A Trip To Laos, Vietnam & Hong Kong - dswphoto
My trip to Laos, Vietnam and Hong Kong, getting to explore the bustling Old Quarter of Hanoi, learning how to cook some tasty Pork Larb and Panaeng Gai in Old Luang Prabang, taking in the smells and sights of Talat Khua Din Fresh Food market in Vientiane, catching up and spending some quality time with my family in Hoi An, scuba diving in the warm waters off Cham Islands and enjoying the amazing vibe and energy of the city of Hong Kong.


Day 0.

Arriving at Terminal 1 at Dubai Airport to check in for the afternoon Cathay Pacifc flight to Hong Kong.


My flights for the trip were:

Day 0: Flying Cathay Pacific (CX) from Dubai to Hong Kong (DXB-HKG).
Day 1: Flying Dragonair (KA) from Hong Kong to Hanoi (HKG-HAN), then after a 9 hour layover flying Lao Airlines (QV) from Hanoi to Luang Prabang (HAN-LPQ).
Day 3: Flying Lao Airlines (QV) from Luang Prabang to Vientiane (LPQ-VTE).
Day 4: Flying Lao Airlines (QV) from Vientiane to Hanoi and then Vietnam Airlines (VN) to Da Nang (VTE-HAN-DAD).
Day 9: Flying Dragonair (KA) from Da Nang to Hong Kong(HKG-HAN), and then after a 13 hour layover flying Cathay Pacific (CX) from Dubai to Hong Kong (DXB-HKG).



Rianda filling out some of the pre-trip paperwork (two visa applications and a diving waiver) and getting a snack at an air-side café.


Boarding the CX A330. It had just arrived from Bahrain on a fifth freedom flight so was already half full of passengers. An eager passenger from BAH had already taken my seat but after a polite check of his boarding pass by the FA we were able to get him to move to his assigned proper seat.


Beef and Rice for dinner.


And a light breakfast just prior to our descent into Hong Kong International Airport.



Day 1.

After arriving at HKG just after 5am, we had a few hours to kill before our 8:40am flight to Hanoi. After travelling from DXB where everything is open 24/7, it was quite a surprise to see all the duty-free shops and restaurants closed. They gradually started opening at 7am though and we were able to buy some water and snacks.


Our Dragonair A320 for the short flight to Hanoi at the gate.


Taxiing to take-off with another Dragonair Airbus poised to depart.


Flying high over the South China Sea.


And on descent into Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport (HAN).


With my brand new Vietnam Visa. Vietnam had recently started giving 15 days visa free entry for UK passports, but as you were prohibited from re-entering again for another 30 days, I had to pay $65 for a multi-entry visa (since we were returning to Vietnam from Laos in 3 days time). As the HAN-LPQ flight was on a separate ticket and as I had never visited Hanoi before, I had made plans for an extended layover to give time to go into the city and do a bit of exploring.


We then caught a taxi into the city and got a day room at the Hanoi Royal View Hotel to freshen up and store our baggage for our 9 hour layover. Only $20 so very reasonable.


And then stepped out into the bustling streets to explore Hanoi's Old Quarter.


Our plan was to follow the walking tour in the Lonelyplanet guidebook, first starting at Hoàn Kiếm Lake.


And across Huc bridge to Ngoc Son temple, situated on a small island in the middle of the lake.


We then continued our walking tour through the Old Quarter, enjoying the interesting sights and smells amid the cacophany of motorbike horns.


One of the stops in the guidebook, Memorial House, a restored traditional merchants’ house.


Oops!!! Luckily just a low speed spill when two older ladies on a motorcycle were trying to turn around and lost their balance.


Lunch.


Old East Gate, the last remaining city gate from when Hanoi was a medieval city. There were originally 16 gates in the walled old city.


Butchering frogs.


Nón lá.


St. Joseph's Cathedral. Built by the French colonial government in 1886, it was closed down when the Viet Minh took control of North Vietnam in 1954. Mass was permitted to be celebrated again in Christmas 1990.


For lunch we found a restaurant serving local food and got the steamed rice crepe rolls with grilled pork to start.


Then had the fried rice cake with shrimp dumplings. Really dug the presentation!


And finished with the Hue-style beef noodle soup. A very reasonable 190,000 dong, or $US9 for the three dishes and two fruit smoothies and a great first meal for the trip!


After the tasty lunch, we headed out again to get one last dose of Hanoi. Thuốc lá.


In the cross-hairs.


Phụ nữ.


Some ladies selling their goods outside on the street outside Đồng Xuân Market, until...


...some policemen rolled up in a truck started yelling at them with a megaphone and they quickly scattered. At least until the truck was out of sight again and they quickly returned to their closely guarded patches in the middle of the road.


đàn ông.


After a great day in the Old Quarter, we met our driver back at the hotel then drove back to Noi Bai International Airport for our final flight of the day to Laos.


Grabbing a hot drink air-side. The 6:50pm flight was on a Lao Airlines (QV) ATR-72.


It was Rianda's first flight on anything with a propellor. I reassured her it was very safe, and that the last time a Lao Airlines ATR72 had crashed was almost 2 years ago.


Only a short ~1 hour flight but still got a small sandwich and drink.


And a short walk to the Terminal after arriving just before 8pm.


With my Laos visa on arrival for $30 plus $1 processing fee. Very easy and only took ~15-20 minutes to process.


We then caught a taxi for $7 to our accomodation in Old Luang Prabang, Villa Chitchareune. $99 for two nights including spa bath and breakfast. Very new, clean and great location!


We grabbed an umbrella and headed out to grab some dinner and settled on Tamnak Lao Restaurant on the main street (I took this photo later on day 2 and hence the dusk & lack of rain).


We were pretty exhausted so just ordered the set menu of Pork & Cucumber Soup, Luang Prabang Style Spicy Fish Casserole, Fried Chicken with Garlic and sticky rice. I managed to eat a super-spicy chilli in my casserole and literally gagged! We would learn tomorrow in our cooking class that the chilli is just for flavour and you're not supposed to eat it.


And finished with some very sweet and delicious Tamnak Lao Lime pie for dessert before heading back to the hotel after a very long first day!



Day 2.

I went out for a run around Luang Prabang in the morning and was a great way to explore and get a feel for a new place. Fried noodles and black coffee for breakfast at our hotel.


We then wandered into the main street of Luang Prabang on a quiet Saturday morning. Quite a change after the energetic chaos of Hanoi 24 hours earlier. We then booked a trip out to Kuang Si Waterfalls for 50,000 Kip each ($6.25) and then a Lao cuisine cooking class at Tamnak Lao Restaurant in the evening.


We then walked down to see the very muddy brown Mekong River.


At 11:30am when then met up with the mini-van with some other travellers for the 29k / 45 minute drive south to Kuang Si Waterfalls.

Buying some fried sweet potato chips to munch on when we arrived at the falls.


At the entrance buying our tickets.


Kuang Si Waterfalls is a three tier waterfall.


The beautiful travertine middle section with the brilliant turqouise coloured water. Very picturesque!


A great place to relax and take in the beautiful and lush surroundings, especially after coming from the desert/cityscape of Dubai.


A bridge across the river at the upper section.


And the 60 metre drop of the main falls.


We then walked down to the lower pools for a dip. A good chance too to try out my new Gopro.


And get our feet nibbled on.


Well worth the trip out of town to experience something very beautiful and magical!


After a refreshing dip we then went to the one of the restaurants just outside the park entrance and got some delicious fish, chicken and rice for a very tasty lunch.


After catching the mini-van back into Luang Prabang at 4;30pm, we went to one of the road side stalls to get a hot chocolate/coffee fix. Rianda asked for a white coffee and asked for extra milk. They then added half a can of sweetened/condensed milk so it was like drinking super sweet hot coffee syrup!


At 5pm we went to our cooking class, where our instructor, Leng, gave a demonstration of four Laotian dishes, of which we could choose two to make ourselves.


We were then 'chucked in the deep end' with our ingredients and a recipe book to try repeat what we had just seen! Along with us was a couple of French girls, one working as an intern in Vientiane, and a Chinese girl.


Our first dish was Pork Larb, a very traditional Lao salad. After cooking the pork mince in the wok with chicken stock and lime juice, Rianda added the banana flower, lime leaves, spring onion, shallot, garlic, fresh coriander, lemongrass and rocket leaves that I had carefully sliced and diced.


The finished Pork Larb after mixing in some chili powder, fish sauce, fried garlic and shallots, and lime juice.


The ingredients ready for our second dish, Panaeng Gai, a chicken and pork dish with coconut sauce with chilli paste.


Rianda frying the garlic and shallots.


Me stirring in the rest of the ingredients of chicken and pork mince, coconut milk, chilli paste, chicken stock, white pepper, spring onion, coriander and pork crackling powder.


And the completed dish garnished with a few sprigs of fresh coriander.


All ready for dinner along with some sticky rice. The class was only $20 each and a great way to see and learn how Lao cuisine is prepared in the kitchen.


We then went for a walk along the main street of Old Luang Prabang. A lovely relaxed atmosphere with people enjoying the evening and eating dinner at the various restaurants. The street was closed off to (most) traffic which made a pleasant change also.


A night market had also sprung up by the Royal Palace.


Colourful parasols for sale.


Rianda couldn't resist getting some 'hippy' pants imprinted with elephants and other traditional patterns as a holiday momento.



Day 3.

Scrambled eggs, toast and green tea for breakfast at our hotel on day 3.


Our flight today to Vientiane wasn't until 1pm, so we went for a walk up Mount Phou Si, a 100m high hill in the centre of Old Luang Prabang.


A gilded statue of Buddha.


An old bomb casing being used as a pot plant. During the Vietnam war, the US dropped more than 270 million bombs on Laos. Despite tens of millions of dollars spent, only 1% of Laos territory has been cleared so far.


The view from the top of hill over Luang Prabang and the Nam Khan river on the left.


At the summit, the Buddhist temple, Wat Chom Si. The view from the top was great, with the Nam Khan river on one side and the Mekong river on the other.


We then walked down to the grounds of the Royal Palace. Haw Pha Bang temple in the Palace grounds with an Aussie tourist with an unusual pose for a photo. The Lao Royal Family was the ruling family of the Kingdom of Laos from 1904 to 1975, until they were overthrown by the communists and then taken to re-education camps where they were 'disappeared'.


After walking back to our hotel where we met up with our ride for the trip back to the airport.


Rianda had never been in a tuk-tuk before so we opted for one over a much less exciting mini-van for the short trip.


Outside Luang Prabang International Airport for our short hop to Vientiane.


The Terminal was brand new but for some reason they had a few old worn kitschy seats from the old Terminal. Very 1960's!


The Lao Airlines A320. The flight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane is only 215 kilometres. I did look into catching a bus for such a short trip but the expected travel time was over 12 hours!


The muddy brown Mekong river under the starboard wing soon after take-off.


Total flight time was less than 30 minutes but we still got a snack and drink.


Disembarking at Wattay International Airport (VTE).


And a short walk to the domestic terminal.


After catching a taxi into town, our hotel room for our one night stay in Vientiane at the Vientiane Garden Hotel. Only $44 including breakfast.


We then went for a walk to explore Vientiane. Wat In Paeng. Despite blue sky on arrival, the rain clouds were now enveloping the sky. We opted to risk not taking umbrella's though for our walk through the city.


While we were there some buddhist monks started filing in the front to begin a service.


We then stopped for lunch, with a couple of Cappucino's to start.


Prawn Soup.


And then some pork larb and chicken satay.


And Rianda's reaction after I teased her that I had ordered a local cat and dog meat dish instead!


Outside the Presidential Palace.


It was starting to rain abit now, but luckily it would soon pass.


These monks with umbrella's were not dumb like us though!


Patuxai, the 'Arc de Triomphe' of Vientiane. It was built in 1957 using American funds and cement intended to build a new airport, earning it the nickname the "vertical runway".


The view from the top, looking south towards the Presidential Palace.


We then walked down back into town and then along the Mekong river, looking over to bordering Thailand on the other side.


Some of the locals enjoying their weekend on the banks of the Mekong.


After crashing back at the hotel for a bit, we then went out to the local night markets.


It was mostly locals at the night markets compared to mostly tourists at the Luang Prabang night markets.


Trying some sweet tasty lime green rice treats.


Prints.


For dinner we went to a place close to the night markets. Plenty of locals were eating there so we figured it couldn't be too bad.


Our fish being BBQ'ed.


And along with two fruit smoothies it was plenty for both of us!



Day 4.

Breakfast at our hotel again with pancake, egg, bacon and fresh fruit.


Our flight to Hanoi wasn't until 2:40pm, so after breakfast we went for a walk down to the Talat Khua Din food markets.


Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.


Was great to walk about and take in the unusual smells, sights and vibrant energy of this bustling fresh food market.


Eels.


Frogs.


Chicken.


Butcher.


Bread.


Couple. We then walked back into town to find something to eat before our afternoon flight.


Cappucino at the French bakery, Le Banneton, a recommended place to eat in the Lonelyplanet guidebook.


And where we shared a delicous and healthy light lunch.


After a leisurely walk back to our hotel we then caught a shuttle back to Vientianes' Wattay International Airport. Checking in for our Lao Airlines (QV) flight to Hanoi.


The International terminal was small with only 2 gates but quite modern and clean.


About to board the Lao Airlines A320.


A 70 minute flight but still got a snack box and drink.


Flying high above Laos and farewell to my 75th country visited.


Arrival at Hanoi Airport went smoothly as we already had our (multi-entry) visa's. Our connecting flight to Da Nang was in Terminal 2 (domestic), so we had to catch a free transfer bus.


Chicken noodles for dinner. Our original departure time of 6:10pm was now delayed to 7:30pm so had a bit of time to kill. We also got a free drink voucher for the inconvenience. I emailed our car/driver for the transfer from Da Nang to Hoi An that our flight was delayed and they were prompt in replying that it would be no worries.


About to finally board our Vietnam Airlines flight to Da Nang.


Disembarking after arrival at Da Nang Airport (DAD). The airport used to be a small provincial air field but was expanded massively during the Vietnam War (1959–1975) and became a major United States military base. During the height of war it became the world's busiest single runway airport with over 1,500 landings and takeoffs recorded on peak days.


After meeting our driver we made the 30 kilometre drive to our resort in Hoi An.


Checking in at the open air reception at the Palm Garden Resort. Definitely a step above the previous hotels we had stayed in so far on the trip.


Complimentary welcome drink.


And our lovely room for the next 5 nights.


The room was $128 a night so quite expensive for Vietnam but the same price as the recent trip to Prague.


After dropping off our bags, we headed down to meet up with my Mum and Dad who I hadn't seen in quite a while.


Day 5.

Breakfast at the resort with the rest of the family on day 5. The smirks are the reaction to my choice of custard from the breakfast buffet to go along with my dim sum!


After breakfast we hopped in a couple of taxi's for a ride into Hoi An. I was in the taxi with my brother-in-law Steve and Niece's (from left to right) Maeve, Peyton and Zara.


Taking a stroll in the old town, a UNESCO world heritage site.


First stop was at a silk shop, where we were given a demonstration of silk being woven.


And the silk being made spun from the silkworm coccoons.


The ladies trying on some of the beautiful dresses.


Mum with a very colourful silk dress.


The girls all got measured up to get tailor-made dresses too.


Peyton and Maeve awaiting their turn.


I couldn't resist getting a souvenir too, and got a couple of Vietnamese silk shirts for $27 each.


Kites.


The niece's trying their hand at photography.


Walking through the food markets. I got several compliments from the local ladies on my new silk Vietnamese shirt that I was wearing. They were very genuine too, not just trying to sell me something!


Peyton and Zara posing for a photo. You probably can't tell from this photo but Peyton is only 30 minutes older than Zara.


We then stopped for lunch in the old town. Zara trying out her photography skills again and snapped this photo of her sister Maeve.


We had the bánh xèo, or Hoi An rice pancake. In a few days time we would attempt to cook one of these ourselves!


Followed by the slightly unusual but utterly amazing spicy Cinnamon Pork.


Back in the taxi for the drive back to the Palm Garden Resort.


In the afternoon we lazed on the sun loungers enjoying the relaxed holiday atmosphere and also taking a dip in the resort pool. Maeve enjoying the underwater fun.


For dinner we walked to a local restaurant recommended on Tripadvisor.


Free hair styling for the girls included!


The restaurant owner proposed that they bring out a range of dishes for everyone to try instead of ordering off the menu.


Calamari and Prawns.


Spicy stewed beef.


Zara practicing her photography again. The total cost was 1.35 million VND or $61. Great value for food and drinks for nine people. So much so that we came back the following night to try some more of their tasty Vietnamese dishes.




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