Monday, September 11, 2023

Our Trip to Laos and Vietnam

August 15 - September 6, 2023

Just about the time we were finishing boat work in the yard in Pangkor Marina, Malaysia, we realized our 60-day tourist visa was running out. The plan HAD been to cruise in Soggy Paws up to Thailand, spend a few weeks, and cruise back to the marina to put the boat up for a couple of months' trip back to the USA. But as projects dragged out, the time we would have to spend in Thailand got smaller and smaller. We eventually decided to skip Thailand for now and fly to Vietnam instead.

We didn't spend a lot of time planning this trip. At first, we looked at a "G-Adventures" 10-day tour. I had done a G-Adventures tour to India with my daughter Nicki a few years back--it was fun, well organized, and not too expensive. Best: I didn't have to do any planning! But after letting Dave browse through a Lonely Planet, he decided that a tour like that would skip too much. So we expanded our timeline from 12 days to 23 days and started laying out a rough plan. "It will be easy," he said. "We'll plan and book the first few days, and then wing it from there."

We looked at what the G-Adventures tour offered, and gathered up all the cruiser-generated info we could find (mainly trip reports from friends). (Our resulting "Compendium" of Vietnam travel information is linked as a PDF at the bottom of our Vietnam/Laos Travel Page).

One of the first things we did was decide to include a quick stop in Laos, just to see a little of that country, and add another country to our "countries visited" list. (This is after we read the Laos trip report from our friends on s/v Ocelot.)

Though it IS possible to get to Vietnam from Malaysia without flying (friends have done it overland and down the Mekong River), we were short on time, so several major hops were done by airplane. It turns out that Vietnam is quite a LONG country. We ended up also scheduling a few jumps on overnight trains. And buses and "Limo-vans" filled in the rest of the transportation.

Here is the overview of the trip:

- Bus from Pangkor to Kuala Lumpur Airport
- Air Asia flight (thru Bangkok) to Luang Prabang, Laos
- A few days in Laos
- Laos Airlines flight to Hanoi
- 3 days in Hanoi and surrounding areas
- Sapa (mountains to NW of Hanoi)
- Halong Bay (cruise destination east of Hanoi)
- Start working our way south through the central area
- Stops at a couple of national parks
- DMZ, Hue, Danang, and Hoi An
- Fly to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City and spend a few days there
- Fly back thru Singapore to Ipoh (a 2 hour drive from Pangkor)

Our day-by-day schedule and some tips and links to where we stayed are included on our Vietnam and Laos Travel Page. We couldn't have done nearly as much without the help of Tung at Hanoi Old Quarter Travel

When I get time I hope to add some more pictures here.