Its taken us a little while to get going in Vietnam, there were a couple of terrible days of waiting and travelling in order to get over the border and then we spent a couple of nights on the central coast, in Danang. Since then we’ve flown down to Ho Chi Minh City to really start our travel from the south up.
It was never going to be a fun trip from Pakse in Laos to Hue in Vietnam, there are several warnings about buses being missold on this route and taking longer than expected. There was no warning in any guidebook we read that they would just cancel our bus at 6am after we’d gotten up, packed and checked out though. Apparently only 6 people had booked the bus for that day, it wasn’t profitable, and therefore it was just cancelled!
We trotted back and checked back into our room for another night in dull Pakse (we’d already spent a day doing nothing waiting for our Vietnam visas to start) having being told the bus would certainly run the next morning, another 6am wake up! I’d been feeling a little bit off for a couple of days but having eaten a bit of breakfast my stomach suddenly felt terrible, a mixture of cramps, holding back from being sick and sweats/shivers followed for the rest of the day. Perhaps the missed bus was a blessing in disguise.
We went to bed not knowing whether I’d be well enough to even get up the next day as I’d barely moved for the past 12 hours. I’d discovered through trial and error that even a handful of nuts or a few swigs too much water could make my stomach feel ten times worse, so I laid off the food and tried my hardest to get some sleep.
Having gotten up for the bus the next day we waited a short time before being told the bus was running (I’d have much preferred another days rest, but the tickets were non-refundable). The ‘VIP’ bus we were loaded onto, and paid extra for, didn’t possess any aircon and was filthy. We were the only foreigners on the bus, most were Vietnamese and no one could speak any English so we were pretty alone for the entire trip. The trip was typical for Laos bus travel, the driver didn’t lay off the horn for more than 10 seconds, we kept stopping to load rice and boxes and the lack of air con meant windows were kept open meaning dust constantly sweeping through.
It was a battle with my stomach the entire way, but a mixture of paracetamol, rehydration sachets, other pills and no food held that off but completing a bumpy 12 hour trip whilst feeling so rough certainly isn’t advised to anyone. Especially when there isn’t even a stop at a proper squat toilet on the way, let alone a sit-down western toilet!
We stayed a night in Hue, a very historic city, but didn’t get to see any of it this time as we moved straight on to Danang where we had a flight booked out of. This would give us a couple of days in Danang and would leave Hue to explore when we pass back through on the way north in a couple of weeks.
Danang may ring a bell with some of you became of its role in the Vietnam War (or the American War as it referred to here), it was where the first Americans came onshore and many important battles were fought around here. We passed many lines of gravestones by the road proving this. We spent our time here viewing some of the museams and just outside the city around China Beach.
Taking an internal flight was the compromise with missing out Cambodia; as Vietnam is so long and thin with its two biggest cities in the far north and far south, its best to start at one and head to the other. Danang is about halfway between the two so we’d be doing a lot of backtracking in order to complete it overland.
This is just the start of about 4 weeks we’ll spend in Vietnam. After passing through Singapore Malaysia, Thailand and Laos quite quickly it will be nice to spend some time just in one country. This will give us a chance to really feel like we know somewhere, learn a bit more of the language than ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, and also have the chance to stay somewhere a little while longer if we really like it. Because of the rain last time I was here, I barely saw anything outside of Hanoi, so most of it will be new to me too.
Already we’ve found time passing very quickly here and we’ve filled up our plans for our entire visas. How some people come through Vietnam for just a couple of weeks is beyond me. Although much of the architecture was destroyed during the wars there is still so much to see here: ancient ruins, world-class beaches, fascinatingly busy cities, interesting food and landscapes that at times are just breathtaking. I’m very pleased to be back…