We departed for Muang Khua at 11am on the five hour slow boat to Muang Khua, it was blissfully uncrowded ? We boat our tickets at the boat office (always the best way to avoid high prices and scams!), cost us 150,000. We got comfy seats and got chatting to an American couple who were on a trip for their 30th anniversary who gave us wanderlust for South America, Bolivia in particular ? We came across stunning scenery, water buffalo, fishermen and a real look into Laos rural life. We stopped off to collect some parcels and met some charming laos kids wanting to practice their English ? The rain came and it grew cold, so we cuddled up and got our blanket (always bring a blanket travelling). We were starving by the time we reached Muang Khua (do bring snacks for the long boat ride).
Nothing much to say about Muang Khua, just a stopover really to get to Vietnam. We woke up early the next morning and hurried to get the 6am bus (no hurry needed as it didn’t leave till 7.30!) There was nowhere open for coffee but we were treated to proper, authentic alms giving to the monks by the locals. This was so different from Luang Prabang ?. We crossed the border and the border official was like a salesman (the London couple warned us to be aware of this in Vietnam and to barter hard and avoid scams!) There was no stop so we were in desperate need of breakfast, I ran to a shop for a coffee at the border control and swallowed it like it was the elixir of life. We seen beautiful Vietnam scenery, very mountainous and very green with farms growing cabbage and potatoes. This made me very excited to try the Vietnamese cuisine ? We even seen a farmer bringing his cow for a walk on a rope lol.
We arrived in Den Bien Phu just after 11 and our bus was attacked by guest house owners wanting us to stay in their places ? Den Bien Phu is known for being an important city in the first Indochina war with the French and the marks are there. We seen the beautiful war monument on a hill with stunning views, after all our travel we needed to laze, so we rested up here for a couple of hours, watching the world go by. We went to Cafe Window which did lovely cocktails, the cafes here only sell drinks, no food or snacks. We then went to a cool restaurant called check in (best in Den Bien Phu), we had yummy pizza, mochas and muffins ? It’s a cheap city ?
The next morning we went to the bus station to catch the bus to Sapa, we were told it left at 12 but it actually left at 11.30 so we missed it but a guy phoned the driver to come back for us ? We met the American couple again, small world ? It was an 8 hour trip and the restaurant we stopped at was awful (so bring snacks), they did serve cold beer so that was a plus. We arrived in Sapa at 8 and bartered with a guy for a hotel room (we got it for 200,000 dong, woohoo), it was a lovely hotel with big comfy beds and served food too. We explored pretty Sapa with its Christmas lights and happening square and markets, its very expensive here though!. The next day we rang Mama Sung and organised our homestay, she had such a lovely sweet voice which reminded me of a grandma from a fairytale.
More on this next time…..