no trains at the moment due to maintenance. But when we were strolling in the street a lady started shouting at us that the train was coming. Luckily there was time enough to find a good spot to watch the train passing through this narrow street.

I was shocked that the train was so close to us. Although the train wasn’t driving fast, I had the feeling it could haul us with it very easily. A special experience for sure!

In the evening we went to a water puppet show. This is a traditional play and the name says it all. This was rather a crazy but funny experience.

Wednesday we went to Vietnam Military History Museum. You can find a great collection of weapons, fighter jets and tanks. But if you’re coming to discover more about the war itself, this isn’t the place.

Afterwards, we ticked off some other highlights such as the one-pillar pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Quan Thanh Temple and Tran Quoc Pagoda.

For the afternoon/evening we booked a cooking class with Apron Cooking Class. This was our first time attending a cooking class and it was such a nice experience. We had already a funny start when the hotel owner drove us to the cooking class on his own motorbike. It was just us and a German girl which made it extra special as we felt like it was a private cooking experience. Siri was our chef for the evening. She first led us through the streets of Hanoi to buy the ingredients. This was already very interesting as she explained a lot about the ingredients, where they come from and about the farmers and saleswomen in the city.

With the ingredients, we could start cooking! We made five Vietnamese dishes in about three hours. Siri guided us through the process of cooking while we were assisting her in the meantime. This made it possible to make that many dishes in a short period of time. After the cooking, we could enjoy our yummy meal together.

Thursday morning we started our day at Dong Xuan Market. This building is full of clothing stands. It reminded me of the markets in Bangkok where the market was also so packed and narrow, you almost couldn’t walk through. 

In the afternoon we took a bus to a shopping mall where we spend some hours strolling around.

Friday was our last day in Hanoi and also our last day in Vietnam. In the morning we tried to send a package home for Christmas. After finding out this would be a big bite out of our budget (€100+!!!) we decided to take everything with us for maybe the rest of our trip.

At 4pm we got picked up at our hotel. Together with two other travellers, a taxi drove us to the bus station in Hanoi. This took us one hour and we almost thought we would drive to Laos in a taxi! At the bus station, it was a bit of a search… we’d never seen so many buses at a station before! Luckily a random local helped us find the right bus. For sure we couldn’t find the bus, we were looking for a bus number starting with HU but it turned out to be Laotian letters! We were quite surprised, we didn’t know Laos had a different alphabet than us?!

This would be one big travel day! The bus from Hanoi to Luang Prabang took 27 hours, only two hours more than planned. Saturday morning we arrived at the border. This is where we first had to wait until the customs of Vietnam were open. At seven thirty the customs started but there was no electricity. So, we had to wait for another hour before we could leave Vietnam. Once the process of crossing the border started, everything went very smoothly.

Luckily, we were well prepared. We already arranged our Laos Visa in Hanoi and could cross the border easily. A girl that travelled with us on the bus (and the only other western on the bus) had to return to Hanoi because she didn’t have a visa and she also couldn’t receive one on arrival… What a pity!

After this border crossing, which was quite a new experience for us, the bus continued its journey. Thankfully, we brought our own breakfast and a lot of snacks with us. The bus didn’t stop for breakfast or at any other place until 1 pm for lunch. And when we did stop for lunch, we couldn’t buy anything as we didn’t have any Kip (the currency of Laos) yet… We were lucky once again that the restaurant owners accepted the very few Vietnamese Dong we had left. Poor us shared one plate of fried rice for lunch. We were in a good mood, so we could laugh at our stupid situation. We finally arrived in Luang Prabang at 9pm. Hungry and tired, since the road in Laos was through many mountain passes.

Sunday we slept in and discovered some of the city. We already had a great first impression of Laos! Luang Prabang is a very cute city and there are lots of things to do and to eat! Now we need some time to rest and to plan. We haven’t planned anything for Laos yet, so everything’s still open.

See you on our next blog!