Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
Trip End Jun 21, 2008

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Saturday, November 10, 2007

Having decided on getting to Vientiane by Kayak instead of just taking the local bus we got up early to join our tour and take a truck for about an hour to the place where we got into the river and started our journey downstream. We left our bags on the truck to continue there way by road whilst we made our way down to the capital on the water. Our group consisted of 5 kayaks, 2 people in each and that included two guides. We hit a few areas of white water which was awesome and there was one rapid which was pretty challenging but we managed not to capsize which we were pretty chuffed about, other people especially a German couple were less lucky and they managed to capsize on every rapid we went through, even the little ones which was amusing to say the least.

We stopped for lunch on some big rocks about half way into our journey and the guides cooked up an awesome lunch of BBQ-d chicken and veg kebabs as well as bringing rice, bananas and fresh crusty bread. There were loads of rocks to jump off  which both of us made use of this time although Flis didn't have the bottle to do the biggest jump (possibly more sensible!). We then continued down the river after lunch although we didn't go as far as we had hoped before we had to get back into the truck to do the final stretch into Vientiane.

We arrived late afternoon into Vientienne and found a place to stay at the P P guesthouse which wasn't particularly nice or cheap but the best we could find which wasn't going to cost us an absolute fortune. We soon realized everything was going to be a lot more expensive here in Vientienne and that because of the French influence there seemed to be a much more European feel about the city which was a little strange.

We had dinner by the Mekong river that evening where there were hundreds of little stalls set up with plastic tables and chairs serving all the usual Lao/Thai fayre and after struggling again to find a bank which took visa cards and having to resort to Flis using her credit card it was nice to sit down and relax. The following day we were hoping to get to the Vietnamese Embassy as we needed to change the dates on our Visa for entry to Vietnam (we had messed these up back in England, whoops) but realized it was Sunday so spent the day sightseeing instead around the Capital. We hired push bikes in the morning and cycled for the best part of the day  stopping at the National Monument, The Big Arch, Wat Sisaket ( the only temple not be ruined in the conflict which Laos endured at great length). We also saw the Kings Temple and the Presidential Palace. Our plan was then to be up very early the next morning (Monday) to be at the gates of the Vietnamese Embassy for opening at 7.30am.

We managed the next morning to get our visas sorted at the Embassy and only had to pay $10 each for them to change the date of entry for us. A small price to pay when we had been told we would probably have to get a whole new visa. We then booked our bus ticket from Vientienne to Hanoi, Vietnam for that same evening; a 26 hour bus journey and one which we had heard was for most people somewhat of an ordeal for one reason or another. We spent the afternoon of our last day in Vientienne at the Revolutionary Museum which was pretty interesting and gave us a good idea of what had happened throughout Laos in previous years.

So...we finally get onto the bus heading to Hanoi at around 6pm and what we had heard was an ordeal for most other people soon became an ordeal for us as well. We hadn't even left the bus depot when we turned a corner in the bus and Flis suddenly found herself lying on her side on the floor. A very strange concept and something which  made her think the bus had toppled over but in fact it was just her seat that had done that. It was then that we realized neither of our seats were screwed into the floor. The one saving grace of the journey was that we had a double seat each so we could stretch out a little but the 26 hours was something I don't think either of us would rush to do again!

After minimal sleep through the night we arrived at the border to cross from Laos to Vietnam and this managed to take 3 hours. by this point I think both of us were really feeling the strain especially as we had to run the 200m back and forth between the Laos exit check point and the Vietnamese entry check point as there was question over whether our visas were acceptable as they had been altered. Finally we got through the border after a lot of explaining and waving of hands and pointing at our passports and visas and then we just had to wait for the bus to get through which took over an hour n a half to be checked. This included ripping out the floor boards of the whole bus which explained why the seats weren't bolted down as no doubt this happened each time it crossed the border. Finally we were on our way again and heading towards Hanoi.

We stopped at lunch time at a roadside cafe sort of thing which was filthy and smelt of things which shouldn't even be imagined. Anyway having not had any breakfast we were both starving and risked getting some vegetable noodle soup, a safe bet we thought....(see Hanoi entry later). We then carried on our way to Hanoi and finally arrived at the bus depot outside the city centre at around 7pm.
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