Saturday, March 6, 2010

Next stop, Vietnam

We are currently hanging out in the central Laos town of Savannakhet. We took a local bus from Vientiane, and it was a fairly uneventful and comfortable ride, although I did rip my shorts on a motorcycle that was in the aisle of the bus. Unfortunately, the shorts are pretty much beyond repair, as they'd already been stitched up twice before by Jaimee, but this time the rips are quite large:

If ripped clothes are the worst of our worries, we're in good shape. After feeling a little under the weather in Vientiane, we both recovered nicely and are having a nice time in Savannakhet. We've used this stop to determine our next few weeks of travel. Back in Luang Prabang, we thought we'd keep heading south in Laos, crossing through Cambodia and then into Vietnam. However, and this will come as no surprise to frequent readers, but we've changed our mind yet again. Being that Savannakhet is on a main highway between Thailand and Vietnam, it has a Vietnamese consulate. We stopped in there yesterday and got 15-day visas for Vietnam. We thought we couldn't get them until Phnom Penh in Cambodia, but they were able to issue them to us on the spot. So, now that we have our visas, and there's a major road from here to Vietnam, we've decided to go to Vietnam sooner.

Our plan now is to head East toward the Vietnam border, stopping for a night or two to see some remnants of Operation Lam Son 719, part of a US ordered, but South Vietnamese Army led attack on the North Vietnamese Army along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I'm not sure what there is to see exactly, but we plan on staying a night or two in Xepon (also spelled Sepon sometimes) and see if we can find someone who can show us around the old Ho Chi Minh Trail. Here is a map of the area:

View World Trip in a larger map

The only problem with this plan is we'll enter Vietnam in the middle of the country. We're not sure exactly what our itinerary will be, but we only have 15 days on our visa (getting a longer visa would have taken more time to process) and we would like to visit both the North and South of the country. Also, another big update is that we bought our tickets to India today. We are flying out of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Chennai, India (via Singapore) on March 23. We found relatively cheap flights on Tiger Airways and decided to go ahead and book the tickets.

Anyway, Savannakhet is a charming, albeit very poor town. There are some remnants of French colonialism here, including a beautiful Catholic Church built in 1930 in the main square.

The town is also along the river dividing Laos from Thailand and one night we had a sunset dinner along the river. We ate at this place where they server you claypot pull of broth and you heat it up over your own coal fire. Then you add whatever vegetables, meat or seafood you want into the broth. It reminded us of our meal in Melaka at Capitol Satay.

We also got a massage, and in all honesty have enjoyed watching movies on HBO at night (yes, our hotel, at only $8 US) includes air-conditioning and HBO. Unfortunately, the only other English channel is CNBC ("First in Business Worldwide!") and despite being an Econ major, I can only take for so long (Jaimee's tolerance is even less). But, HBO has been nice.

Here's the photo album link. We'll add more pictures as we work our way into Vietnam:
Laos to Vietnam

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