pig in a sack

Our bungalow kids in Don Det, LáoAfter two days in transit we are finally in Vietnam and without the border crossing rip-offs that we’d heard so much about. We spent our final day in Don Det in the four thousand islands doing the best thing possible, very little. You wake up, stumble out onto the balcony in the morning and sit reading in the hammock whilst contemplating breakfast. Eventually you put on a t-shirt and wander up to a riverside restaurant for some pancakes and coffee before a morning stroll and then it’s back to the hammock to lie, sway and read. Mid afternoon the kids of your bungalow owner pop their heads round to say hello and have a play with your digital camera (which they are surprisingly adept with, the two attached are ones that they took) and spend the next half hour photogrpahing other travellers walking by! And if you are really lucky the farang with the bakery will stop by your bungalows mid afternoon with buns and carrot cake for sale. Actually we did manage to go and hire ourselves a boat to motor out into the islands and watch the sunset on our last day. Don Det, LáoWe rode out past the inhabited islands, the wooden bunglalows framed with palm trees and continued weaving between sandbanks and green bushy islets until we reached a wide area of the Mekong with the hills of Cambodia in the distance. Just us and the fishermen and the sun reflected in the still waters as the day came to an end. I tell you, this travelling life is incredibly hard work.

Our next two days were slightly less relaxing. To get from Si Phan Don to Savannakhet took one boat, one minivan and one incredibly slow local bus that stopped for everything; piling on cargo, bags of rice, quick stop for the driver and his friend to have a beer, you name it, we stopped. Plus, and I never thought anything would surpass having to watch the ‘Perfect Storm’ three times on buses in Mexico, we were subjected to Thai Karoke videos for about six hours. For those of you that have never had the delight it is the worst ear-bleeding music you have ever heard accompanied by the kind of videos that make your brain cells voluntarily start committing suicide out of your nostrils. So it was 9pm, with a heavily impaired IQ and sense of sound, that we arrived, found a guest house and then discovered all the restaurants were closed. We managed to find somewhere for some noodles and a Pepsi before collapsing into bed. Then 5.30am we were up again and back to the bus station to get the local buFisherman, Láos to the border. Now I like to think of myself as a veteran of the Asian local bus, I’ve been on the good, the bad and the ugly and I’ve seen livestock on plenty of buses, but seeing pigs wrapped up in sacks with just their snouts sticking out and put squealing in the luggage hold under the bus, is a new one! Still, we got to the border and after convincing the Vietnam official that I was the person in the passport (the new haircut doesn’t help) we were in Vietnam. We managed to get a minivan straight to Hue at a pretty reasonable price and found a guest house before realising that nobody had tried to rip us of or exhort money out of us along the way. Ah well, there’s still time!

Hue is a chilled out but bustling (if the two things are possible) city on the river opposite a huge citadel we are visiting tomorrow. We checked in and headed straight to tourist central, the DMZ bar, and sat in the restaurant above it drinking beer and eating burgers and pizza, okay so not very local but hey, we’ve been on a bus for two days. Definitely time for a little guilty backpacking RnR!

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