|Well our time in Vietnam has come to an end: tomorrow morning we catch a very early taxi (5:30AM) to take us to the airport. By noon, we will be in Vientiane, the capital of Lao. It is a bittersweet feeling to be leaving Vietnam. It has been such an easy place to travel with some of the most memorable moments of our trip: kayaking in Ha Long Bay, trekking in Sa Pa, the beaches of Nha Trang and Phu Quoc, and so much more. We've even, after almost a week here on and off, managed to get used to the traffic and chaos of Hanoi (although it does test the limits of Laura's patience at times).
Our last few days here have been interspersed with errands, banking, and getting organized for our trip to Lao. It has been so easy here in Vietnam that we needed some extras to address sporadic electricity, internet access, and access to banking info while in Lao. Everyone says we'll love it there. Regardless, there is the nervousness of arriving in a new country without knowing -- yet -- how everything works. We'll figure it out though, no worries.
So as we say goodbye to Vietnam, we thought we'd start sharing some of the statistics of our journey for those of you who might be interested (or contemplating a trip here yourselves):
Average cost per day in Vietnam (total combined cost for both of us): $54.00 CDN
Least expensive day in Vietnam: $25.00 CDN while exploring Hanoi but also included a bottle of wine
Most expensive day in Vietnam: $137.00 CDN which included our flight to Phu Quoc island and our most expensive hotel of the trip ... but was a private bungalow on the beach with air conditioning and cable TV for $20.00
Our two favourite places:
Laura: Watching the incredible surf in Nha Trang and sitting silently by the river in Sa Pa
Matt: Kayaking through the cramped cave into an inland lake in Ha Long Bay and each of the varied restaurants where I've tasted something new and usually very good
Miscellaneous travel advice in no particular order:
1 -If you're the least bit finicky about meat, bring peanut butter (Laura)
2 -Bring travellers cheques from home to avoid the ridiculous bank fees needed when withdrawing US funds from your VISA card (or buying travellers cheques abroad for that matter) (Matt)
3 -Have someone at home teach you a few key words in Vietnamese before you get here (Laura)
4 -Don't be scared of dirty, grungy, dusty, or greasy looking food stalls on the street. The fact that you can see the food cooked in front of you guarantees a level of sanitation you just won't get in a restaurant ... and its more fun anyway. (Matt)
5 -Bring a warm sweater if you're going into the mountains (Laura)
6 -The best way to avoid getting stressed by the traffic? Just relax, breathe deep, and understand that there is order in the chaos and don't allow yourself to be frustrated by it. Not easy ... but there's no point letting it get to you either (Matt)
7 -Once you've committed to crossing the street, for goodness sake don't stop! (Laura)
8 -Keep trying the gelato until you get a good one. Some of it is excellent. (Laura)
9 -Forget the baguette and jam that they serve you for free at your guesthouse. Its flavourless and boring. Get up early and get to a good pho (noodle soup) stall where the locals have breakfast. It tastes WAY better. (Matt)
10 -Or sleep in and put peanut butter on the baguette (see number 1). (Laura)
Some final words before we sign off for Vietnam ... we don't know about internet access in Lao so our updates to this blog may not be as regular as they have been. Most likely we will continue adding an entry pretty regularly but will not be able to include photos due to the slow speed of the internet there. We'll see!