Exploring the north
Situated in northern part of the country, in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luang Prabang is a real gem of Laos. The entire place is a perfect blend of ancient past, French colonial influences, Asian tradition and stunning nature. There is something pretty around every corner, from tree-lined boulevards, Royal Palace to over 30 Buddhist temples with gilded roofs.
To be fair it came as a bit of a surprise to me how small Luang Prabang actually is. One of my friends was living there for four months. He was working as a social media consultant for an eco-fashion company and he definitely managed to generate enough hype about the place. I pictured it as a much bigger town.
When I was planning my trip the idea of spending 40 days in China seemed just crazy and I was a bit worried that maybe my plan was overambitious. I had a feeling that after few weeks I will be desperate to leave China but actually I was wrong! On a day of my flight to Vientiane, a capital city of Laos, I was excited but somehow sad that I was leaving spectacular Yunnan. On the other hand, I had enough of cold weather and even the tastiest bowl of noodle soup was not going to change the fact I was looking forward to fresh and raw vegetables, ice coffee and beautiful sunshine.
Wat Chan in Vientiane
Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in an office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain. – Jack Kerouac
Visiting Vietnam back in 2013 that was like a prelude to my trip around Asia. I knew that I want to explore more of this incredible continent during a sabbatical.
My solo travels took me through 10 countries, from Japan all the way down to Indonesia. Since I managed to keep a travel diary, you can read about some of my adventures. I haven’t covered all of my extensive travels though. Maybe one day?
The city on the bank of the Red River
“Hanoi!? It was crazy! So chaotic! Have you managed to work it out?” asked one of my friends who visited the city earlier this year. He has been travelling through Vietnam on a motorbike from the north all the way down to Ho Chi Minh City. I had to admit to him that there were moments when I found Hanoi pretty confusing but I enjoyed paying this extra attention to my surroundings and occasionally checking the map. I bet it must have been more difficult to master the directions and roads signs being for the first time in Asia – “Come on… if it was easy you would not be happy either.” – His girlfriend just rolled her eyes and we both giggled.
It is not only Hanoi’s urban structure that can be viewed as far from being simple. The political significance of the city and the events of the past introduced some other layers of complexity. Located in the northern part of the country on the delta of the Red River, Hanoi lost its capital status to Hue for a century, played an important role in French Indochina and from 1945 was the capital of North Vietnam. In the end it became the capital of a reunified Vietnam in 1976, after the North’s victory in the Vietnam War.
Cheeky chaps from Hanoi
The smooth blend
Once Vietnam’s the most cosmopolitan port on the banks of the Thu Bon river these days Hoi An’s well-preserved Old Town attracts many tourists and travellers wanting to discover its graceful character or get a tailor-made dress, handbag or a bespoke suit.
Late 16th to the early 18th century was the time of Hoi An’s prosperity when the port was the major commercial and trading centre bringing into this small town different products, merchants and cultures. Strong Chinese and Japanese influences are easily recognisable when walking around the Old Town. The Japanese Covered Bridge is one of the landmarks but to me it was the Chinese design and style blended in Hoi An’s architecture that I found very interesting.