03.05.2009 60 °F
Xin Chao from Hanoi. We have entered another world from that of Laos-- one filled with very different sights, sounds, and tastes.
Our last few weeks in Laos were scorching! We left beautiful Luang Prabang and traveled to Vang Vieng which is a gorgeous limestone landscape offering everything from caving to drunken tubing down the river. We did one day of the tubing and it was an insane scene of western tourists swinging from trapezes, bars 'fishing' for you as you float by, and lots of free snake whisky shots (actual snake in the bottle).
We decided to escape the tourist scene and spend a few days upriver from the madness at a very cute organic mulberry farm. There we volunteered at a youth center helping out with their social studies classes and painted a mud coat on their straw-bale building. It was fun to get to know the people there and to see the amazing opportunities they give to the local youth.
Getting our hands dirty
Teacher and student
Cool little dude...spidey
After the Organic Farm we escaped to the quiet capital of Laos, Vientiane. We took a vacation from our vacation and relaxed in the comfort of aircon. One night we had a bowling tournament with some friends from Canada...British Columbia vs. Alaska...sadly Erin's bowling score of 23 doesn't really help the team out!
Gorgeous Laos silk
We flew to Hanoi and immediately noticed a change from the relaxed pace of Laos. Hanoi is a crazy city filled with motorbikes, constant honking, eateries on the pavement, fancy shops, markets, and the world's cheapest beer! We have enjoyed exploring its crammed walkways and have learned that to cross the street you just need to defy your instincts and walk forward into traffic slowly...so far so good!
Typical Hanoi street
Cornered for a photo op, and pineapple purchase
While in Hanoi we went to a water puppet show, checked out a thousand year old Chinese temple, and eaten at a restaurant that trains and employs street kids. It's been fun.
We did a three day tour to picturesque Ha Long Bay. It was chilly and damp but still incredibly beautiful. While there we went kayaking through sea caves, walked through a 300 million year old cave, hiked to a stunning lookout over what could be Jurassic Park, and ate lots of fresh shrimp, squid, and fish.
The start of our voyage
Cat Ba National Park aka Jurassic Park
We left the coast and headed high into the mountains to Sapa. The area has lots of minority hill-tribe villages to hike to and gorgeous rice paddies everywhere. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there, and it's nice to have aching legs for a change (though the tough women there make the treks daily)!
View from our hotel, Sapa
Cat Cat village
Red Dzao women in traditional dress
Matt and Xao, our unofficial Hmong tour guide
Rice paddies, Lao Chai village
We're back in Hanoi and tomorrow we are going to head south to explore the rest of Vietnam. We hope all is well at home and can't believe our trip will be coming to an end in about a month!