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
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.
The 17hr bus journey wasn’t really all that bad…except for one Vietnamese guy talking incredibly loud on his phone several times and another guy snoring so loud I had to put in ear plugs. This time we were on the top deck, which meant we got swung about more, feeling every turn. Sometimes it even felt like the bus was going to topple over. We arrived in Hoi An at 7am and within moments there was a woman trying to get us to come to her shop where we could get clothes tailor made. We headed to the local market to try some local delights for breakfast before going to our hotel for a little rest.
From Saigon we caught a bus to Mui He a small coastal beach town about 5hrs drive away. This bus journey was unlike any other, it seems Vietnam have nailed bus traveling…Why? The seats are horizontal! Known as sleeper buses, most private bus journeys are like flying first class. You can stretch your legs out, cover up with a blanket and catch some Z’s with ease. These buses are a million miles from the bus journeys in Cambodia.
Another tough bus journey, but thankful we had our own seats from Phnom Penh to Kratie. We realised how we can just get on with things and how our expectations are about right when it comes to bus journeys in Cambodia. As we set off on part two of our bus journey to Kratie, one girl got off the bus as it was to claustrophobic, which actually worked out well for us because she was on our row of seats. Another girl who was quite posh from England was complaining that the conditions were ‘unacceptable’ haha sorry no stretched limos here love.
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.