Friday, May 17, 2013

Laos and Vietnam Adventures

Back in March my dad and I embarked on an epic journey that began in Bangkok, Thailand.  The trip started with a 10 hour bus ride to the Laos capital of Vientiane.  The next day was spent walking around and visiting the sights of the city and enjoying the beautiful French architecture.  We also stumbled upon the Lao National Stadium and I ran a lap of the track in my sandals!
Then we were off to the town of Vang Vieng via a mini bus.  The one thing that was an obvious difference between Thailand and Laos was the slow pace of life that exists in Laos.  This was evident by the minivan ride from Vientiane to Vang Vieng.  The ride was slow as it passed through small villages, around windy corners and up some steep hills.  The ride took 3.5 hours to cover a distance of 150 km.  We finally arrived in Vang Vieng, a town made famous by “tubing”.  “Tubing” involves renting a tractor inner tube, getting a ride 5 km. out of town and then riding the inner tube down the river back to town.  The next morning we brought along a good map of the town and surrounding area and went for a run through the town and into the countryside.  We were attempting to get to a cave, but unfortunately the gate leading to the entrance was closed, so we were not able to enter. 
 Countryside Near Vang Vieng
A stop on the run at the Song River

Our journey then continued with roller coaster minivan rides that lead us to the northern Laos city of Luang Prabang.  In this city we toured some of the numerous temples and monasteries, took in a night market, walked around and of course went for a run.  The next day got up early and went for a run along the Mekong River and through the town of Luang Prabang (which is a UNESCO world heritage site). 

Mekong River

Luang Prabang Architecture

We then returned to our guesthouse and prepared for another long day riding a minivan to the town of Phonsaven, Laos.  We came to Phonsaven to visit the Plan of Jars, as our last stop in Laos.  The next morning we headed off to Plain of Jars with a map in hand.  We ran 8 km. to the Plain of Jars and walked around the Plain of Jars Site 1.  One unnerving part of the trip was the fact that we had to be careful where we walked because not all of the site had been cleared of unexploded ordinance (UXO) from the Vietnam War.  It was very evident that there was a war, as there was a man-made cave that was used for hiding during the war, bomb craters and some blown-up jars. 
A rice field along the route to the Plain of Jars
Laos and Vietnam flags along the route to the Plain of Jars
Plain of Jars Site 1
After visiting the site we headed back ruuning into town (with a stop for some banana energy at a roadside stall).  The next morning we boarded a bus at 6:00 am. bound for Vinh, Vietnam, 12 hours later we arrived!  Then, we had to get another overnight bus headed to Hanoi, Vietnam.  When we finally arrived in Hanoi, we were greeted to a metropolis jammed packed with millions of scooters.  It was amazing to see all the things that the Vietnamese people were able to carry on scooters.  I saw five people on one scooter; I also witnessed large plants, cartons or eggs, televisions and fans being carried.  We spent the day visiting Ho Chih Minh Mausoleum and wondering around the old city.

Ho Chih Minh Mausoleum

The next day was spent visiting some more sights in Hanoi including the Hoa Lo Prision, some temples including the impressive Temple of Liderature.  I woke up early the next morning to go for a run around the old city and Hoan Kiem Lake.  It was surprising how many people were up at 6:30 am. doing different exercises such as walking, running, bicycling, dancing, meditation, badminton, etc.

Hoan Kiem Lake
After my run, we were off on a two day tour of Halong Bay (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world).  When we arrived at Halong Bay we were greeted by an amazingly beautiful sight, even more so than the pictures that I had seen.  We departed the port at the city of Halong and we were off on our clockwise loop of the bay.  The day was spent visiting a cave, climbing to the top of an island viewpoint, swimming in the cold water and kayaking.  The next day we visited a peal farm and then headed back to the port.  Immediately when we got back to Hanoi we headed to the “open tour” bus pick-up point and we were off on the overnight sleeper bus to Hue. 
Halong Bay

After a long overnight bus ride we arrived in Hue, Vietnam.  Hue is a city rich in history, as it was the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dinesty between 1802 and 1945.  We walked around the old part of the city and visited some of the palaces.  I thought that this would be a great place for the a sprint race as I walked around the palaces and gardens.  Maybe the next stop on the Park World Tour?  The next morning I went for a run around town with a simple city map.  I ran through the market (seen in picture), continued along the Perfurm River, along the city moat past some temples and then back to my guesthouse.  Then it was time for a very quick shower before boarding a bus for Hoi An, Vietnam.

Market in Hue

Three hours later we arrived in Hoi An.  We walked around the UNESCO World Heritage Site old town stopping at some old houses, museums and shops along the way.  It was a short visit in the town, as we boarded yet another overnight bus bound for Nua Trang.

We spent a day at the beach relaxing in Nua Trang and then that night we took our fifth overnight bus of the trip headed to our final destination- Ho Chich Minh City, also known as Saigon.  When we arrived in the city we found a place to stay and then immediately booked a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels.  The tunnels are located about 50 km. north of Saigon and were used as hiding places for thousands of Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.  It was a very interesting place to say the least and cool because you actually got to crawl in some of the tunnels.

The next day and the final day of our trip we spent more time exploring the old part of Saigon.  We did some shopping for some last minute souvenirs.  Then that night it was time to fly back to the “big mango”…Bangkok.

1 comment:

  1. How are those tunnels for an orienteering map ;-)
    Great photos