08.04.2018 - 12.04.2018 24 °C
How should I start this? I have been meaning to write sooner but some things didn't go as planned. I left home more than a year now and have not been back since. Exploring South East Asia, volunteering, teaching English here and there and loving every second of it. The fact of the matter is, it's not an easy job, teaching is not something you feed on a photocopier and things will turn out the way you want it. Teaching is the toughest challenge I have to face in this journey so far.
After I finished a year of Volunteer Teaching in a High School in the northernmost part of Thailand, I decided to travel outside and get some sort of a personal healing time. Laos sounds interesting and visiting some of UNESCO's heritage sites in Asia has this unique appeal to me. But first I need to attend to something important in Vietnam, so this travel blog will commence in Hanoi, Vietnam. Separate blog for the Vietnam trip will be coming up next.. ;P
Like any other country in Asia, Laos has charming landscapes and wonderful people. I started the journey in Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of the north, situated in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Inhabited for thousands of years, it was the royal capital of the country until 1975. It is known for its many Buddhist temples, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong, dating to the 16th century, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism.
So I booked an international night bus straight to Luang Prabang from Hanoi, which based on my research is not a popular way of traveling to Laos from Vietnam for VND990.000 (45-47USD) and a pick up at the Travel Agency's office at 4:00PM. Other travelers don't recommend it because it is tedious but I took the challenge. I mean, when will I ever get the chance to do it in my lifetime? All checked out of my hostel and off to the Travel Agency. Waiting. 4:00PM, a guy from the bus company and two foreigners arrived and pointed to go pickup my bags and follow them quickly. We walked for a good 15 minutes to a bus stop, which was so unexpected, i mean where the hell is the bus? I have 2 luggages and a backpack for ef's sake! Luckily the two foreigners are kind enough to help me. We waited for a few minutes for the other tourists and the shuttle bus which will take us to the location of the International bus.
The International bus left at exactly 6:00PM to Tây Trang (Vietnam-Laos) land border. It was a rough ride going through winding and unpaved road with nothing to do but stare outside the bus window and witness the day turn into night. In daylight you witness the stunning view of Vietnam countryside and at night, nothingness. We had a few stop overs at rural towns along the way for toilet breaks, smoking break and every other much needed breaks in this long journey. There are only about 15 people on the bus. Two Asian tourists, me and one girl from Nepal who grew up in Ireland and her group of six Irish friends. Two German ladies, one solo backpacker from London, one American who's currently working in a Farm in Vietnam, a guy in his fifties who's on his way to Vang Vieng, Laos and our two friendly Vietnamese bus drivers.
Vietnam Land Border Exit at Tây Trang
Laos Entry at Border Crossing 113
At around 8:00AM we finally reached Tây Trang land border in Dien Bien Phu Province, Vietnam. First, we lined up at passport control and immigration to get an exit stamp. We are now officially leaving Vietnam. Second, another bus ride to no-man's land and into Border Crossing 113 entry to Laos. Third, upon arrival, you will need a pen to fill out some forms, departure cards etc. And last, prepare a few dollars/kips to pay for entry stamp depending on your Nationality. I paid $1 for a health check and $3 for the entry stamp. I ask the officer, "Really?! Philippines? $3?" and he just smiled, looked away and expected me to get the message. Sketchy? Yes it is! Philippine passport holders (it's the two Nations agreement), can get 30 days FREE visa. For other nationalities like Europeans they have to pay $40 and sometimes more for it. After everyone finishes their business. Note, including toilet breaks. At around 9:00AM, we officially enter Lao People's Democratic Republic, breezing through its windy terrains.
I reached my hostel at around 11:00 pm. I booked a place with free breakfast at a touristy area, right in the center of Luang Prabang night market, Phousi Mountain, National Museum and Mekong river. Which I highly recommend tourists to do.
A History filled few days
Destination: Luang Prabang
Waking up every morning, knowing I have another day to just relax in the beauty of this old town is comforting. Walking by the river and hearing cicadas singing. Watching yellow leaves fall gently from acacia trees. What more can I ask for? Luang Prabang is old, quiet and generous and its people are friendly and unassuming. With its size, you can easily explore every nooks and crannies on foot. Other foreigners go out and explore waterfalls and other landmarks but this old town is enough for me. It's funny how on the first day, I woke up and told myself "I want to live here, I think I can live here.."
Here are some of the pictures I took during my stay.