So we’ve been home since April 24th and needless to say I wasn’t prepared. During the months leading up to our return to the US, friends and family keep asking the obvious question of what’s your plan for when you get back? For the first time in my life the honest answer was I have no plan, which was a big deal coming from a type A, over planner like myself. While we were gallivanting across SE Asia it was refreshing to have a world of freedom ahead and energizing to think I can do anything. Today officially marks one month of being home, and no income, no car, and endless time, has given me a whole new perspective on life.
Bangkok is not for beginners. Scams. Crime. Drugs. Sex. Noise. Traffic. People. We were lucky to have quiet a bit of Asian travel experience under our belts before we got to this city, and it would take everything we learned over the past 14 months to make it out of here with our bodies and wallets intact. Thankfully, it was our last stop before heading home, because when we were through with Bangkok (or maybe, when Bangkok was through with us) we had had enough.
Getting to Thailand was an epic journey of two eight hour boat trip days, and then one final bus day to get to Chiang Mai. Knowing that we’d be meeting our friends on the other side kept us optimistic when we wanted to throw our kindles/iPod’s off the boat after playing hours of Word games. And the thought of showing our friends the joys and challenges we’d experienced traveling SE Asia, and getting to live through their fresh, excited traveler eyes was just what we needed to finish out the last two months of our trip.
After being on the road for a month, we decided to just fly to Luang Prabang and stay there. We vetoed anymore bus trips, therefore skipping Vang Vieng and Vientiene. In total, we stayed in Luang Prabang for 12 days, making it our longest stationary destination of the whole trip, and it was just lovely. We arrived to Laos exhausted, cold and sleepless, right after our train back from Sapa to Hanoi. We spent the first 2 days doing as little as possible and basically just leaving our guesthouse to eat. After our recuperation period, we were ready to see what Luang Prabang had to offer.
After Halong Bay, our next mission for overnight trips from Hanoi was to get to Sapa. We checked out all of the packaged tours, but didn’t see any offering the type of trip we were craving. We wanted to get off the tourist trail and have the most authentic experience we could, so decided to go with a highly recommended private guide who was a native Black H’mong. We spent 3 days traveling around Sapa with him, learning about the culture and landscape of the region, and got a chance to sleep in his native village. Definitely worth it. Even if we had to eat weasel…
From Hanoi there are two side trips most everyone does: Halong Bay and Sapa. We didn’t want to let the weather stop us from seeing these highly touted sights, so we booked a 2 day 1 night tour of the islands. The weather didn’t exactly cooperate, but we had an interesting trip none the less.
Our brief visit to Hanoi gave us a snapshot of an enigmatic city with a lot of potential. Although it seemed as busy and bustling as Saigon, we thought it lacked a certain spark. It’s a quality that was hard for us to define, and part of that might have been due to the crappy weather we endured during our time there. However, we still tried to make the best of it and see what Hanoi had to offer, although not always with a smile on our faces.