We heard from several people how great Pai (pronounced bye) is and how it’s worth the visit. We couldn’t agree more. From Chiang Mai the journey is uphill and full of meandering roads and sharp turns, 762 to be exact, our journey was ok but i think it really depends on the bus driver you get.
There is however one strange thing about Pai. We’ve seen it a few times on our travels and still can’t wrap our brains around it. It’s an influx of Westerners in an area which dominates the local population. In the case of Pai, the town is concentrated on just a few streets and once you’re outside of that parameter, the domination of Westerners seems to waver. We still cannot determine if this is absolutely awful, or if it’s ok. If we stayed anywhere longer than three days perhaps we’d learn the pros and cons about (predominately) young partying Western kids concentrated in this manner.
After the Gibbon Experience adventure in Laos, we decided to head straight for Thailand. There are frequent buses from Laos overland into Thailand and the land border crossing was really easy. The bus to Chiang Mai was supposed to take 6 hours, but we had yet another driver who drove like he stole the damn thing. We made it in 5 and beat the bus that left 30 mins before we did.
One of the main stops at Huay Xai is ‘The Gibbon Experience’ which is an eco-based jungle tour experience in Laos. The project helps protect gibbons in the national park and has reduced the number of hunters out for their blood.
Anyone travelling in Lurang Prabang heading north will have the dilemma of either taking the slow boat or bus to Huay Xai. For us it was a no brainer. Even though the boat takes twice as long, we have done our fair share of bus journeys, but not once have we sailed down the Mekong. Continue reading →
The flight from Hanoi to Vientiane was less than 50 mins, we took a flight after reading some horrible stories about the bus journey from Northern Vietnam into Laos. When we arrived at our hotel, we were gagging for some food, so we took a stroll and instantly realised that this capitol city was very different from the others. There weren’t 2,000 mopeds racing around the streets, in fact there were only a handful. Vientiane felt like a very small and quiet city, much like a mute lap dog compared to HCMC or Hanoi’s growling rottweiler.
After an extremely short flight from Hanoi to Vientiane, we are here in the Laos capital, our 8th country in 6 months!
Remember to take your visa money for entry to Laos, as we soon learnt that there was no ATM or currency exchange when in Hanoi airport. Katie bartered with duty free manager for some cash back in dollars.
Sapa is small town in northern Vietnam surrounded by mist filled rice paddies carved into mountain sides. It is also the one and only time so far that we’ve felt cold during our travels. It dropped 30 degrees (F) which makes a dramatic difference when you’re used to hot humid weather everday. It has a ski resort type vibe, mist covered mountains, cool air and because most shops are filled with North Face hiking gear (which you never see a local wearing). There are some nice restaurants, cafes and a market on the tourist main strip and locals set up on the sidewalks with plenty of goods worth bargaining for.
We took a passenger ferry from Halong City to Cat Ba Island, it cost $3/£2 per person and it’s one of our best buys yet. The ferry only takes an hour, journeys through the 100 islands of Halong Bay with the sun shinning and birds flying, all at a fraction of the cost of the tourist boats most people take. You won’t get a better ferry ride than this.
We spent a few days in Hanoi, the Capitol of Vietnam and the second biggest city after Ho Chi Minh City. We stayed in the Old Quarter of Hanoi which is the primary location of travellers because of its central location, various eateries and drinking holes. It’s a nice city with a lake and plenty of other sights, shopping and overall indulgences.