Heading south

Okay. So I’ve finally come up with a plan for the next couple of days. It was a hard decision to skip Halong Bay and the north of Vietnam, but I don’t have much time (one week to be exact) before I need to be at the airport in Saigon. So, in an hour or so I’ll check out from the hotel and head to the train station to (hopefully) buy a ticket to the night train to Hue.

As soon as that’s done I’ll look for somewhere to leave my bag at the station and head out for some last minute sightseeing.

Once again, don’t know how much time I’ll have during the day or when I can find internet in Hue, so’ll update when I get a chance but don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a day or two. Mom and dad, no reason to call Interpol.

Walking, walking, more walking and museums

Second day in a row I’ve spent walking. My feet are aching. Today I walked to the Temple of Literature and the museum of the old Hoa Lo Prison. The I finished off the day by walking at the lake, had a cup of coffee and sat down to write. Now I’m back to rest some at the hotel and then I’m heading out for a last dinner in town. Haven’t yet decided where I’m going to head next, so have to do some research now.

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Temple of Literature. Finally something worth building a temple for! Took most pictures with my camera so will post them when I’m back home in Rangsit.

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Coffee by the lake. Didn’t get any studying done, but quite a lot of other writing so it was a nice afternoon.

First impression of Hanoi

I’m writing this after barely 24 hours in the city, so I haven’t really gotten anything else than a first impression of the capital city of Vietnam, but this far I like the city. I think. It has the busy city vibe as you would expect, but at the same time it’s different from any capital city I’ve been in. Maybe it’s because I’ve been mostly in the old quarters or at tourist spots, but this city feels old and not really caught up in the modern era (good and bad) as Bangkok or Vientiane. I don’t even know how to explain the feeling properly…

Something that I can explain is my hatred for the traffic here. My god it’s terrible! There are honking cars and motorcycles everywhere! During my short time here I have learned that there are three different types of honks. First there’s the “you’re in the way” honk, then the “coming through” honk which is used instead of indicators when turning, and lastly there’s the “IDIOT!” honk. I really do hate traffic…

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Onto something I like: the physical activity. Even if the traffic makes it difficult (not impossible) to walk I don’t think I’ve seen so many people out exercising before. Children and parents playing badminton on the sidewalk, teens playing football or skating in the park and people of all ages running in front of the Ho Chi Minh monument. Apart from the positive public health factor it also gives the city a sense of calm.

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They have free wifi everywhere, but are lacking in the coffee department. I’ll never again order “black hot coffee” though, I’ll stick with americanos here…

Taking the train from Bangkok to Vientiane

Getting from Bangkok to Laos over land is a really easy and quite enjoyable journey. Wanting to save money I decided against flying and took the night train instead. There’s no train going directly to Vientiane or Laos, so you have to get the train to Nong Khai on the Thai side of the border.

I got to the railway station in Bangkok (Hualamphong) in the late afternoon and bought a ticket for the night train that departures at 8 pm. I paid somewhere between 500-600 baht for a top bunk.

The train was at the station early, so I got on maybe 30-40 minutes before it was scheduled to leave. And the train left on time by the way. A man working on the train came and made all the beds about an hour into the trip and it became a quite early evening for me.

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The night was rather cold (damn AirCon) so remember to pack a jumper and socks so that it’s easy to reach. We arrived in Nong Khai in time, somewhere around 7.30 in the morning. At the train station in Nong Khai I bought ticket to the shuttle train that would take me over the friendship bridge and into Laos. It costs 20 baht and the train leaves at 9 am. Before entering the train you go through immigration and get the departures stamp in your passport.

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On the Laos side of the friendship bridge you get to fill out yet another arrival and departure card and go through immigration. The cost for a visa is different depending on which country you’re from, but it costs somewhere between $30-45 (apparently it’s free for people from Switzerland), I paid in baht since I didn’t have any dollars on me.

After going through immigration I met an American solo traveler so we decided to share a taxi into Vientiane to make it cheaper. But apparently you pay per person so we paid 300 baht each to get the 30 minutes into town. The van dropped us off at a well known hostel. It was okay to pay in baht (even expected). I didn’t exchange any money into Laos Kip but waited until I could withdraw from an ATM (that were everywhere).

Overall it was a nice trip and definitively worth the money I saved on not flying (and it’s better for the environment as well!).

Sorry but not really

I’ve been quite bad at updating lately, but I’m busy on the road. Tomorrow I’m taking the bus to Hanoi in Vietnam, which will be a 24-26 hour trip. Not really looking forward to it, but I’m too cheap to book a flight. It’s a sleeper bus so it should be okay. I’ll get some time to write some posts about the last few days that I can post in Hanoi. Have to tell you more about this wonderful city of Luang Prabang. For now I’ll leave you with a picture though, I need to get started on packing.

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