A lot has happened in the past week.
One of the things that Ricky and I decided is a must for the trip is a motorbike tour of Vietnam. (We have Top Gear to thank for that.) We were in Chiang Mai for a little over a week and decided that Vietnam was our next stop. But how to get there? Flying seemed to be far too expensive, and we really wanted to do the trip without flying at all.
Then it hit us. Laos. We knew there was a bus from Vientiane to Hanoi, where we wanted to start the tour, and going by bus would be cheaper than flying.
So after a 14 hour mini-bus (like a 12 person van) ride, we are here in Vientiane. Yesterday, we decided that our first item of business would be to get our Vietnam visa. As we walked to the embassy, it struck me how much I liked Laos, and this city in particular. We walked the streets that were familiar to us, yet everything was also so foreign.
We had traveled the same roads before, knew where the too-large shopping mall was, and that the green walking man never showed his face signaling the time to cross the street on foot.
We still don't speak the language, though, or recognize a lot of places. It's still possible for us to get turned around on the side streets.
And that is great!
When you're at home, you sleep in the same bed every night, eat at the table that is always in the same place, leave your keys in the same little dish. Traveling, though, everything is different. Your bed changes often (sometimes more often than your underwear), and you hardly ever have time to have any favorites in a town.
So when we returned to Vientiane, where we stayed for a week two months ago, it was amazing to have the two sensations at once. We are staying in the same hostel we stayed at before, but in a different room with different people. We've eaten at a couple of the same places as before, and found some new ones too. It's a lot easier to branch out this time and try some new things, because we're not so wary. We feel confident in this town.
The same can be said for traveling in general. I was just telling Ricky how I felt like such a noob when we first started in China, and everyone we met had been traveling for a while. Now, though, it's different.
Today is our 5 month mark for the trip. We feel pretty experienced as travelers and are confident in the way we do things. We've made a ton of mistakes, but we've learned from them. Every new country or city we visit throws something new at us, but we are learning to handle them better after having messed up in similar situations before.
We are excited to go to Vietnam, excited for the challenges, the new experiences. We know that there will be things that are very different from what we've experienced so far, but we are confident that we will be able to handle them.
Something Familiar, Something Foreign: 5 Months on the Road
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