Vix & Alan's S.E.Asia Travel Blog travel blog

Birthday boy @ Betel Garden Homestay

Master Chef

Learning to make crab soup

Special recipe peanut sauce

Some cookery lesson ingredients

Vix makes a shrimp pancake

Candlelit dinner with Da Lat wine

Vinh Thinh tailor shop

Grey skies in hoi an

Have had a most wonderful and varied birthday,

more about that later. We have been 'holed' up in Hoi An taking a few days to plan the next 15 days before we return to Bangkok. The satellite pictures of the possible start of an 'early' rainy season

have been difficult to decipher and therefore we developed about six different routes and itineraries for the overland journey back to Bangkok. It was great fun doing the research and although we have now rejected four of these, it feels that we have almost travelled these routes already. The experience of travelling in South East Asia, and especially Vietnam, is so influenced by the weather. For the past week there has been cloud cover from Hanoi in the north down to where we are, which scuppered our initial plans to hire a bike and tour the spectacular Northern highlands.

Being a very long narrow country, it is normally visited on a North/South axis starting either in Ho Chi Minh (south) or Hanoi (north). Sheltering in the cafes from the thunderstorms (a great way to watch the clouds open) we have met many disappointed people who are travelling North to South as they have only experienced grey skies and the prospect of further rains as they continue their journey.

We have decided to head directly West and cross back into Laos leaving on a bus this afternoon, an overnight stay at the border and arriving at Savannakhet the following day. We then will head to the Lao capital Vientiane where we hope to pick up a decent motorcycle to explore the interior. Depending on how adventurous we feel, we may stop at Tha Khaek on the way to Vientiane. This is the gateway town to pick up a motorcycle for a three day loop on rough roads to Tham Lot Kong Lo a 7km limestone cave which is described as one of Laos natural wonders and the longest cave in the world!!! Having read three blogs from travellers who have recently completed this route we are not sure if we should chance our luck.

The beauty of travelling with an open itinerry and time on ones hands is that you can hang around a place and get more of a feel. So it was great to wake up on my birthday with high expectations for the day. I was not disappointed. Off on our mountain bikes (all roads are flat) to the tailor shop to see if they had followed my drawings for some new shirts. The drawings were based on a favourite shirt of mine

that Debbie had given me many years ago as a birthday present. Worked a treat, so I ordered nine in different fabrics and colours. We then rode to the coast with the expectation of having a swim. About 4Km from the town there is a very long sandy beach. The large hotel chains have already established their presence with 5 star hotels for the international tourists (a feature of all World Heritage sites). Marking off private beaches, the area is like any other developed sea front...not to my taste or pocket ..US$250 a night.

We cycled back to our "homestay". What a beautiful spot. We are the only guests and the accommodation is 5 star. Situated 1Km from the centre of town, the family have built four guest rooms and have been so friendly. In the kitchen my birthday present from Vix

is a cookery lesson.

.We cooked three dishes and two sauces and had a great meal afterwards. My favourites being the crab and corn soup and the peanut sauce.

To top the day had some email b'day wishes from all at Lustleigh (my Dad is now home from hospital and progressing well), an e card from Eric and Lyndsay and a skype conversation with Ali.

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