Laos & Vietnam 2006
We crossed into Laos over the Thai-Lao friendship bridge at Nongkhai which was paid for by the Australian Government at the cost of $US 30 million in a goodwill gesture to improve regional development and after a few hassles trying to get extra gear across made it into Vientiane on Saturday night to stay at another no guests allowed hotel to help curb my mate's temptation. Now things change rapidly in this town with entertainment venues and the common belief is everything shuts around 12 to 1 AM which is true for the conservative venues.
The first night we ate and drank heaps of the fabulous beer lao at Khop Dau Dua which has a great open bar area, an indoor entertainment area with live music and an upstairs area where the young stylish locals tend to hang out before the nightclubs. We
left there at midnight to drop in at the seediest nightclub I have ever been to at the Lane Xang Hotel which had ladies aged over forty square dancing around the dance floor with ID cards pinned to them and a very different band in a nearly totally
dark setting. We were seated and told our beers are cheap so you buy lady. We decline and the price doubles and we stay as long as it takes to finish the beer.
Now the next night we meet my local contact who is 32, married with kids, a second wife and two just for fun girlfriends and go for a look at the clubs and we managed to see six nightclubs and the last one we left was at 4.30 and still going. Some were down back alleys hidden away past heaps or doors and security, some armed and others had neon signs outside. Near the Novotel there were five clubs that went past two. All were crowded and mostly women but every club had a different style of customer. The Marina, a mixture of local older men and young woman, the D Tech at the Novotel was all young, packed and loud and the best in that area was the Future Club with lots of young smartly dressed women, the best of which were swooning around the local Singaporean businessman, three to one. The other clubs weren’t even signed in English and were mostly local with a few expat lost souls and went past 2 AM. We left a club at three with four girls on motorbikes chasing our tuktuk to see were we were going and they even surrounded us when we had a relief stop and then we ended up at a bowling alley that had billiards, pool, drinking and food and was still going after four. As we tried to make our escape this time the girls were in the tuktuk and weren’t going anywhere until the driver informed them our motel rules and they exited while inviting us to their place and off home we went.
The visiting Korean Tao Kwon-Do national team were visiting for a performance for Laos officials at the park surrounding the Patuxai Monument (arch).
Made it to Hanoi and boy is this town busy and makes riding a motorbike in Bangkok seem like a breeze. Traffic lights mean nothing and you just ride into the intersection and hope others avoid you and it actually works. The pressure to rip you off is much higher here and tourism is certainly a growth industry with new hotels opening up weekly.
The entertainment is quite different and the girls are either full on or full off and most hotels don’t allow guests at all or after 11 PM. For live entertainment with dancers is Seventeen Saloon with a wild west theme and about ten staff to meet you outside and good looking female staff dressed in cowgirls outfits inside but drinks are expensive. The brash New Century nightclub is full of trawling freelancers and before I had even ordered my first beer I had one either side of me trying to sell their services for $50 US and it took me ten minutes to convince them I was not interested and then they asked me to pay for their time so as a newbie I paid for them to go away. Did the Halong Bay thing which was very scenic but overrun by tourists.
Motorbike taxis are everywhere and you can't walk twenty meters without been harassed to go to a museum, market or a see a downed B52 bomber that was shot down over Hanoi and preserved for historical glory. The town has since grown around the edge
of what was once a lake with the wreckage still prominent. There is certainly a lot of propaganda about the victory over the US Imperialists and their puppets but even the ex-VC soldiers we met who are now Russian speaking guides or motorbike
taxi drivers seemed to hold no grudges. The Russian speaking guide we met was stationed both in the Embassy in Moscow and Hanoi during the war, supposedly as an interpreter but most likely an intelligence officer. The interesting thing was of
the twelve people on our junk in Halong Bay we had two ex-VC guides and two American Vietnam veterans aboard.
Hanoi was way too hectic for me and I won't be complaining about Bangkok being too busy again as it’s a breeze to ride around in comparison. It's time to go relax in Phuket and at a later date I will submit the motorbike touring side of our journey which first has to be published in a bike magazine.
Halong Bay looks nice.