Trip Start Apr 04, 2008
Trip End Mar 31, 2009

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, April 5, 2008

In a small Vietnamese border town you sit down in the market and ask for a bowl of "Pho"--traditional noodles with chicken or beef--and out comes a bowl with noodles, big chunks of beef, and carrots so tender and sweet that it seems they've been lying around in some secret sweet sauce before being scooped into the bowl. The broth, garnished with basil, mint, sprouts, and plum sauce, is so good you drink it to the bottom of the bowl and wish there was more.

Then came the One Man Walking show which three Swedish youth perform at every border crossing.

They deck themselves out in clown hair and clown noses just as they're about to make their entrance onto new territory. The walker carries one friend wheel-barrow style, grabbing his hands and holding him off the ground so that his nose doesn't get scuffed off by the pavement. The other friend then jumps piggy-back on the walker for the ride. Everyone laughs and cheers.

"How far can you walk like that?"
"Oh, about ten feet."
"The people really like you."
"So does the government."
"Yeah, they think Sweden is like them, socialist and all that. We can enter Vietnam without a visa. We just show them our passports and they let us in. But only for 15 days. After that we have to apply for a visa."
"Cool. You can warm up fifteen days a year for free."

Anyway, here I am in Vietnam going to buy a ticket at the train station for the last train to Hanoi, and then look at Lao Cai.

Lao Cai is divided into three neat sections:

Going through the Vietnamese check-point takes you into the "commercial section" where there's a "department store" and a number of businesses. Any travel agent and some stores will change your Chinese rmb into Vietnamese dong (they'll give 2200 d even though they offer 2000 or 2100 d). 

It takes three minutes to walk through the area, and a couple of minutes more to get to the bridge that goes over the Red River and into the market, hotels, shops, schools, government offices, etc.

If you stay on the road instead of going across the bridge, after 2-1/2 km you arrive in suburbia: lots of residences, some shops, the bus station and the train station.

That's Lao Cai.
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