ASEAN Backpacking: Indochina Love

May 20, 2014 ASEAN Backpacking

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

Day 1 was arrival in Bangkok, shopping and meeting Steve


Our first day was a Sunday.  We took a morning flight so by lunchtime, we were already checking in at Erawan House located near Khaosan Road.  Oh, how I missed that strip and all its restaurants, street food, spas, souvenir shops, and bars.  After check-in, we all rushed to Chatuchak Market to shop.

We met up at the hotel around 6PM and we proceeded to SteveThat restaurant was a little difficult to find but it was all worth the effort.  Food and ambiance was perfect to start our 10-day Indochina tour.

Day 2 was souvenir picture taking and train to Lao

One of the things we always include in our itinerary is a group picture taking donning traditional costumes of the country we are in.  It is our little way of experiencing our host country's culture.

So, we went to Wat Arun, rented costumes and smiled for the camera.

After that was last minute shopping and freshening up for our evening train trip to Lao.

We took a cab to Hualalampong Train Station.  Our train departed at 8:00 PM.  We purchased the ticket months before our trip (, so we were all able to secure lower sleeping berths in the 2nd class train.  Our train's number was 69.

Day 3 was arriving in Vientiane and drinking with TinTin

We arrived at the Nong Khai Station at around 8:00 AM.  We took another train to Thanaleng, where we went through immigration procedures.  From there, we just rented vans to our hotel.

Our hotel in Vientaine is another charming place and is highly recommended on TripAdvisor. Auberge Sala Inpeng is located at 063, Inpent Street, Ban Watchan, Vientiane.

After lunch, we spent the rest of the day in a local bar, which is inspired by TinTIn, one of my favorite characters.  It was just too hard not to spend an afternoon there admiring the photos and figurines of TinTin, while enjoying mini burgers and beer.

After our happy hour(s), we went to Makphet, an award winning culinary destination that gives tourists like me a delicious way to help.  The little money we spent there helped the restaurant with 
its various programs for the street children and young people in Laos. 

After dinner, with our energies still high, we sampled the street food in Lao at its night market facing the Mekong River.

Day 4 was touring Vientiane


First order of the day was to have breakfast on our own veranda.  Second was to transfer rooms.  Since we were scheduled to leave that day and we still needed to freshen up for our evening trip, we asked the hotel to accommodate all 10 of us in two rooms for comfort room use.

We arranged our tour with a local travel agency.  It was nice having our own tour bus and guide.  First stop was Buddha Park, which has the iconic reclining buddha.

We went to Pha That Luang after, which is regarded as the most important national monument in Laos and a national symbol. The next was another prominent landmark, inspired by Paris' arc de Triomphe. After lunch, we went temple hopping, which included Wat Si Muang, Wat Si Saket and Haw Phra Kaew.

After the tour, we freshened up and went to the bus station.

Our bus to Hanoi was arranged by the same travel agency.  I will not mention the name because first, they didn’t inform our tour guide ahead of time that lunch was included in our tour package and second, the first class bus we thought we would take to Hanoi was actually no class.

Day 5 was traveling to Hanoi

The bus trip was more than 20 hours, including food and imigration stop.  It was the longest bus ride I have ever taken.

We arrived in Hanoi late afternoon.  We hailed cabs from the bus station to the hotel.  It was a bit difficult especially with all the locals offering rides and getting us all confused, but we got there fine.

First thing I noticed about our hotel, 
Hanoi Old Centre Hotel, is their thoughtfulness.  There are free juices and fruits for all hotel guests. This hotel is another Trip Advisor discovery.

Day 6 was first day of our Halong Bay Cruise

We booked a cruise with V (Vietnamese) Spirit Cruises, which housed us on board a wooden boat with deluxe cabins.

The highlight of our first day was a kayaking trip and of course, dinner on board our mini cruise ship.  We also went spelunking.

Day 7 was leaving Halong Bay

On our second day, we went trekking and swimming.  It was so fun, especially with a good group to spend it with.  It was actually hard leaving Halong Bay but we had to.

Day 8 was touring with Hanoikids and food on foot tour

We booked two tours.  First was with Hanoikids and we visited the Museum of Ethnology with their volunteers Tong and Yen. The services of the tour guides were free.

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 had eel served with soup, sugarcane juice, snowy ball cake, southern style beef, sauteed frogs, chicken barbeque, beer, summer roll with snake head fish and happy water

Day 9 was biking in Hanoi and shopping


We were supposed to book a biking tour but we decided to just rent bikes and have our friend Mat Map take us around his city.  We had fun maneuvering around the city amidst speeding motorcycles and other vehicles.

We biked to the One Pillar Pagoda, then walked to Ho Chi Minh Museum. After that, we braved Hanoi 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 looked around the shops and tried to retrace our food on foot tour.

The nightlife was the highlight. My friends discovered this bar where backpackers rendezvous.  Even Mat Map didn't know about this place. It was that hush-hush.

Day 10 was more shopping and preparing for departure

With all the outdoor brands around, it was hard to resist shopping in Hanoi.

I got myself trekking pants, a daypack plus two more backpacks for my nephew and niece.  Of course, I bought a lot of other souvenir items.

Our flight back to Manila was late evening.

Other Good Travels