ASEAN Backpacking: Indochina Love

May 20, 2014 ASEAN Backpacking

We vowed to make our ASEAN backpacking an annual trip. Two years ago, in the same month, we followed the Mekong River from Vietnam to Cambodia to Thailand. Last year, it was an Indochina Tour, starting from Thailand to Laos to Vietnam.

On Day 1, we arrived in Bangkok, indulging in some shopping and meeting Steve


Our first day fell on a Sunday. We caught a morning flight, so by lunchtime, we were already checking in at Erawan House, conveniently located near Khaosan Road. Oh, how I missed that vibrant strip and all its restaurants, street food, spas, souvenir shops, and bars. After settling in, we eagerly headed to Chatuchak Market for some shopping.

We reconvened at the hotel around 6 PM before making our way to Steve's restaurant. Although a bit tricky to find, it was well worth the effort. The food and ambiance were perfect, setting the tone for our 10-day Indochina tour.

Day 2 was souvenir picture taking and train to Lao


One tradition we never miss in our itinerary is a group photo session, where we dress in attires representing the culture of the country we're visiting. It's our small way of immersing ourselves in the local culture.

On this occasion, we headed to Wat Arun, rented traditional clothes, and posed for memorable snapshots.

Post-photo session, we engaged in some last-minute shopping and prepared for our evening train journey to Laos.

A cab ride took us to Hualalampong Train Station, where our train was scheduled to depart at 8:00 PM. Months before our trip, we secured our tickets from, ensuring comfortable lower sleeping berths in the second-class train. Our train's number was 69.

Day 3 was arriving in Vientiane and drinking with TinTin

We arrived at Nong Khai Station around 8:00 AM and boarded another train bound for Thanaleng, where we completed immigration procedures. From there, we opted for rented vans to take us to our hotel.

Our accommodation in Vientiane, Auberge Sala Inpeng, comes highly recommended on TripAdvisor and is located at 063, Inpent Street, Ban Watchan.

After a satisfying lunch, we dedicated the remainder of the day to a local bar inspired by one of my favorite characters, TinTin. Spending the afternoon surrounded by TinTin photos and figurines while indulging in mini burgers and beer was too delightful to resist.

Following our happy hour(s), we ventured to Makphet, an award-winning culinary establishment that not only offers a delectable dining experience but also supports various programs for street children and young people in Laos. Our contribution there helped sustain these initiatives.

Even after a sumptuous dinner, our energy levels were still high, prompting us to explore the local street food scene at the night market along the Mekong River in Laos.

Day 4 was touring Vientiane


The day began with a delightful breakfast on our private veranda. The next order of business was to transfer to new rooms. Since our departure was scheduled for that day, and we needed to freshen up for our evening trip, we requested the hotel to provide two rooms for our group of 10 for comfort room use.

We had organized our tour through a local travel agency, which arranged a comfortable tour bus and guide for us. Our first stop was Buddha Park, featuring the iconic reclining Buddha. Following that, we visited Pha That Luang, considered Laos' most important national monument and a symbol of the nation. The next destination mirrored Paris' Arc de Triomphe in its grandeur. After a satisfying lunch, we embarked on a temple-hopping adventure, including Wat Si Muang, Wat Si Saket, and Haw Phra Kaew.

Upon concluding the tour, we freshened up and proceeded to the bus station. Our journey to Hanoi was facilitated by the same travel agency. However, I won't mention the name because, firstly, they failed to inform our tour guide in advance that lunch was included in our tour package, and secondly, the first-class bus we anticipated for the trip to Hanoi turned out to be subpar.

Day 5 was traveling to Hanoi

The bus journey spanned over 20 hours, factoring in stops for food and immigration. It marked the longest bus ride I had ever experienced.

Upon our late afternoon arrival in Hanoi, we hailed cabs from the bus station to reach our hotel. Navigating through the locals offering rides created a bit of confusion, but we managed to reach our destination without any issues.

The Hanoi Old Centre Hotel immediately caught my attention for its considerate touches. Free juices and fruits were available for all hotel guests, underscoring the hotel's commitment to hospitality. This gem was yet another discovery made through Trip Advisor.

Day 6 was first day of our Halong Bay Cruise

We reserved a cruise with V (Vietnamese) Spirit Cruises, securing accommodation on a wooden boat featuring deluxe cabins.

The highlight of our first day included a kayaking excursion, followed by a delightful dinner on board our mini cruise ship. Additionally, we explored caves during our voyage.

Day 7 was leaving Halong Bay

On our second day, we engaged in trekking and swimming, reveling in the enjoyment of the experience, particularly with a fantastic group to share it with. Despite the challenge of bidding farewell to Halong Bay, we knew it was time to move on.

Day 8 was touring with Hanoikids and food on foot tour

We booked two tours. The first one was with Hanoikids, where we visited the Museum of Ethnology with their volunteers Tong and Yen. The services of the tour guides were provided free of charge.

In the late afternoon, we met up with Trang, our tour guide from Vietnam Awesome Travels, in front of our hotel. She took us on a gastronomic adventure around Hanoi. We indulged in eel served with soup, sugarcane juice, snowy ball cake, southern-style beef, sautéed frogs, chicken barbecue, beer, summer rolls with snakehead fish, and happy water.

Day 9 was biking in Hanoi and shopping


We initially planned to book a biking tour, but instead, we opted to rent bikes and had our friend Mat Map guide us through his city. It was an enjoyable experience navigating through the city amidst speeding motorcycles and other vehicles.

We cycled to the One Pillar Pagoda, then walked to the Ho Chi Minh Museum. After that, we braved Hanoi's streets again and biked to the Temple of Literature, then crossed the street to the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts.

In the afternoon, we explored the shops and attempted to retrace our food-on-foot tour.

The highlight of the night was the nightlife. My friends stumbled upon a bar where backpackers gathered. Even Mat Map was unaware of this place. It was that exclusive.

Day 10 was more shopping and preparing for departure

Surrounded by numerous outdoor brands, resisting shopping in Hanoi proved to be a challenge.

I bought trekking pants, a daypack, and two additional backpacks for my nephew and niece. Of course, I couldn't resist buying several other souvenir items.

Our flight back to Manila was scheduled for late evening.

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