Whirlwind ASEAN Day 3 & 4: Hanoi to Luang Prabang in 30 hours

Day 3 (Sep 27)
I checked out from Cat Ba Hostel at 830 AM and headed for the Hoang Long ticket office near the harbor for the 915 AM trip. Things went pretty smoothly on the way back to Hanoi and I was able to catch a few winks. I had to look for a travel agency to book my Luang Prabang bus. After which, I decided to eat my last full meal for the next 30 hours before walking around Hanoi while waiting for the bus.

Ma May street

Ma May street

Long Bien bridge

Long Bien bridge

Thap Rua in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake

Thap Rua in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake

I was picked up by a motorcycle at the Sinh Cafe branch where I booked the ticket (49.5 USD) at 5 PM. Then came a crazy ride through town with plenty of close calls with pedestrians, motorcycles, cars and even trucks! I have to give it to these Vietnamese motorists, they are very confident in their driving skills. Finally, I arrived in one piece at the Nuoc Ngam bus terminal where the busses to Laos depart. The following is the timeline of the 30 hour trip through mountain roads with gorgeous scenery:

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Nuoc Ngam Bus station

Home for the next 30 hours

Home for the next 30 hours

630 PM: departure from bus station. 30 minutes late already. The sleeper bus is occupied mostly by cargo, only 5 passengers on board at this point. I get to keep 2 beds all to myself! I’m concerned that I’m the only foreigner on board though.

8PM: dinner bus stop, toilet break. On the way to the bus stop, the bus picks up more passengers. Still, I’m glad I still have the 2 beds all to myself. Still the only English – speaking person on the bus.

830 PM: on the road again. The bus stops from time to time all through the night but there are no major stops over the next few hours.

850 AM: woke up on the Vietnam – Laos Border. We had to walk to the immigration office for both countries and waited for the bus to pass through inspection before getting back on. I’m basically copying what the other people are doing at immigration. Even the immigration officers here don’t talk in english. I exchanged some USD for LAK while waiting. I noticed the sign on the door of the bus: Hanoi – Luang Prabang (850k VND). 10 USD difference from booking through a travel agency.

950 AM: onward to Luang Prabang!

130 PM: lunch at Phonsavan (site of plains of jars). Bought a Laos sim card (Unitel). Cheaper than the Vinaphone sim but with less credit so I couldn’t get any Internet packages I wanted. I checked in with the loved ones using the remaining credit on the sim card for 3G.

215 PM: last leg of the trip? Hopefully. I can’t talk to anyone here, and the limited water supply is drying my mouth fast.

1030 PM: finally! Luang Prabang! I hire the nearest tuk-tuk to bring me to Lemon Lao Backpackers (formerly Spicy Lao) and after a quick check in I immediately head for the showers.

Luckily, apart from the loooong time on the bus, the trip wasn’t horrible. I had a nice book to read and some movies on my tablet to entertain me. What I’m thankful for is the lack of passengers on the trip, meaning lots of space to stretch out. It was definitely a memorable experience. The scenery was incredible! Green mountainside all the way makes for a very relaxing view. Would I do it again? Maybe. If the bus wasn’t filed to over capacity and I have a companion, that would be ideal. I enjoy alone time but over 24 hours without talking to anyone is a bit much 🙂

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