Vietiane, Laos to Hue, Vietnam
21.08.2010 - 26.08.2010 33 °C
We took a longboat down the Nam Hin Bun River to the guest house which was about an hour away and after Kylie’s last ride on one to the elephants, it was going to be a long hour however; the faster they went the more stable they became so it wasn’t too bad.
The scenery to the guesthouse was stunning passing village’s, local’s going about their daily lives, water buffalo strolling around and other longboats cruising up and down the river.
We spent two amazing days in the Phu Hin Bun National Park where ‘back to basic’s’ applied. Our accommodation was thatched bamboo huts with numerous holes in the walls and roof so the only protection that we had was a mosquito net from the creepy crawlies which also had holes in it.
The reason for us staying at the guesthouse was so that we can explore the Tham Kong Lo Caves, a 7km tunnel where the river passes through the limestone mountain and over the years have caused stalagmites and stalactites. The journey through the cave was incredible and thinking that they would be small and enclosed, they were actually massive and at some points 100m wide and almost as high. Our driver steered us through at a gentle pace avoiding rocks, branches and the falling water from the ceiling but as he pulled up to join the rest of the group, managed the park our longboat right underneath exactly where Kylie was sitting.
It was here that we got to witness half naked Laos guys as without us knowing why, all our drivers striped down to their undies and started tugging on something in the water which turned out to be a large rock. This was rather amusing as they were fighting the current but at the same time, trying to move the rock so that we could get passed.
We had lunch once we came out the other side before turning around and heading back the same way but at a bit faster pace this time which at times proved to be a bit scary as the guides head torch was running out of battery.
We spent the afternoon hopping in and out of the river to cool down before torrential rain kept us indoors for about an hour. We enjoyed one of our best meals on the trip for dinner – stuffed steamed fish wrapped in banana leave and stir fried ginger chicken with steamed rice. Who would have thought that an out of way little guesthouse could serve great food.
From the guesthouse we made our way to Savannakhet which was a stop over town for the night so that we could get an early start the next morning and head to the Vietnamese border. Possible the easiest border we have although we did have to pay $1 for them to process our visa, after we had already paid $50 for the visa itself. Guess that goes straight in the pocket!
Hue is our first destination in Vietnam and the first thing we noticed when pulling in is that there must be 100 scooters / bikes to each car or truck. It’s crazy...not only are the roads full of scooters not bothering to follow the traffic lights but also bikes transporting large cupboards, obviously there is no easier way. There is also no easy way to cross the road and you just have to go and hope that the scooters go around you as pedestrian crossing’s are everywhere but they don’t stop.
We enjoyed a cruise along the Song Huong or otherwise known as the Perfume River, stopping off to see a performance of Kung Fu which was pretty amazing and then further along the river, stopping to explore the Thien Mu Pagoda (Heavenly Lady Pagoda) which is one of the oldest religious buildings in Vietnam.
Our last stop on the boat was to explore the Tomb of Minh Mang who ruled from 1820 to 1840. With numerous temples, buildings and lakes to explore we spent some time wandering around searching for the tomb of the emperor. It’s not known where he is buried as the Vietnamese have a believe that if the body is cut up, then that person will not be able to go onto the next life. Minh Mang had many enemies and if they knew where he was buried, they would cut it into pieces.
Pete had finally joined us after being stuck in Lhasa for just over 3 weeks so we had a fantastic ‘welcome back’ party in the DMZ Bar complete with pool tables, cheap drinks, cheesy music, the all famous Odyssey Blue Cocktail and our contribution to the graffiti on the wall...
Our last day in Hue was spent exploring the Imperial City which had until recently been left to fade away which is a shame as the complex covers some 10km’s square and is a predominate feature of Hue. It was heavily bombed by the American’s but restoration is now taking place to bring it back to life. Within the Imperial City lies the Forbidden Purple City which served as the private life of the emperor. Much of the grounds have been left unattended but the buildings that have remained were pretty impressive. We stayed out as long as we could as the humidity was around 85% with the temperature reaching 35c and with the sweat dripping down our backs and legs we retreated to the air conditioned hotel room for the afternoon.
Tomorrow we are off to Hoi An for some more city action and then onto Jungle Beach, our first proper beach on the trip with bamboo hut’s facing out to the beach. Paradise....