We arrive at a dark and deserted bus station a few kilometres outside the town at 5:00 a.m. It is still pitch black and there is no one here except a couple of Tuk Tuk drivers. We hop on board and cut through the chilly early morning air towards Luang Prabang. It feels very cold but it also makes you feel very much alive!
Our journey from Vientiane to Vang Vieng was by mini bus, took about five hours and was a real bone shaker. Large sections of the road didn't even have tarmac even though this was a fairly major route. Vang Vieng turned out to be better than we expected. Lonely Planet describes it as 'sullied eden or hedonist's paradise', either love it or hate it but I thought it was ok! We found a nice guest house in the main street by the river but just outside of 'the party zone'.
The main reason everyone goes to Siem Reap is to visit the magnificent 12th century temples of Angkor Wat and magnificent they are indeed. Siem Reap itself has really just grown into a tourist hub for people visiting the temples, with the main street being called 'Pub Street'. It’s not actually as bad as it sounds and does have some nice restaurants and lively bars.
We arrive in Phnom Penh and share a Tuk Tuk with a very friendly older Israeli couple who are also staying at our hotel. The city is vast, noisy and fast with a lot more cars than Saigon. We have a couple of days of rest and manage to arrange flights for our Christmas family get together in Thailand.
We travel south out of Saigon by coach and plunge into the unforgettable Mekong Delta - flat, lush, fertile and beaming with life. Our first stop is Ben Tre, a small town that acts as the major hub on the 'upper river'. The mighty Mekong divides into nine rivers each flowing into the south China sea and referred to as 'The Mouths of the Nine Dragons'.
Having visited three bustling cities in less than two weeks we really wanted some time to chill out, preferably near a beach, so we headed to Mui Ne. It was a five hour bus journey (only 120 kms) over some atrocious roads but well worth it. We met a vietnamese guy on the bus called Trang who ran a kite surfing school on the beach at Mue Ne. He told us his life story (well we did have five hours to spare) which was very interesting.
We started the journey to Halong Bay very early from our hotel in Hanoi. It was a bumpy four hours but well worth it when we arrived at the harbour and saw the beautiful limestone karsts rising up out of the green sea. There are over 3000 of these and they are like small islands covered with vegetation. Ha long literally means 'where the dragon descends into the sea' and legend has it that the islands were created by the tail of a dragon as it ran towards the coast.
Arrived in Hanoi late in the afternoon after a very pleasant flight with Vietnam Airlines. We took a taxi into the city which is about a 45 minute drive from the airport. Nothing can prepare you for the chaos of the traffic in Hanoi. Thousands of motor bikes (and I do mean thousands) come at you from all different directions. Most of the traffic is bikes, the only cars really are taxis.