If you follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram, then you know we left Hanoi Saturday night and spent the past days in Hoi An, a relaxed city on the central coast known for its food and romantic old town.
It was a pleasant couple days, but now we’re back on the road. It’s probably the fastest we’ve jumped from city to city, but after two weeks of lots of different types of experiences — more Hanoi posts are coming — we felt really fulfilled and ready to leave Vietnam. We skipped crowded beach locales like Mui Ne and Nha Trang, and the idea of going through hectic Ho Chi Minh City just to get to the south sounded miserable. No, our time in the north has been really special and we feel satisfied.
Plus, we couldn’t wait to get to…Laos!
Which means we nixed Cambodia from the itinerary. After much thought, we realized that Angkor Wat just isn’t our thing. After a while, a temple is a temple is a temple, ya know? I’m sure some people would get a kick out an ancient temple complex — and I’m sure it’s a tremendous sight to see — but Eaman and I aren’t museum people either. I think those two dislikes have the same roots.
And yes, there are other things to see in Cambodia, but what we’re realizing is that a lot of SE Asia’s landscapes are similar — lush green mountains, gilded temples, gentle rivers, rice paddies. Laos will give us those same things with fewer people. And despite a tourism boost in the last few years, Laos has apparently still maintained its reputation as the epitome of peace, quiet and beauty in Asia. We’re starting in the south and ending in the north, hoping to get a good study on the country, region by region.
But plucking out Cambodia gave us a bit of a gap, so much like when Eaman figured out that a stop in Panama worked out cheaper than flying directly from Colombia to Hawaii, he played around with flights and realized that we could fly to India quite cheaply from Malaysia.
We had wanted to add either Malaysia or the Philippines to our list after hearing such good things from other travelers, so we’re stoked we made it work. (My parents also lived there back in the day and it’s where my brother was born!) We won’t be there until the late August/early September, but I’m already fantasizing about the Perhentian Islands. A Malaysian couple on our Halong Bay trip showed us their own pictures of this beach, and ya, it actually looks like that.
As for now, we just arrived in Hue, Vietnam, where we have to overnight it before taking a 14-hour bus to Pakse, in southern Laos. After a 15-hour train ride in a crappy cabin from Hanoi to Hoi An and a suffocating four-hour ride to Hue, I’m realizing overland travel in Asia is…an adventure. Like when the Vietnamese grandpa in front of me had his seat reclined so far back that I had to hug my knees or when the guy in front of Eaman sat in a chair that squeaks everytime we hit a bump (which is a lot) or when the AC alternates between cool and grossly warm. (Definitely less luxurious than the coach sleeper buses of South America.)
But that’s part of the experience, no? And it builds character, right? That’s what I tell myself.