Arriving at Vientiane Bus Station was much akin to what I imagine a wild west market would be like. Shifty characters carted goods and animals onto already heavily laden coaches while others stooped low and mumbled to one another. Once we found the 5.30pm overnight bus we werent even given the option of putting our luggage in the hold of the vehicle like you normally would as this was already full of boxes of whiskey, vegetables and God knows what else! It became clear that carrying passengers across the border was a mere afterthought compared to the seemingly lucrative haulage trade.
If our bus was half as good as this one things would have been sweet!
We made ourselves as comfortable as possible and settled in for the journey ahead. No sooner had we been on the road for 5 minutes that we made a stop in a dodgy looking waste ground to pick up more contraband and what could only be described as a pinata!
Some guy making use of the various boxes on the bus
The Pinata in question!
We slept until we reached the border at around 5am and were rudely awoken by an invasion of Lao women getting on the bus to offer us crap exchange rates for our currency. Johnny thought we were under attack! Once across the border it was plain sailing thankfully to our first destination in Vietnam, Da Nang.
The first thing we did after finding our hotel and getting showered was to go and find a proper Vietnamese Restaurant. Although we had been spoiled in Thailand with flavorsome food it was the Vietnamese cuisine that we were all looking forward to! Simialr in many ways to Thai food but with a lot more too it with Japanese, Chinese and French influences. The first meal was outstanding and set the bar very high for meals to come!
Johnny and Lowy decided to go straight to Hoi An the next morning but we decided to stay an extra day to explore the city. We hired 2 motorcycle tour guides from Da Nang Easyriders for the day and it turned out to be one of the best days yet! The first thing they did was take us to meet local fishermen and also acted as translators.
"look at my squid"
From there we visited 'Monkey Mountain' to see the huge Buddha statue and various temple that were perched on a hillside overlooking the bay and the city.
It was great cruising around on the back of the bikes and being taken to see things that we wouldn't have found ourselves.
In the afternoon they took us to Marble Mountain to the south of the city where more temples and shrines have been carved out of the jagged cliffs hundreds of years ago. It was one of the best temples we have visited on the whole trip and had a certain eeriness to it.
Our first impressions of Vietnam were certainly very high! A brilliant day.