It’s a blank slate. Mafia falls. VIETNAM!
Today we choose (or more accurately experience, the decision was made days ago) air travel and money over experience and suffering. Always the line we ride as a family. The line I’m constantly trying to figure out, the calculus of $$ and time and safety and experience. Rad. The 30+ hour bus trip from LP to Hanoi is not generally reviewed favorably for anything other than price or being a bad ass (yeah I did that).
So, we fly.
The first flight is at 17:00 so we get another day in the LP area, if not a later arrival in Vietnam! So I try to optimize on best practices. Arrange travel to/from some swimming/chill/eco forest zone/falls and the airport via the guesthouse I owe four nights lodging. And, arrange airport Hanoi to our lodging via the crew that I owe 2 night lodging (to come) and more imporantly to them a fat target to sell them whatever we want, YES, I am of the pork.
Later we learn it is insane, BBQ style, in the Pho, as reported, in Hanoi.
So, here we go for the day. Megan does the early morning tourons w/ the monks thing and walk gets her cappuccino on (what, my dirtbag french press travel coffee is not good enough for you!!). Need portable milk steamer to impress. Her cappuccino cost the same as A POUND of amazing ground coffee I roll with from the locals — we are in coffee heaven zone on this whole trip. I buy in 250g and 500g hunks depending. But I get it, the cappuccino is a treat :)
We dial in our game, pack up and I organize transport to these little visited falls and swimming area.
Sure enough a random road control mafia check point threatens to send us sideways but we play through the mafia game with lots of shrugging and spraying about some village, I get it now so much better than 3 months ago, but anyway we get to the spot we want. Maybe we think.
It’s the right spot, and empty. Cool valley, trail, swimming, resto. And only 6km from Luang Prabang . . . the mafia is at work for sure. Whoever “owns” this place is not playing ball in the right way. Well, more for us. We hike a rad path through and over the falls, lot of jungle, deep in it. Alone and remote. The kids are spanked. I end up w/ Aili on my back for a lot of it. We get back to the swimming zone — and for real before this trip there is no way Megan or kids would have swam in this zone. It looks like a mud puddle and the access is all slimy and rocky. I don’t think they’ll get in, but I do. Then, Megan is in — and exploring! She swims and finds the bamboo raft and I spot the pole to move it around and now she is Captain. I’m loving it. Keira is next in — and swims for the raft that Megan is poling around. I’m chilling on the shore. Aili is making a stink about the water and entry and mud and rocks and blah, blah . . . I’m like hey your call in or out but not rescue or help from me . . . and then SHE is in on day one of being five and all and swims to the raft. I follow the crew out and we make it our own craft and have fun rocking and rolling.
More chilling and lunch and it really is a cool place then we are out — 2pm — back to our lodging spot and change clothes and this and that and settle up with crazy money kip vs. dollar vs. bhat negotiations going on oi, but all good and sorted. Oh, and we found the missing safe key!!! I mean Megan did, amazing. In a spot I thought likely and we both looked in 2 times. Losing it.
Ride to airport in songthaw — like a pick up mini w/ a bench. Time to muddle. Figure it out, fairly low stress, and then walk the tarmac to a prop / turbo jet thing Lao airlines. All good, I’ve been on way sketchier for sure, but it is up close and personal w/ the engines getting on!
Great ride and service and we give the kids max food to prep for bed ASAP upon arrival, and Hanoi is on fire when we land. Literally. Paddies burning. Crazy sunset wildfire style. We land at 6:15 and are at the hotel by 7:15. Amazing and I am proud of the crew and happy w/ all the decisions I’ve made to make it happen. I roll out to find some food for Megan/me — the aforementioned famous Pho of Hanoi/N. Vietnam. I try to pay more but we have 2 buckets of Pho take away for $3.50 total on board and we de-compress and exhale as tomorrow is going to be big, and the next day, and the next, and the next :)
It’s cool but we are in a bit of big push, logistically, and the crew is on the rivet. I will be there soon, too.