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Published: September 27th 2008
Sunset over the river
View from the converted B52 bomber fuel-tank
I travel North again from Bangkok, and headto Chiang Kong, take a long-tail boat boat across the Mekong and I'm in Laos! I spend one night on Houay Sai, a sleepy little village on the banks of the Mekong, and sample my first Beer Lao. It's not bad. It's noticably more humid in Laos than Thailand.
I board a riverboat for a two day cruise down the Mekong, the scenery is tropical jungle and the river is muddy - just as you'd imagine it to be. We stop at Pac Beng the first night - another sleepy fishing village - before heading to Luang Prabang the second night. I do very little in Luang Prabang, other than explore the town and get a bug caught in my eye.
I fly on to Vientiane, the capital, and stay for only a few days, checking out some temples, some restaurants and a hotel swimming pool. It's a hard life at times...
From here I go to a local homestay near the Vietnamese border. This area was part of the famous 'Ho Chi Minh Trail', the route the Vietnamese soldiers used to travel down through Laos and Cambodia to attack the
American army, in and around Saigon. Because of this, the US bombed the area so heavily that more bombs were dropped on Laos during the 9 year war, than were dropped in total in World War 2!
Further to this, the US B52 bombers also dropped their empty fuel tanks, which the enteprising locals turned into boats, by cutting the tops off and sticking an engine on the back.
I took a sunset trip on one such boat - the view from the river of the sun setting behind the jungle was stunning.
The next day I cross the border into Vietnam, and after a long day on a bus, spend a night in a no-dad town called Nimh Binh. The next morning I head to Halong Bay and board a boat to sail out to the Karst cliffs that jut out of the sea. We snorkel and kayak, and throw ourselves off the rook of the boat, avoiding the huge jellyfish, and drink beer while watching a magnificent sunset.
I spend the next three days in Hanoi, of which I have nothing good to say. Oh, I did go to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, but
The Big man himself
Probably not madefrom butter
I'm sure his 'embalmed' body is actually made of wax. Or butter, or something...
I travel on the 're-unification express' train to Hue (pronounced Hway). We take a motorbike tour of the local sites, including temples, French and American concrete bunkers and see the car of the monk that set himself alight in Saigon Square.
The next three days I spend sunning myself and eating good food in Hoi An, just South of Danang, before flying to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). The highlight of HCMC for me was the Cu CHi tunnels, the frighteningly small but deep holes the Viet Cong lived in during the American war. I'm not a big man, but I could only just squeeze myself down them, let alone live in them. I also got to shoot an AK-47 and an M-16. Well you've got to have a bit of fun...
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