Road to Hell

After several days in the mountains of northern Vietnam at the lovely town of Sapa, it was time to turn my attention to Laos. The options were limited; I could head back to Hanoi on the night train and fly or bus it from there, expensive, or I could go directly into Laos by bus from Dien Bien Phu a day’s drive away. I knew the route was arduous and long but I thought it would be just another day in paradise…..if only I knew.

Now that sounds a little dramatic I know, sure I am still here so how bad could it have been? Terminal I guess, depending upon the skills of the drivers and the weather. If it is sunny then okay, however if it is raining forget about it, do not go!

Fortunately the weather was good for our departure early in the morning from the small square at the top of the hill in Sapa. My guesthouse had booked a ticket for me on the local bus and I had to scramble along with everyone else to get a seat with a little back support and hand purchase for the journey over the passes.

tyre change before dien bien phu

The few tourists that take this route seem to get varied advice on the state of the bus. I knew that it would be smallish, dirty and liable to breakdown occasionally but that it did make, in one piece, the daily route to Dien Bien Phu.
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Sapa in the clouds

The heat of south and central Vietnam is oppressive, only the cool of an air-conditioned room can assuage it but what then of seeing the country and the sights you have travelled thousands of miles to see? One has to suck it up and sweat like the rest of them and the best of them.

There is relief to be found in the mountains of North Vietnam, citizens of Hanoi regularly travel up to the former hill stations in search of an alpine style break from the pressures and sultriness of the capital.

arriving on the night train from hanoi

My visit to Sapa coincided with the Independence Day celebrations and the birthday of Hanoi so it was holiday season all around. Getting a berth on a sleeper train out of Hanoi to Sapa was almost impossible but my trusty travel agent came through and I was booked into a lower berth for the eight hour journey north.
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Hanging out in Hoi An

Having just spent far too long in Nha Trang than was justified, any more than a day in my opinion, I was happy to drag myself off the express train as it pulled into Da Nang Station. This was not my destination however and I still needed to backtrack thirty or so kilometres south along the coast to the ancient town of Hoi An.

As you exit the train the assault of the taxi drivers begins. I was looking for two things; a Mai Linh taxi, for the metered fare, and other backpackers to share the cost. Having found both we were soon on the road out of Da Nang passing the much hyped China Beach and the less hyped mega hotel and resort constructions that were scarring the once pristine coastline.

empty beach an bang in hoi an
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