Thoughts on Luang Prabang and “different” HanoiPosted: February 4, 2012
As mentioned earlier, we spent Tet in Luang Prabang one of those places that I initially liked then struggled with the longer I was there.
We started the holiday with an ongoing joke that everything was “so much better than Hanoi” – the backpacker near cliche of comparing everything in Vietnam negatively to Laos. But as the holiday went on, one more than one occasion we sat and ate (with bitten tongues, which is tricky) while listening to someone holding forth on why Laos was so amazing and Vietnam (and usually Hanoi) was, at best, different.
On one occasion a person who hadn’t liked Vietnam went on to elaborate about how amazing Vang Vien had been. ”People were so drunk they were jumping in, forgetting they couldn’t swim,” they said gleefully.
Looking around the Orio smoothie stands and the Nutella Crepe ladies and the bucket bars, Luang Prabang is making those backpackers feel at home. Meanwhile I think Hanoi is falling off the backpacker map pretty quickly.
What Hanoi doesn’t do is exist solely for tourists. Yes it has many issues that desperately need sorting but it’s fairly unapologetic in how you find it. For some that is going to be wonderful, for others terrifying, for others it makes it not worth bothering with.
Even as a foreigner you can be invisible in Hanoi but not everyone wants to go unnoticed.
Luang Prabang was gorgeous, the surrounds perhaps the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen, but it’s worth noting that its most populated street had no river views – just eating, shopping and drinking. That was the draw.
There’s no point in comparing the places too closely because it’s hardly like for like. But I will say that a week in Luang Prabang was lovely but too long.
Meanwhile I’ve spent five years and counting in Hanoi and I’m just getting started.
* Rest of the pics are here.