Settling into expat life can be a challenge, wherever you decide to live. Making new friends, keeping in touch with old ones, adapting to new food (this adaption may take place predominantly in the bathroom…) and getting used to the speed of the city. In Hanoi, that speed is fast paced. It seems everyone has somewhere they need to be, and they need to be there 10 minutes ago. When you mix this pace with a dire lack of public transport and low income, the result is streets filled with, what the Vietnamese like to call, motorbikes. To me, they will forever be called scooters. And the sound will remind me of hair driers and 17 year old boys from the town I grew up in, smoking and trying to get an adult to buy them some cheap booze. Having spent most of my teen years perpetually teasing anyone that ever mentioned in passing the notion of buying a scooter, a little piece of me died when asked for the first time in Hanoi “do you have a scooter yet?”.
For many ex-pats, the need to go on a visa run is a simple fact of life. Yes, it can be frustrating and the bus journeys can be a nightmare, but they can be a fun chance to explore a new town for a little while. In Luang Prabang there are loads of ex-pats choosing the best way to renew their visa – often booking a flight into Vietnam or Thailand, or taking the bus down to the the capital, Vientiane, and then hopping over the Friendship Bridge into Thailand, stocking up at the closest 7-11, and then doing the journey in reverse, back over the mountains to Luang Prabang. A less popular route is to take the bus west from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai, via Huay Xai, which is what we decided to do.
When I left the UK with a one way ticket to Australia in March 2014, I didn’t know when I would be returning to the UK. I suppose I thought I’d do the standard one year break, and return in March 2015. Looking back now, I know this was not what I wanted. I just didn’t know if long term travel, with no end date at all, was really achievable. With this in mind, here are my blog and travel plans 2015.