In the peak season, the tour would move on to Vietnam in the morning on this day, but since we’re travelling in the off -season, Lao Airlines only flies in the afternoons to Hanoi, so we had a free morning in Luang Prabang. I was pretty happy about this since I’ve really enjoyed the pace of life in Luang Prabang and I wanted to explore their most famous site, the Phousi Mountain (don’t say it too quickly!). At the top of the mountain is a small temple which can be seen from all over the town, and it offers spectacular views of the two rivers which converge just outside of Luang Prabang.
I started the day with an early breakfast, around 7, before heading out to the mountain before the heat of the day hit. The base of the mountain path was a short walk from the hotel, and I was able to make good time heading up – after paying my 20,000 kip entrance fee. Almost every tourist attraction seems to charge the same here!
It was 309 steps up to the top of the mountain, but it was worth it – I had the top to myself and could see all of the town, the rivers and the small temple as well. The sense of achievement in doing this was also worth it!
On the way back down I decided to go for another Lao coffee, having enjoyed it the day before. There was some confusion in the shop who seemed to think I wanted a take away coffee and gave me the boiling hot coffee and condensed milk in a plastic bag, like a goldfish at the fair. After clarifying my request, I was quickly brought a new one in a glass and enjoyed it just as much as the first, although I didn’t dare to try and communicate about the doughnut !
Once I got back to the hotel I quickly packed before going for a swim in the beautiful hotel pool. It was still not even 8:30! The early mornings on this tour really mean the day packs in things… I swam for half an hour and by that point some of the others emerged from their rooms.
Since it was so early, I went back to the room for a little cool off and a nap before checking out from the hotel. I walked back into the town and explored a little of the old town, hunting out some gift shops and stopping for lunch in a tourist restaurant called The Pizza, which served terrible over priced pizza and drinks but I wanted to be gentle to my stomach after the upset yesterday – I also ordered ginger tea which seemed to help. After I ordered the olive pizza, the waiter dashed out of the shop to a neighbouring supermarket and came back in with a pack of olives and some ginger. Got to love small towns!
With a couple of hours remaining in Luang Prabang once lunch was over, I went into a coffee shop for a cold drink and some aircon as well as free wifi… Honestly this day was a bit unnecessary but the flight schedules had determined we should stay until 3pm.
At 3 we regrouped and headed out to the airport, where check-in was smooth and allowed us a little more waiting before we boarded Laos Airlines QV313 to Hanoi. The flight was pretty much a mirror image of our flight from Chiang Mai – an ATR plane, terrible box meal and a 45 minute hop.
When we landed in Hanoi the sky was incredible – the clouds were so dark and low, it was clear a storm was about to hit and shortly after we left the airport, we were presented with a wonderful thunderstorm. The Vietnamese visa process for a UK passport holder was super easy- no paperwork at all, just handing over my passport and getting a stamp at the border. Some of the others had spent upwards of $200 on their Vietnam visas!
In the airport I also changed some US Dollars into Vietnamese dong and once again became a millionaire – $1 was worth 22,240 dong so my $100 gave me 2.2 Million dongs!
Our trip to the hotel was in a nice big comfortable bus and we got to see a bit of the hubbub of Hanoi – our hotel was quite central in the city on ‘silk street’ (fittingly the hotel was the Golden Silk Hotel). The streets of Hanoi are organised by what is sold there – so there is glasses street, coffee street, and beer street. Quite an efficient way of shopping, unless you want a lot of different things at once!
During our bus ride Dek gave us some tips about Vietnam – a country of 90 million people, and Hanoi – the capital city with over 8 million people and over 4 million motorcycles. The constant ‘beep beep’ of the motorcycles and cars weaving in and out was infectious and I couldn’t wait to get out and start exploring! We only got one night in Hanoi before our next destination, so we went on a short walk to Deks favourite local restaurant – called 96 Restaurant. Dek said they have one as well called 69 -although that sounds like a whole different dinner to me!
Crossing the roads in Hanoi is something of an art form, as there is never really a break in the traffic – you just kind of ‘go for it’ when you want to cross, and the traffic avoids you. At first it sounds scary, but the more you do it the easier it becomes.
At 96 Restaurant I had some fresh vegetable spring rolls and tofu with satay sauce,as well as a fruit juice and it cost 250,000 dong! That feels like a lot, but it’s really about $20.
Once back at the hotel, and safely across the roads again, I quickly replaced my day pack into an overnight pack since we couldn’t bring our full bags for the next day trip to Ha Long Bay. Tomorrow would be another early start, setting off at 6:30 – so I got an early night again. Excited for tomorrow though – Ha Long Bay is one of my reasons for booking the trip!