Woke up with a headache stemming from an earlier Long Island Iced Tea which seemed to contain whiskey, and that never agrees with me, so decided on an alcohol free day.
Our flight to Hanoi was delayed for 12h so enjoyed a lazy morning in various coffee shops and riverfront cafes before heading to the airport. Vientiane is regarded as one of the most relaxed capitals in the world and despite some underwhelming first impressions of a dusty, rundown place it was perfect for an easy day. Everyone is friendly and there’s only one pushy salesperson, but she did appear all over town, trying to sell fishing nets to tourists for some reason.
When we came across the fish market the girls were a bit shocked to learn that the prawns in their wontons used to be alive. Shrimp and frogs and squid and jellyfish stored in washing up bowls all tried to avoid the attention of chefs. Those unlucky enough to get picked out were dispatched immediately with the back of a cleaver.
Considered going to the National Museum but the guidebook showed that the highlight was a display of the beloved leader’s collection of spoons. Both of them.
Off to the airport and with minimal security checks and a 45m flight later we were standing in Hanoi, Vietnam. After Vientaine it felt very hectic. In the main towns over 60% of people own scooters or motorbikes and 0% of them stop for traffic lights or road crossings. After dropping off our bags we tried to walk the 3 blocks to a noodle bar. That meant crossing two main roads. Standard pedestrian technique appears to be step into the middle of the rushing traffic and walk at a constant speed whilst they effortlessly swerve around you. Seemed to work but not a comfortable experience.
Also noticeable was how people used tiny motorbikes as both vans and people carriers. Two adults and a child was quite normal. The record we saw was 4 adults on the back of a moped. We also saw bikes transporting all sorts of goods, from chickens to wardrobes, wooden doors, paintings, goldfish in plastic bags and a barrel of puppies.
At the airport we’d each changed $200 which netted us 3,400,000 Vietnamese Dong each. This may have been excessive as a 2 course dinner for 5 came to 200,000 dong, or £8.
On the way back to the hotel I managed to fall sprawling into the ditch by the side of the street. Only alcohol free day so far and still ended up in the gutter.