A true border crossing
Dong Ha Travel Blog› entry 161 of 254 › view all entries
Up early once again to search for a tuk tuk to take us to the bus station. After trying unsucessfully with a driver that spoke no English we got in another with no problems. Once we arrived at the bus station we were quickly shepherded into a bus that we hoped was heading in the right direction, we kept saying "Vietnam, Vietnam" and hoped they got the picture! This bus also acted as a delivery van, with the top of the bus loaded with all sorts of things. We stopped quite a few times, to let passengers on and off, to let food vendors on (selling such mouth watering delicacies as bugs on sticks and pieces of dried buffalo) and to unload goods - at one point 50 crates of beerlao came off the roof and were deposited at the side of the road. Had we known this was up there we might have opted for a seat up top!
At midday, we reached the border, and as soon as the bus stopped there were shouts of "Falang, falang!" (Foreigner, foreigner) as the black market money changers noticed us. We changed some of our kip to dong - we had no other choice as kip can't be sold outside of Laos and dong can't be bought outside of Vietnam - and got absolutely fleeced. Off the bus and onto the back of a motorbike each that took us the km or two to the border posts - we must have looked funny with our large rucksacks on our backs, perched on the back of these motorbikes, hanging on tightly. We checked out of Laos, and walked a few hundred metres to the Vietnam side where there was more officialdom. We had to show our passports at least 3 or 4 times to different Vietnamese officials - no chance of slipping in here like you could in Laos! We had some difficulty finding onward transport, but eventually struck a deal with a minivan driver to take us to Dong Ha for 50,000 dong each (his opening bid had been 150,000 each). There was hardly anyone in the van when we set off, but by the time we arrived it was jam packed. We found our hotel, which was ok for $15 a night and had a shower - we were both hot, sticky and knackered. After a rest we decided to venture out again to see if the power had been restored to the ATM's. We were successful, which was a relief because we needed money for tea, the hotel and our bus tomorrow. We withdrew 1,200,000 dong - about 35 pounds!
Later on we went out in search of some food and found a little cafe near to the bus station. The menu had an English translation and someone spoke a little English. We had our best meal in days, and as this was our first meal of the day it went down rather well. Just as we finished and were having a beer there was a powercut. The candles came out and the business went on. Vietnam is very different to Laos.