Today was to be our last day in Laos with a 2:40pm scheduled flight to Hanoi, and I’ll definitely miss this place. The people have been so welcoming even late at night and I’ve felt just as safe as I would have back home in Portsmouth ….probably safer actually.
We weren’t due to leave the hotel until 12:30 so I joined a few of the group in walking the few yards along the road to the National Museum. Having heard snippets of Laos’ history from Sam and other guides and local people, the museum proved fascinating in putting all the pieces together. I was particularly interested in the battle for freedom from the French which was mainly told with photos and text spread throughout the museum. The French colonised Laos and much of Eastern Asia including Cambodia and Vietnam with the latter gaining its freedom in 1945 while Cambodia and Laos followed in the mid-fifties. The most significant thing about these countries gaining their freedom from the French and indeed the latter battle against the Americans was the pride and passion of the people as it was most definitely people power that won out in all cases not just the military. It’s a national pride that is sadly missing from our own country at times and often gets hijacked by racist political parties. Getting back to the museum, I was quite surprised at how much Laos were involved in the Vietnam war with acts of indiscriminate discarding of bombs by the Americans standing out. I just wish western nations would stop feeling they have a divine right to rule the world, and I include Britain in that. It is a complete embarrassment sometimes.
After wandering around the museum, having read every news article and photo caption, we all headed across the road to get some ice cream. With the heat still up in the thirties, it was probably the best ice cream I’ve tasted in a while.
Around an hour later, I was back at the hotel getting ready to leave, all packed for my last journey of this whole trip and to my final hotel destination. I was kind of looking forward to getting back in some ways. Two weeks us a long time for me to be away and, sad as it may seem, I was missing my cats. It was strange though to think that I would leave the group in a couple of days time while they carried on for two weeks more. Most of the group were doing the full Indochina tour which took in Cambodia and ended up back in Bangkok.
The trip to the airport was only twenty minutes and with the airport virtually empty, it didn’t take long to get through security. I kind of love airports weirdly enough, while actually finding the actual flying a bit tedious. I guess I find it amusing and maybe a bit egocentric watching less travelled people faffing about while I nonchalantly stroll through the whole process, always being the last one on the plane as I don’t see the point in joining a long queue to board. Anyway, I digress, the flight only took an hour so it wasn’t long before we were back on the ground again in another new country.
The journey from the airport to our hotel was pretty surreal. Having come from genteal Laos, this city was a massive culture shock with cars and scooters everywhere and seemingly no rules of the road except ‘every man for himself’. In fact, I pretty much vowed that I wouldn’t be leaving the hotel. Having been warned of the dangers of bike gangs and looking at the traffic it just seemed a futile exercise. However, that evening as we went out for our first meal in Hanoi, I realised that the ‘every man for himself’ rule actually worked. Basically, when you go to cross the road, you don’t stop to wait for the traffic to let you by as it won’t, you just keep on walking at a steady pace, dodging scooters as you walk. Over the two days I think I sussed it out and would have liked to have spent longer there.
For our first meal, we opted for a street hotpot which was a case of choosing some meat from a menu and it would be brought out to us raw with bamboo shoots and noodles. We would be given a pot with a kind of broth/soup in and would basically cook the food ourselves. It was probably the best meal I had in the whole trip. I absolutely loved it.After the meal, we went to a local bar for drinks where Sam knew the owner so we got free shots when we first arrived. I got two more free shots from this girl because she liked my hair …I guess the Vietnamese don’t see many blokes with died red hair 😊. Unfortunately, although it seemed as though everyone was having a great time, by 9:30pm I was on my own …..I don’t do early nights and I certainly won’t leave a bar early. I had a pretty cool night and got back to the hotel a bit the worse for wear at around 11:30pm.