In between worlds – from Laos to Vietnam

Leaving Laos… Last place we visited here: Vientiane, the capital city. Fleeing images still live in me. Seeing Thailand over the Mekong river, a few meters away from the city center and the presidential palace, an almost rural area, with fishermen laying down their traps. Enjoying a jazz concert at the Lao National Culture Hall: a communist building with a south-east Asian twist, welcoming an European jazz band – reminded me just how much I love music and live performances. A passing thought, looking out the window of the bus: having palm trees in your backyard, that’s a nice idea! And, finally, waiting for our flight to Hanoi, looking at the world – as seen from Laos.

The next day we found ourselves exploring Hanoi, an exuberant city, where crossing the street means diving into a river of motorbikes, scooters and cars that won’t stop, not even if you’re on a crosswalk. Where the colors, the noise and the people seem to invade you from all sides, bringing you delight and anxiety, absolutely charming you and making you want to cover your ears, all in the same time.

We saw their Temple of Literature, still honoring the memory of Confucius (and where, apparently, graduate students love to come and take their picture), the Museum of Ethnology – and found out about the 54 ethnic groups living in Vietnam, we listened to a mini-concert of traditional music and tried some of the local dishes, all in the company of a nice young Vietnamese girl, volunteer with the Hanoi Free Tour Guides.

And we also booked our places for a cruise to Halong Bay, one of the most visited and praised places in Vietnam. But about this, I’ll tell you in my next post!

A walk through the jungle

Two days of trekking, visiting and spending the night in a hill tribe village, admiring and/ or swimming in a waterfall, with or without the elephants, and, finally, kayaking all the way back home. A full and wonderful experience, spent in the company of a great group of people, some of which accompanied us for the rest of our Laos trip.

Some parts of this experience are not present in the photos below (especially the kayaking, due to obvious incompatibility between my camera and the large amounts of water surrounding us). But they are still present in my mind, memories of the green rice fields and little wooden sheds, local people going up and down the river in their motor-less boats and the immense silence of the mountains raising up, on one side and the other of the river that was carrying us forward.

Stepping into Laos

Well, it was rather “sailing” into Laos, as we entered Laos by boat, across the Mekong river, and we continued with a 2-day boat trip down the Mekong, until Luang Prabang.

The pretty little town of Luang Prabang welcomed us with its temples, its people, its night market, its pretty girls riding on one side in the back of motorbikes, its day market where you can find everything (including live frogs), with a 6 a.m. Buddhist ceremony, and with long walks by the riverside.