Luang Prabang Snapshots

Laos was our last stop on the Southeast part of our adventures through Asia.

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We’d heard mixed reviews on Laos, but with the market in Luang Prabang, tubing the river in Vang Vieng and our flight to India waiting for us in Vientienne, we were excited to complete the backpacker’s loop and spend 11 days in the country.

With a guesthouse booked and a location (ish) saved in our map, we arrived at the airport, payed our visa on arrival fee (Canadians pay the most of ANY country entering the country at $42 USD each plus “service” charges each) and grabbed a taxi with a fellow traveller. After some lost wandering through the streets and a free sandwich we saved from the flight, we found our room. It was a much welcomed big room with a big bathroom and so we tucked ourselves in around a mosquito net and prepared for the Laotian snapshots to begin.

The Market
As we’ve said before, night markets are usually one of the biggest features of the tourist scene in SE Asia. The Luang Prabang main street market was probably the most expansive we’d seen all trip.

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Luang Prabang Night Market

We spent a good portion of our night walking through the market. At first glance, all of the shops are full of “same same, but different” goods. Scarves, magnets, crafted metal from the bombs dropped on Laos in the 60’s and 70’s and elephant pants filled the 2-alley market. That being said, there were a few unique gems to be sought out including a tent with home-made Lao whisky (with free samples!) and some really cosy looking elephant slippers (not made from elephants, but essentially the elephant-pant equivalent of slippers). Matt came out with a scarf he bartered hard for and a magnet for Cathy and Dave’s fridge collection, but it could have easily been much more.
This market also had a really interesting market buffet that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stuff our faces. The way it worked was you pay for a bowl and stuff it as full as you choose from the selection of food in the big bowls that had been sitting out (likely all night and maybe the night before) and they throw it ALL in a wok and give it a good cooking/warming and coating of an oily/spicy sauce. This was definitely one of those times when it was quantity over quality, but it was cheap and left us enough funds for a beer and some pineapple for the road.
Pro Tip! We heard from some fellow travellers that once you hit the food alley near the entrance of the market, walk down past the first 2 or 3 buffet tables until the last one. It’s a little bit cheaper and although we didn’t try the more expensive ones, it looked pretty much the same.

Wandering

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While there was plenty to do around Luang Prabang, we were still sort of coming down from the amazing time that we had in Hanoi and feeling a little apathetic about spending too much money, especially with the Elephant sanctuary being a few days away. So, when we got bored of trying to post blogs while fighting the patchy internet in our hotel, we hit the streets and just, wandered.

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Luang Prabang is situated adjacent to the famous Mekong River with the smaller Nam Khan river flowing right through the middle. The bank of the Nam Khan, flowing into the Mekong was a particularly great wander and it was a welcome break into nature. Laura looked for frogs, Matt skipped stones and worked on his nature photography chops and we both took some time to forget about money, shotty internet and what we felt we “had” to get done.

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Matt's pro shot

Meeting up with Tyler and Katee

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We met Tyler and Katee all the way back in Hoi An when they noticed Laura’s MEC  backpack (the best way to spot the Canadian = MEC gear and excessive amounts of pleases, no thank you’s, sorry’s and general politeness) and, being the Canadian’s they were, struck up a conversation. We exchanged emails and kind of hoped that we would meet up in Laos but as was most “we should TOTALLY meet up” conversations, we didn’t really get our hopes up. Thankfully, things worked out and we met up with them twice! Woo! Tyler and Katee have been using Workaway to make their way through SE Asia (and beyond) and it was great sharing stories over walks through the market and some board games and drinks at the popular “Utopia Bar”. Tyler, Katee, it was so great getting to see you again and we will definitely see you sometime on the east coast!

The Elephant Sanctuary

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This happened – but we’re going to do a separate blog post on it. We want to keep things short for this one!

Overall, Luang Prabang was a pretty good introduction to Laos, although it was a fair bit more expensive than we were used to in Vietnam, we slowly got used to the spotty internet and were excited to continue our adventures in Laos.

A few pro-tips for those of you planning on heading to Luang Prabang

1.     Watch out where you are exchanging your money. Find the actual exchange rate (we used the CurrencyXE app (http://www.xe.com/apps/) and try your best not to get screwed at the many shoddy exchange places. For instance, from Vietnamese Dong to Lao Kip, the actual exchange rate was 0.86 and some places were trying to exchange it at 0.80. A huge rip-off. We exchanged it at a Lao Development Bank official exchange place and that gave us a decent deal. Not the actual rate, but a decent one.

2.     Luang Prabang was definitely one of those places where if you got in at a decent hour, you wouldn’t really have a problem shopping around and bartering for a place to stay. There are guesthouses everywhere and although we found a decent deal on booking.com, we probably could have shopped around on foot for a better one.

3.     Utopia + Bowling is the thing to do for travellers. Utopia is a really cool bar with volleyball and a ton of seats and decently priced drinks. We only went once but could have easily gone every night we were there. Although we didn’t go, we heard that after Utopia closes, the place to continue the party was at the bowling alley which was basically a front for late-night beer to be served. If we go back, we’ll definitely check it out.

4.     Barter for everything.

Once again, thanks for reading and stay tuned for Vang Viang.

Lots of love,

M+L

Luang Prabang Snapshots

Laos was our last stop on the Southeast part of our adventures through Asia.

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We’d heard mixed reviews on Laos, but with the market in Luang Prabang, tubing the river in Vang Vieng and our flight to India waiting for us in Vientienne, we were excited to complete the backpacker’s loop and spend 11 days in the country.

With a guesthouse booked and a location (ish) saved in our map, we arrived at the airport, payed our visa on arrival fee (Canadians pay the most of ANY country entering the country at $42 USD each plus “service” charges each) and grabbed a taxi with a fellow traveller. After some lost wandering through the streets and a free sandwich we saved from the flight, we found our room. It was a much welcomed big room with a big bathroom and so we tucked ourselves in around a mosquito net and prepared for the Laotian snapshots to begin.

The Market
As we’ve said before, night markets are usually one of the biggest features of the tourist scene in SE Asia. The Luang Prabang main street market was probably the most expansive we’d seen all trip.

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Luang Prabang Night Market

We spent a good portion of our night walking through the market. At first glance, all of the shops are full of “same same, but different” goods. Scarves, magnets, crafted metal from the bombs dropped on Laos in the 60’s and 70’s and elephant pants filled the 2-alley market. That being said, there were a few unique gems to be sought out including a tent with home-made Lao whisky (with free samples!) and some really cosy looking elephant slippers (not made from elephants, but essentially the elephant-pant equivalent of slippers). Matt came out with a scarf he bartered hard for and a magnet for Cathy and Dave’s fridge collection, but it could have easily been much more.
This market also had a really interesting market buffet that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stuff our faces. The way it worked was you pay for a bowl and stuff it as full as you choose from the selection of food in the big bowls that had been sitting out (likely all night and maybe the night before) and they throw it ALL in a wok and give it a good cooking/warming and coating of an oily/spicy sauce. This was definitely one of those times when it was quantity over quality, but it was cheap and left us enough funds for a beer and some pineapple for the road.
Pro Tip! We heard from some fellow travellers that once you hit the food alley near the entrance of the market, walk down past the first 2 or 3 buffet tables until the last one. It’s a little bit cheaper and although we didn’t try the more expensive ones, it looked pretty much the same.

Wandering

image

While there was plenty to do around Luang Prabang, we were still sort of coming down from the amazing time that we had in Hanoi and feeling a little apathetic about spending too much money, especially with the Elephant sanctuary being a few days away. So, when we got bored of trying to post blogs while fighting the patchy internet in our hotel, we hit the streets and just, wandered.

image

Luang Prabang is situated adjacent to the famous Mekong River with the smaller Nam Khan river flowing right through the middle. The bank of the Nam Khan, flowing into the Mekong was a particularly great wander and it was a welcome break into nature. Laura looked for frogs, Matt skipped stones and worked on his nature photography chops and we both took some time to forget about money, shotty internet and what we felt we “had” to get done.

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Matt's pro shot

Meeting up with Tyler and Katee

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We met Tyler and Katee all the way back in Hoi An when they noticed Laura’s MEC  backpack (the best way to spot the Canadian = MEC gear and excessive amounts of pleases, no thank you’s, sorry’s and general politeness) and, being the Canadian’s they were, struck up a conversation. We exchanged emails and kind of hoped that we would meet up in Laos but as was most “we should TOTALLY meet up” conversations, we didn’t really get our hopes up. Thankfully, things worked out and we met up with them twice! Woo! Tyler and Katee have been using Workaway to make their way through SE Asia (and beyond) and it was great sharing stories over walks through the market and some board games and drinks at the popular “Utopia Bar”. Tyler, Katee, it was so great getting to see you again and we will definitely see you sometime on the east coast!

The Elephant Sanctuary

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This happened – but we’re going to do a separate blog post on it. We want to keep things short for this one!

Overall, Luang Prabang was a pretty good introduction to Laos, although it was a fair bit more expensive than we were used to in Vietnam, we slowly got used to the spotty internet and were excited to continue our adventures in Laos.

A few pro-tips for those of you planning on heading to Luang Prabang

1.     Watch out where you are exchanging your money. Find the actual exchange rate (we used the CurrencyXE app (http://www.xe.com/apps/) and try your best not to get screwed at the many shoddy exchange places. For instance, from Vietnamese Dong to Lao Kip, the actual exchange rate was 0.86 and some places were trying to exchange it at 0.80. A huge rip-off. We exchanged it at a Lao Development Bank official exchange place and that gave us a decent deal. Not the actual rate, but a decent one.

2.     Luang Prabang was definitely one of those places where if you got in at a decent hour, you wouldn’t really have a problem shopping around and bartering for a place to stay. There are guesthouses everywhere and although we found a decent deal on booking.com, we probably could have shopped around on foot for a better one.

3.     Utopia + Bowling is the thing to do for travellers. Utopia is a really cool bar with volleyball and a ton of seats and decently priced drinks. We only went once but could have easily gone every night we were there. Although we didn’t go, we heard that after Utopia closes, the place to continue the party was at the bowling alley which was basically a front for late-night beer to be served. If we go back, we’ll definitely check it out.

4.     Barter for everything.

Snapshots from Ha Long Bay

After researching Hanoi and speaking to others who had already visited we quickly realized going to Ha long Bay was a must do.

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All on board the Classic Sail

Ha long Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site full of beautiful limestone mountains and one of the main go-to spots for people visiting North Vietnam. Apparently it’s something like 90% of people who visit Hanoi go to Ha Long Bay.
Finding a cruise is easy, walk out on the street in the Old Quarter and if it’s not a North Face knock-off shop, it’s a travel agent offering cheap trips to Ha Long. We did a bunch of research to try and not replicate our Phong Nha experience. We found out you want to go middle of the road in terms of price. Too high and you’ll be with a lot of older folks, too low, and you’ll be on a junky ship with a possibility of it sinking. After some chats with other travellers and some online research (thank you trip advisor) we decided to book with our hostel. For 2 days and 1 night, it was around $89 USD which included meals, a cave tour (we didn’t have our hopes up on that one) and kayaking in the bay. Sounded good!

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Just one of the many views from our boat

Ha Long Bay is a solid 4 hours away from Hanoi. Our group from Central Backpackers left around 8am and after waiting for some hung-over people (for at least an hour) from another Hostel, who didn’t even end up coming, we hit the road. 4 or so hours later we reached the dock, we almost lost a person who went for a wander without their passport, and boarded another groups boat…oops. Luckily he was brought back, safe and sound, to our boat and able to reclaim his passport. Our group packed on the little transport boat that took us to our bigger boat and just from our short time together we could already tell that we were with some good people. The conversation picked up as we bonded over joking about the almost missing person and nervously looking at some of the quality of the other boats and hoping to God that ours would keep us steady throughout the night.

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We found our room (Mati and the two of us got the classic suite!), and sat down to get our briefing from the captain of the ship. We aren’t actually sure if he was the captain, but besides our specific tour guide, this other guy was in charge of 3 things, running the bar, trying feverishly to get us to buy over-priced beer from the shop, and being a huge buzz-kill about everything, thus-his name from now on, Capt. Buzzkill.
Remember how we said that tours are about 70% the tour and 30% the people you go with? This was definitely one where the 30% more than made up for the 70%. For every time there was something iffy or disappointing about the trip, the group of people we were with made up for it.
For instance, when the caves were kind of crowded and our tour guide was trying to over-sexualize everything to be funny, the group daring Matt to go and hold his hand made everything a little lighter. When we found out about the insane rules when it came to people bringing their own drinks onto the boats (long, long story) our group made the best of it by blasting the Kim Mitchell and moving on before things got too heated. Finally, even though it was a little cold and grey on the first day of our cruise, the kayaking and the boys getting egged on to jump off the boat into the freezing water more than made up for it. Having good people with you really makes all the difference. We made some great friends that we got to enjoy the last few days in Hanoi with and gained a few more couches for our next trips to the UK, France, the US and Canada!
To end things off, here are a few physical snapshots of our cruise!

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The boys getting ready to take the plunge into the very chilly water

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When it comes to booking a Ha Long Bay cruise, here are a few tips that we think will give you the most out of your trip:

Look at the weather and if you can, plan your trip when it will be clear, warm and sunny. The cold weather was a bit of a damper.
Book the trip based on both your research and with testimonies from people who have literally just been on the tour (the big hostels in the Old Quarter will be good places to look).
Think about what kind of cruise you want and book accordingly. The three tour options are usually a one day (don’t waste money on this as you spend your whole day getting to and from the bay), 2 day one night where you sleep on the boat, and 3 days 2 nights where you spend one day on the boat and a day and a night on an island. We didn’t have time to do the island trip, but heard it’s good fun.
If you’re going on one of the backpacker cruises (Halong Party Cruise, Dugong Sails or the Castaway Tour…if memory serves us right) be prepared to pay a lot for drinks and stiff regulations on bringing your own (even if you try to hide them, as we heard from some other travellers).
In our opinion, Ha Long Bay isn’t a must-see experience. Looking back to our 7-island tour in Ao Nang, Thailand that we took with Mati, the sights weren’t really that different and although we weren’t able to stay overnight on the boat, the trip was significantly cheaper ($70 USD cheaper) and it never felt like we were being constantly jabbed to pay more.
All that being said, we had a really great time. Thanks to all of you who joined us on this adventure, we hope you’re travelling well and have a safe rest of your trips!
Alright, we are kind of catching up…kind of. We just finished typing this post with only 11 days left in our trip, and by the time we post it…who knows! Holy crap. Thanks for sticking with us and I guess we’ll see you soon!

Lots of love from Goa, India.

-M+L

Snapshots from Hanoi

Warning: Long blog post ahead!

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It was cold in Hanoi! We would wear half of our clothes under our rain jackets during the day!

Hanoi was sadly our last stop in Vietnam. Throughout most of our stay here (except on the last day…of course) it was rainy and temperatures ranged between 5 C – 15 C which by Canadian standards could be a nice spring day but since we’ve become used to the climate here it was SOOOO COLD!! Even though the weather could have been better we had a fabulous time, ate some delicious food (we probably gained back all the weight we had lost so far in sweat just in our time here) and met some splendid people.

We stayed in the old quarter of town which we fully recommend to anyone coming to Hanoi. It is a great place to experience the local culture and everything you could need or want to see is within walking distance. You can find great restaurants, food stalls, north face outlets (you’re only cool if you own a puffy jacket here) and lots of local street vendors lining the streets selling fruit, donuts, fried as well as dried goods and many live/dead animal products including beef, frogs, ducks and fish. Be warned these vendors really stick to their guns they weren’t even phased by Matt’s charm and our sweet bartering skills which had gotten us pretty far in the rest of Vietnam. Even though we only stayed 5 days here, it already started to feel like a place we could see ourselves spending a long time in.

Here are our snapshots!

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Snapshots From Dong Hoi/Phong Nha National Park

We’re catching up slowly while we relax in Goa, India and wait for Raquel to join us on the 13th…

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You may not be able to tell but that's us in Paradise Cave

We decided to visit Phong Nha National Park after having it suggested to us by some of Mit’s (our Coachsurfing host in HCMC) friends. After a little research, we thought it would be a worth while stop even though it was going to be a little pricey. To help subsidize for this slightly more expensive excursion we decided we would rough it a little and book the hard seat option on the train. “It’s fine, I’m sure they won’t be that hard…Just a little less plush cushion.” Of course we were wrong…These were full blown, wood slated, not meant to sit on for 8 hours, benches. Luckily, we were able to sit on our pillows (thank you Aunt Judy) and distract our stiff butts with the beautiful views and getting caught up on our blog (as usual).

Here are our Snapshots:

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Snapshots From Hoi An

Here we are, way behind again…

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The half four crew - more on the suit later

It’s hard to believe that at the time we are typing this, Hoi An was over 2 weeks ago and we are currently on a flight leaving Vietnam on our way to Laos. Although sad, the Lao Airlines Stewardess just brought us free water and a little sandwich for a one-hour flight. Suck it, Air Asia! And in true-cheapo traveller fashion, we will probably squirrel away the sandwiches rather than pay for a full dinner later. Thrifty.
Anyway, less about now, more about two weeks ago. Hoi An!

The 4:30am Adventure

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Straight up, Hoi An was our favourite city in Vietnam, although it didn’t start off that way. The trip from Dalat to Hoi An was a 16 hour “sleeper bus” endeavour and after a squished back seat not designed for 3 westerners, a lost e-reader, some tears, very little sleep, writing a cover letter through motion-sickness, some less than thrilled employees, and a brutally rude wake up (blaring Vietnamese Karaoke, followed by loud banging on the sides of the bus) we finally arrived!

But, “arrived where?” you might ask.

The better question is arrived when.

With the great hits of rudely awakening shiny tunes 6 still ringing in our ears, we were dropped off in the middle of a dirt square, in some semblance of a city, at 4:30am. Two hours earlier than expected.

With nowhere to go and a check-in time of 12pm, what else was there to do than start walking? Along with a few other zombie-travellers, we hit the road and made some small talk, mostly cursing the bus staff. Eventually, we got to talking with 3 guys headed in the same direction as us and decided that once we found the first coffee shop, no, anything that was open, we were saying yes.

Huge lesson to take from this. No matter how crappy things seem, the best thing you can do is just chat with people and bond comraderously over the crap you waded through. After 1 cup of coffee, a few free cups of green tea, and some shared loaf cake courtesy of our new friends, we met the three people that we hung out with for our whole time in Hoi An, and, as it turned out, for a few nights later in Hanoi.

The 4:30 Crew – Or as the Brits would call it, the “Half Four” Crew

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Even the Vietnamese street dogs were kind. We called him Queso.

Let us introduce you to the players in this act of our adventures. Toby, James and Andrew, three chaps from England whose love for teasing each other, awesome street food and a say-yes mentality fit right in with us. From getting a little too cocky bartering for doughnuts on the street, to aggressive games of Egyptian war, to Toby’s impromptu fashion show, it’s kind of cool to think about how these guys, who were total strangers up until two weeks ago, will be a part of some of our most hilarious “do you remember that time” memories to come. Also, a definitely shout out to Emma too, we only met her with a day to spare, but she definitely became a part of what we call “The 4:30 Crew”.
Toby, James, Andrew, Emma, safe travels, friends, see you in India, maybe…eh? eh?

Free Bicycles and Bike Touring

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A motorbike with a little less chutsba.

We’ll mention it again later, but basically, if you’re in Hoi An, get a bicycle to tour around. The hostel/hotel booking sites will usually tell you if they rent them out for free or for a fee but either way, you can do pretty much everything, and get everywhere including the beaches (which aren’t that great in Matt’s opinion). We used them every day and it cut a ton of time out of the walking commute from our hostel which wasn’t super-close to the main area.

The Food

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Take notes, McDonalds

We know Mati will be reading this so, Mati (and anyone else we met who we bullied into going to Hoi An) here is the food and the food places that stood out to us the most.
Burger from Circle – With burgers being, mostly, an utter disappointment up until now, Circle didn’t have much of a bar set for it, but they knocked it out of the freakin’ park. Get this, cheese stuffed giant patty, bacon, avocado and an actual decent helping of crispy, huge fries. Un-freaking-cleanupyourdrool-real.
Circle is located at: 317 Cua Dai

Bubble Tea – We stumbled on this place during our first bike ride around town and we had to go back. If you’ve never had bubble tea before, this is as close to the stuff we’ve had at home, tapioca pearls, mixed jellies and all. Apparently it’s not a thing in Bristol, so we had to bring the Half Four bunch the next time we went. Decent and cheap food too!
You can find this place by crossing the lantern and candle seller bridge (Cau An Hoi Bridge, but you’ll know which one if you go at night) to the populated island, turn right after the bridge, left onto the first street and walk down about half a km and it will be on the left. Get the passion fruit bubble tea, the kiwi was too sweet.

Cao Lau – Shoutout to 474

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We miss you, sweet beast.

Ohmygod Cao Lau. Cao Lau is a dish that you can literally only get in Hoi An, why somebody hasn’t set up an imitation shop in Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi (or Toronto) is beyond us. There’s rumour that they use a special water from a well outside of the city but the fact that it didn’t make the food fly out of both ends, makes us think that’s a lie. Matt ate it about 5 times over the 4 days we were in Hoi An but the best place we found was at this place right near our AirBNB. We visited the place twice before we knew it was a great spot to eat at, admittedly because it had super cheap beer and they didn’t mind us keeping the place open to drink and play cards. On our search for the best Cao Lau, much to our surprise, we were directed back to our favourite watering hole and spent our last few meals enjoying it as much as we could.
This place is located at 474 Cua Dai Road

The Best Bahn Mi in Vietnam
Thanks to another google search of “best cheapest Cao Lau in Hoi An” we stumbled upon an article talking about how Anthony Bourdain visited this Bahn Mi place on his show “No Reservations” and personally recommended their Bahn Mi. The place has just blown up from there. They have the most efficient sandwich making team we’ve ever seen and they turn out the most scrumptious Bahn Mi we’ve ever tasted. We tried the BBQ chicken (with a fried egg) and the tofu one (also with a fried egg) and they were just perfect. Also, only 20,000 Dong ($1.20 CAD) each.
Don’t let it’s neighbour trick you when you are looking for this place. It’s not the one on the corner, but two doors farther away from the corner. It has the tiny plastic stools outside and the sign has a little screen-shot of the YouTube video from No Reservations. It’s two doors down from the corner of Hoang Dieu and Phan Chau Trinh Street.

Doughnuts
We keep coming back to doughnuts. It’s fair to say that we’ve eaten some form of doughnuts around 5 times more often while in SE Asia, than at home. The Hoi An ones are super-simple, super-sweet, and if you can barter, super-cheap. You can find them literally all over old town and by Cau An Hoi bridge (the lantern candle bridge)

The Old Town Especially at night – Getting Tourist Trapped

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These apparently light old town during the full moon. We just missed it though.

Although old town 100% caters to tourists (especially at night) it is absolutely beautiful and fairly unavoidable if you’re staying in Hoi An. At night the streets are filled with food/vendor stalls, old women trying to sell you floating lanterns and spokes-people from each of the bars nearby all fiercely competing for your business.  Although it is quite crowded, it is absolutely beautiful! Old town is lit up with multi-coloured bulbs lining the bridge and each side of the river bank, beautiful lanterns, both of the hanging, and floating paper candle variety.

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People floating out to put their prayer candles in the river.

Some advice when going about old town
1. Renting a bike or finding a hostel that has them for free is a great, and probably the best way to get around Hoi An! However, be warned that biking around Old Town itself is quite difficult. Be prepared to just walk your bike because the pedestrians move for no one around there.
2. Do not get tricked into purchasing an admission ticket to old town. You can explore on your own without one. The ticket will get you into a few small museums which are alright… but unless you thoroughly enjoy looking at mostly broken ancient bowls or gem stones it’s not really worth the 120,000 dong you will pay.
3. Visiting the bars at night will get you a good amount of free stuff, just make sure you read the fine print on the flyer and go before the happy hour(s) or deals end.
4. Don’t forget to barter at all the vendor stalls because everything is way over priced. Just be careful not to go too low and offend anyone . Be realistic, but never pay the first asking price.
5. Think about the environmental cost of buying a floating paper lantern before you do it. They’re beautiful but we don’t know where the waste from them ends up.

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These took a TON of bartering

Custom Clothes

Coming soon, a picture of Laura wearing her new clothes

Besides Cao Lau, Hoi An is also known for the absolutely massive amounts of custom tailor shops where you can get anything made, from your choice of material (Darby fashionista side would love all the different options). There are tons of trip-advisor articles around on tips and tricks and what to watch out for when getting clothes made but if you find a good place, they can get things done usually in about a day and made exactly to fit you. Laura got a skirt and crop top ensemble that looks slamming on her (Matt typing here) for $30 USD ($40 CAD – Thanks Trudeau), and Matt got something else (it’s a secret souvenir) for pretty cheap as well. One of the most well known places is the huge luxury boutique they visited on an episode of “Top Gear” but we found it to be pretty over-priced. On a whim, we went across the street and found another place (because in Hoi An, if it’s not a Cao Lau place, it’s a tailor shop). These folks were great, and although they asked for a deposit (a supposed no-no when looking for a place), they made sure our clothes were absolutely perfect before we paid the full amount.

Fashion Show – Toby’s suit

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He was already wearing the shirt. It clashes in the absolute best way possible.

We have a month left in our trip, but this may go down as one of the most hilarious moments from our trip. We’ll keep it short here and give you the long version in person, but essentially, Toby, being Toby wanted a custom suit from the Top Gear tailor. Not just a plain, boring, black, or blue one (sorry James), but a cranberry suit with a shiny purple silk lining. He had ordered it the first day we were in Hoi An, and after a day or so and a few fittings, it was finally Suit-O’clock. James decided that he wanted to film the big unveil as Toby walked down the aisle from the change room. The four of us (Laura, Matt, James and Andrew) joked about how all he needed would be some runway music. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask. With absolutely zero hope of it working out, Matt managed to dance-sign-language his way into getting the ladies to bring up a portable sound-system. This turned into every single person working there coming for the show, taking pictures and letting Toby know that they were single. Toby, while probably not expecting this type of reveal, played his part perfectly and strutted the crap out of it with turns, poses and some well-time butt-shakes. After all was said and done and many pictures were taken, the whole endeavour lasted around 40 minutes and the crowd of staff lined up to wave us goodbye.  Sometimes all you need to do is ask.

Board games, cards and Beers

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Neither boardgames, nor beers, but look! Pretty!

While looking for some good tailor shops they day before, we stumbled on a British-owned sports bar that advertised a “board game corner”. Board games? Beer? UH YES! So, on our last night in Hoi An, Andrew, Emma and the two of us headed over hoping for a good selection of games rather than the standard Monopoly, Connect Four and Uno that we had seen thusfar. We weren’t disappointed. They had a bunch of modern board games but we didn’t need to look much farther than their copy of Settlers of Catan. It was a great night. The beer was the coldest we had all trip, Andrew and Emma caught on super-quick and Matt left with the title of the internationally recognized Lord of Catan! For all those of you who have played board games with Matt and Laura before. We kept it civil. Maybe even amicable. Not even one death threat uttered. Maybe we can chalk it up to our motorcycle-induced couples therapy. We’ll see how it goes when we get back and play games with the Roberts sisters.

We LOVED Hoi An. Lauren, you are an absolute gem for insisting that we go there and spend more than just a few days. We would have totally stayed longer, probably even for a week or two, and plan to be there for the full-moon lantern festival.
Alas, the caves of Phong Nha national park and the mean streets of Hanoi were calling our names and through the windows of the hard seat-train, we waved a sad goodbye to beautiful Hoi An.
We could say that we’ll shortly post about our time in Dong Hoi, but let’s be serious, who knows when it will actually be. Between the spotty internet in Laos, our busy schedule and forgetful ways when it comes to blogging, how about we just let you know . You can follow us on #backpackchitchat and see all of the photos behind our stories in the photo section of the blog.

Lots of love from Laos, where we are currently writing you from.
M+L

Snapshots from Dalat

We’re still on the train! … or at least we were when we wrote this…we’re now about to leave Vietnam…so once again, we are so freaking behind on posting.

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Hey everyone! Thanks for tuning back in. We’re still playing catch-up on the blog but we are also still on the same train (and only slightly regretting choosing to spend 8 hours on the cheaper hard seats) that we were on when writing our last blog post!

If you made it through the crazy long post we put up from Ho Chi Minh, let us assure you that this one won’t be the same. For Dalat, we are going get things let up and then get back into form of sharing the snippets of our journey and leave the big stories for when we get home.
Dalat!

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Snapshots from Ho Chi Minh City

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The Cousin Crew - You'll hear about them later

Oh my goodness. We are so behind.

Just to quell any confusion that might happen from us posting about one location and then instagramming from another, the blog is always a few steps behind. Now more than ever.
We are writing to you from the Vietnam coast, on a “8 hour” train from Hoi An to Dong Hoi. We are currently in a tunnel. But just like the rest of the blog, by the time we finish this sentence, we will be in another place. So, by the time we finish this post, we will probably be in another city, and then by the time we post it online, we may be in another.
Confusing? Yeah. Us too.
Anyway. We are three cities behind in the blog right now so we are going to use this opportunity to get a bit caught up. Starting with our first Vietnam city, Ho Chi Minh City.

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Snapshots from Cambodia

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That’s right. All of our travels in Cambodia, all in one post!

Cambodia was a bit of a whirlwind. Unfortunately before we left Canada we were nervous and quite eager so we ended up over booking our flights. Once we recognized our mistake it was too late because changing our the dates of our flights was going to be far too expensive. So we settled on spending only 6 days in Cambodia, which in our opinion really wasn’t enough time. We were still able to hit up some of the must sees by visiting Phnom Penh and Siem Riep but to our dismay were unable to venture to some of the costal towns and cities. I suppose it gives us a reason to come back and visit again! 
Learning a new culture/language/way of eating in only 6 days is a little overwhelming for the senses, and the bowels. It was a bit tough to go from Thailand, which was just starting to feel comfortable (mentally and gastrically) to suddenly feeling like we were almost back to square one and this time, with no data on our phones. However, things fell into place pretty quickly using advice from our taxi driver, helpful strangers and others we met along the way. Between that, and our basic backpacker instincts, we had a blast and have some great snapshots to share with all of you!
Here we go!

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Snapshots from Krabi Town

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Laura is so jacked!

Part 3/3 thanks for staying with us!

Here we sit. On the floor of our last Thailand airport. We’re trying to get this one pre-posted before we run out of our Thailand data on Laura’s phone, and of course, that last thing we left to do was write an intro about this post. Smart.

After Koh Lanta being a bit of a let-down, Krabi Town was such a treat. We truly enjoyed the cheaper prices, the structured walls of our rooms and that almost everything that we wanted or needed was within walking distance. We also swear that the temperatues were a little more reasonable, but that could be just because it was generally cloudier. Either way. Krabi Town was a perfect bookend to almost a whole month in Thailand.

Again, we have a ton of stories and pictures to share and we want to share our snapshots with all of you at home!

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