Here we are, well into our third year in Laos and we haven’t been back to neighboring Vietnam! Well, that’s all about to change when we catch our flight this afternoon to Hanoi.
Around 480 miles (780 km) northeast of Vientiane, Hanoi was one of our favorite stops on our 2012 honeymoon backpacking trip around Asia. Since then, we’ve been back to Thailand a half dozen times, and spent two weeks in Malaysian Borneo last year.
So, why has it taken us so long to return to Vietnam?
For one, it’s free for us to enter Thailand and Malaysia, but a 30-day visa for Vietnam for the four of us costs US$100.
Two, flights between Vientiane and anywhere in Vietnam are about double what they are to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
Finally, we like our beaches — particularly living in a landlocked country — and Thailand and Malaysia have got a lot of them. Vietnam has beaches, but it’s just not the same.
So, why did we choose Vietnam this time around?
Well, it’s the new year, once again, here in this predominately Buddhist corner of Asia. We stuck around Laos for our first Pi Mai (Lao New Year) in 2017, and that was enough for us. We experienced it once (and everyone should definitely experience Pi Mai once if they can)…but once was enough for now.
Last year for Lori’s Pi Mai break, we opted to break out of the Buddhist bubble and head to predominately Muslim Malaysia, where we spent two weeks split between amazing Kuala Lumpur and the beautiful, beachy Sabah region of Borneo.
The majority of Vietnamese do not observe Pi Mai / Songkran / etc. — they have their own lunar new year which coincides with Chinese New Year earlier in the year.
Finally, with a 6-month-old infant and 2.5-year-old toddler, we were eying as much of a “vacation” as possible. Backpacking and moving from place to place like last year wasn’t going to cut it in that respect. We also wanted no more than one flight each direction, which narrows things down.
In the end, the decision was between going back to Malaysia and hunkering down for a week in Penang/Georgetown, or jetting on over to Hanoi. We wanted something different, and have been itching to get back to Hanoi, so Hanoi won out.
If you’ve been following AwayGoWe, you know how much Noe loves all things airplanes. And it’s a good thing too, since we’ve dragged him on a few flights since he was three-months-old. Today will be #42, according to the little log I keep for him.
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We’ll see if Riley ends up with the same love of air travel. By the time Noe was Riley’s age, he had already completed 13 flights. Riley’s working on #4 today. Sorry, Riley.
They’ve finally completed the new domestic terminal at Wattay International in Vientiane. I’d thought they had torn out the old open-air gangway, so I was quite happy to see they had preserved and integrated it for use between terminals.
There’s just something about getting off a plane and walking in the open air to the terminal in the tropics.
We’re flying Lao Airlines to Hanoi today. We’re generally pretty happy with them and know what to expect.
I guess because we get to the airport fairly early and have kids, they often put us in the bulkhead seats up front, which I have mixed feelings about. More leg room, but no diaper/toy bags on the ready at takeoff and landing.
These days, it’s fine because Noe just “reads” the in-flight magazine. And Riley…he just kind of watches Noe.
At around ten thousand feet we pass through the soupy smog layer that’s blanketed Vientiane for a while now. We had a nice twenty minutes before we descended into Hanoi’s even denser soupy smog layer.
Flight time to Hanoi: 45 minutes on an A320.
Smooth flight, no charges for carry-ons or premium seats, in-flight snack (pork bun), no delays out of Vientiane, and no circling Hanoi waiting to land, even into the sole international airport of a city of 8 million.
It’s good to be back in Hanoi!