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 →
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 caught the train from Hue, it was a pretty comfortable ride and only took about 4 hours. We had read that there isn’t much to do or see in Dong Hoi, but we were surprised how nice the river front was. It’s dominated by, what we kept calling the rainbow bridge because of the multicoloured lights flashing away through the night like a disco on acid.
We arrived for the first time to a new country on our trip by land. Going through border control was pretty straight forward. The bus from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to HCMC did have one delay and was another first for us – paying the corrupt police to let us pass a stretch of road. Each passenger had to pay the law man a dollar each, we had heard about the corrupt police here but this was first real experience of it.
A very long and bumpy 15hr bus journey to Siem Reap was ahead of us and it lived up to our expectations. On the positives we had our own seat. It did beg the question of which bus journey was worse and it’s a question neither of us can confidently answer. The road infrastructure of Cambodia is is poor, worst we have seen in SE Asia so far. Most journeys involve going back through Phnom Phen and a lot of the roads are glorified dirt tracks riddled with pot holes.