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.
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.
Hoi An is a beautiful town in central Vietnam that we decided to rest in for a few days to recharge our batteries. It’s full of old, historic buildings, lantern lined canals and it’s claim to fame – tailor shops. After reading countless reviews from harsh critics on Lonely Planet forums that the tailors are tourist shams, I was a little apprehensive, but decided to go for it anyways.
Our friends suggested we get out in the Mekong Delta region for a few days, so we connected with a guide they knew and headed out to Ben Tre. The rivers and canals we went to explore were the same ones war boats traveled through at the start of the Vietnam war. The trip was definitely an adventure and we learned some valuable lessons along the way.