To spend the last day in Laos was harder than I thought when I left home. Luang Prabang, the magical city of Mekong has shown us another side of Asia, with warm people, profound spirituality, unaltered traditions, pure nature and a lot of silence. The night before we have been informed that the plane that was taking us to Hanoi had offset flight time for the afternoon, so we won a few more hours. We made a quick plan with the targets we have not seen, or we were not enjoying their beauty enough. The plane that was supposed to take us to Hanoi was flying in the afternoon, so we left the luggage at the reception and we went to see some temples by step.
The first temple we reached was the closest to where we were staying, Wat Pa Phai – The Bamboo Forest Monastery, built sometime around 1645. A relatively small but very beautiful temple with many Laotian traditional ornaments.
Several young enough monks stood guarding the temple facade guarded by two dogs, which in the meantime warmed by the heat, were making an effort to keep their eyes open.
With one eye at the silver jewelry stores and the other on the terraces that attracted me with freshly squeezed mango juices, I reached the Luang Prabang National Museum, a stately building that houses a very beautiful temple and a garden with flowers and dreamlike trees.
We left there at noon, when they restricted tourists’ access to the inside, probably for a few hours break, and went to the Wat Mai temple. We were already melted by the heat, when the lady selling tickets called for us to cool down next to the courtyard fan.
We went into the temple, took some fast pictures, because I had a plan that was not identical to my husband’s: I wanted to climb Mount Phousi, a hill famous for its spectacular sunsets and panoramic views you have over the city. For that you have to climb 355 steps.
Even from home I had clear instructions that if I wanted to climb Mount Phousi, I would do it alone, he will not climb. I did not believe him. We have had another try a few days ago, but after ten steps failed dramatically, and that’s not because of me 🙂 Now, being the last day in Laos, I said I’m not leaving until I climb it. We both started, victorious, me because I convinced him anf he looking already after his first stop, which he found after 30 stairs climbed very hard and where he was left waiting for me. Yes, I climbed alone and the view was spectacular 🙂
I recovered my husband who had rested enough on a bench, although he had alternatives, like this local 🙂
On the way back I saw that at the bottom of the stairs there were ladies selling small birds in cages, which you could release when you got up. I did not like the idea very much, especially since the birds were sitting in a very small space until someone bought them.
This is how the last day in Luang Prabang ended. We were preparing for a new adventure in Vietnam. Again flying with a propeller, this time I saw the pilot and co-pilot who did not seem to be more than 20 years old. They are happy, helped by their age, and I’ve always hoped that their experience is bigger than my fears of airplanes and turbulence that were a lot 🙂
We landed in Hanoi almost at night, happy that I had a visa from the country and that we avoided staying in a big queue, we bought a SIM card, met with the driver who assured us the transportation to the hotel and in a few minutes we were in the city’s turmoil.
It was the first time in my life when I saw so many scooters. Everyone was leading one and doing it very well. There were hundreds of scooters, as you could see, the intersections were full, there were horns everywhere, it was exactly where I wanted to go, after the silence days of Laos. Excited by the apparently chaotic pulse of the city, we arrived at the hotel where we made the reservation and we sat relaxed in front of the reception desk, waiting for the opening key of the Vietnamese doors 🙂
When, what to see? There was a little misunderstanding between the Booking and the hotel and… they no longer had free rooms. They were, however, extremely kind and immediately booked us a room at a neighboring hotel that had the same standards, and they also drove us to the room. We did not get mad, it was very good at the new location, and anyway, we only stayed there for a night. A few minutes later we went down to eat something and that was the moment when we realized that the Vietnamese people were very welcoming and friendly. The lady at the reception immediately approached us, without asking her anything, and gave us a map of the city that she ticked some points of interest for us. I explained that we were going to spend only one night in Hanoi and that we wanted to see something in the city … what was available at 8 o’clock in the evening. In addition, we wanted to eat something specific to Vietnam. Do not think about dogs or rats, I did not even think about it 🙂 He gave us some directions and the hard part has now begun, to get to eat the best soup in Hanoi, we had to pass the test crossing the streets in Vietnam and walking down the sidewalk without hitting the people who ate quietly at improvised tables 🙂
For us, who were regular to waiting for the green color of the traffic light and then crossing the other side, it turned out to be a little embarrassed. There were scooters on the sidewalk, and drivers did not stop at pedestrian crossings. Then I remembered I was reading somewhere on the internet that if you wanted to cross a street anywhere in Vietnam, you had to slip through the scooters and not stop until you get on the other side, no matter how hard you would seem to do that. We applied the method and saw it work. It was all more than fun so as soon as we saw a street with only a few dozen scooters, which means it was more free, we were engaged in crossing even if we had no work on the other side 🙂
The Vietnamese soup, whose name I completely missed, deserved our slalom among the Hanoi drivers, all the more so since it was not very spicy.
It was already late and we’re just about to discover the city. As we strolled through the sidewalks among the scooters, small chairs and meals, I realized that for the locals the evening was just beginning.
Several amateur dancers were deploying their talents in a park, and a few meters away, a band of very entertaining artists set up a street show that kept us in the area in about 20 minutes.
We were surprised to see a very imposing Catholic cathedral in Hanoi, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, built in 1886 that has an architectural style similar to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. When we reached Hoan Kiem Lake, we knew we were going to spend the night there: light games and lasers fascinating in the shimmering water, trees that “stood falling” in the lake, thousands of flowers dancing gracefully in the wind breeze, all of which were accompanied by discrete Vietnamese music accords.
In the middle of the night the park around the lake was full of relaxed people, who had rented their mats, ate fruit bought from street vendors and admired the colors superbly reflected in the quiet water.
It was very hot, so we bought a cold beer and integrated ourselves into the local atmosphere for 2-3 hours, and shortly after midnight the people began to go home, leaving the chairs for the next day.
We ended the evening ready for the next day’s unforgettable experience that I’ve been to since the movie Avatar: Ha Long Bay. But about that, next time. Until then, goodbye!