Despite only being in Laos for a week, I am so happy I went. As a country it’s fairly untouched and naturally beautiful. I’ve been lucky enough to see some incredible places, as well as meet amazing people, which has made it that extra special.
Tuesday 14th February – travel to Luang Prabang
As it was Valentines Day I treated myself to a bus ride to Luang Prabang. Laos has been so different to Japan, as I never seem to be alone. I’m always meeting or chatting to new people, which was the same for the bus ride. It’s so interesting to hear other people’s stories and also recommendations on places you should visit. It’s actually now shaped my next adventure in Vietnam. That’s why I knew travelling would be especially as important to me. I’ve always been one of those people who has schedules (even for holidays to Ibiza), weekend plans months in advance and lists for work and day to day life. Don’t get me wrong, I still have lists, but I’m gradually learning to slow down and take everyday as it comes. I don’t even know what I’ll be doing/where I’ll be next week which is just crazy. Everyday I wake up and I can do whatever I want. That in itself is taking time to get my head around!
Anyway back to Luang Prabang. After a five hour journey, I arrived at my hostel at 2pm. I was taken to my room, which was dirty and very cramped, but I put on my positive cap, sorted myself out and headed out to the reception area (where the wifi was). I was about to message Tom and Rebecca (the couple I met in Vientiane) when I spotted Tom by the locker. It’s so refreshing to see a familiar face, even if you’ve only spent a day or two with those people. They introduced me to their friends at the hostel and we spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool. Don’t worry people, I was wearing my factor 50. Still no trace of a tan though I’m afraid.
Planning to all go out for dinner that evening and to the local bar Utopia, we went our separate ways to get ready. I headed back to my room and met my lovely new roommate Erika, who had just arrived. Knowing what it feels like to arrive in a new place, completely alone, I invited Erika along.
Walking to find a restaurant I was explaining to Rebecca about my recent mishaps/bad luck. Nothing had happened that day, but I jinxed myself. Somehow I managed to find an ATM machine that took my card and then crashed! That was an interesting couple of minutes starring at a black screen wondering if I’d ever see my card again before it rebooted (phew). After that Rebecca fully understood and acknowledged my misfortune 🙈.
The rest of the evening was lovely and the food was amazing. I had a yellow chicken curry as I had never heard of it before. I will definitely be eating it again 😊. The Utopia bar was also really cool, but in an understated way – it had low sitting tables outside and little lights. Great atmosphere in which I ended up bumping into Annika, my roommate from Vang Vieng, as well as a nice Columbia girl Christina and Canadian guy, Gage. The conversation went from the usual travelling chat to a very interesting discussion on religion – not something you’d usually drop when you first meet people. But it was nice to talk something other than countries and plans!
When we got back to our four bedroom dorm, we then met our other roommates who were two German girls (18 and 19). I definitely couldn’t have travelled that young! Turns out they were getting up early to go to the waterfall the next day so Erika and I jumped in on their plans (and tuk tuk).
Wednesday 15th February – waterfall and hike
I still seem to be waking up between 6-7am every morning so didn’t have a problem getting up and out for 8.30am. As the other girls were sleeping, I was trying to be quiet and get down from the top bunk and ended up slipping down the ladder and grazing/bruising my arm 🙈. I’m going to be requesting bottom bunks from now on if there is the option.
Luckily I didn’t wake them up and on the bright side, at least I had got my ‘bad luck’ out the way for the day 🙌.
We met three other German peeps (I’ve met more German’s than anyone else so far) and a Brazilian guy all jumping into a tuk tuk and driving to the Kuang Si waterfall.
I didn’t realise the area also had a bear sanctuary, which was very exciting. We spent quite a while watching them – so hilarious and cute, I want one! The next couple of hours were spent exploring the waterfall. I’m not going to say anything about this as the pictures say it all (that water 😮)…If you’re wondering why the water is so blue, it’s because it flows over limestone rocks. The limestone particles contain high levels of calcium carbonate which collect on the way and reflect the light, which make it the stunning turquoise colour. Fascinating!
Getting back to our hostel around 2, we realised we still had a whole afternoon to do something so we decided to hike to the top of the waterfall. So happy we did as the view was incredible. Going back to my point about speaking and listening to people, the German girls mentioned how they had gone on a sunset boat ride the day before, which Erika and I had to do. Heading to the river we found a guy who would take us (and also buy us a beer for the ride). Funnily enough, we ended up being on the boat with Christina and Gage who we had met the night before. I’m so happy we did it – was a perfect finish to a stunningly scenic day.
Thursday 16th February – last day in Laos
Thursday I had to say goodbye to Laos as I had a flight at 5pm that evening to Hà Nội in Vietnam.
I woke up early again so decided to do a workout by the pool, as well as go for a swim, but my plans were crushed and thrown away as the pool opened from 11am – what the hell!
It was fine though as it gave me time to get a few things sorted before I met my friend Sophia, who had arrived in Luang Prabang from Vang Vieng the day before. That’s the beauty of travelling – people you click with you’ll no doubt see again and maybe people who you don’t as much, you don’t have to make the effort to see. Again it’s the ultimate freedom!
We spent a couple of hours walking alongside the Mekong river before stopping for lunch. We did attempt to go into the National museum, but they were trying to con us out of extra money to cover up, despite the fact Sophia had jeans on. So angry with how rude the staff were, we sold our tickets. We then went out separate ways and I went back to my hostel for a quick swim before heading to the airport.
The plane was tiny and I thought it would be late as we didn’t board until 4.55pm but crazily they still managed to get everyone on and take off by 5.15pm (5 mins late). Arriving in Hà Nội was stressful. I previously tried to get my visa online but they had taken my payment and still not processed it. The immigration office informed me that whoever I had been speaking to weren’t legit so that was fun. However after a back and forth and a lot of standing around, one of the guys finally gave me an address to extend my visa, while another sternly told me I was only allowed to stay for 15 days. Talk about mixed signals! Welcome to Vietnam Jess.
My hostel had organised for a taxi to pick me up from the airport and when I arrived everything got better – the hostel was the nicest I’ve stayed in yet. So clean, cosy, comfy ah amazing. Only thing is, I was sharing the dorm with five other guys from an age range of 19 to 60!
I ventured out into the night to get food and from a recommendation went to a restaurant down the street. I ended up sitting at a table with a guy named Peter from Manchester and we had a lovely chat (it was his last night in Hà Nội). After I navigated the streets for a little after dinner walk (I had eaten far too much). Hà Nội is the craziest and noisiest place I have ever been to in my life. It was so overwhelming with all the beeping, cars, people and scooters didn’t help. Walking down one street a guy managed to drive into me with his scooter. He apologised, but I’m starting to think the people of Vietnam don’t want me here 🙈.
Anyway despite the awkward and cold entry, I am still very excited to explore Vietnam (hopefully for more than 15 days). My journey will start up north in a place called Sapa where I’ll be trekking through the mountains for two days with Erika, as well as a one night home stay (which is with a family in a local community).
I’m sure I’ll have loads to talk about in my next post, so until then.
Jessica Storm ✌️