Last day in Southeast Asia

Quite a hectic day's travel. Got the bus at 8am and crossed back to the other side of Cat Ba, to the main pier. From there we got the boat to the mainland, and then the bus to Hanoi. We knew the taxis at the bus station were notorious for dodgy meters so we haggled for a fixed fare to the airport (knowing what the fare should be we haggled him down to half price). Then something bizarre, our taxi driver took us to a taxi rank and we changed car and driver (arranged price still stands). Either he didn't want to be seen round the airport with a dodgy meter (and probably no licence) or it made more sense for him to scoot back to the bus station to lure unsuspecting fares to use the taxi meter. Better for us, the new car was bigger, newer, more comfortable and more legal.

Got to the airport with plenty of time. Caught the flight to Kuala Lumpur and we are now just boarding the second leg to Sydney.

So what are our impressions of the 3 countries we have visited and the region as a whole?

Nearly three months in Southeast Asia is getting close to saturation. Differences between the countries notwithstanding, it eventually all becomes a bit "same, same". This is especially true if you travel with children and can't do much trekking or going off the beaten track. We are ready for something new.

It would have been nice to get off the tourist trail a bit more, but it's hard. There a quite a few things against us: finding milk, decent accommodation, heavy luggage, long bus rides... The kids don't appreciate it, and also we don't really have time to do enough research (I guess we could just randomly head out and hope it all works out with a bit of improvisation, but that could also end in a dead end).  All in all I'm sure we could have done more, but the aim of this trip is just to have a nice stress-free time, to bond as a family, and to go with the flow in exotic-enough locations. If we wanted to tread paths never trodden on before I guess we would have started out in Mongolia instead of Thailand.

It was a shame leaving Thailand a bit early. We could have definitely spent more time there, especially exploring the beaches. We had ruled out Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, but we could have also explored the East part of the country a bit.

Cambodia was the hardest country to be in, but being able to just get taxis everywhere for next to nothing made it pretty easy. What it lacks in laid back relaxation and beauty it makes up by being different and interesting. The people are incredibly friendly and helpful for a nation that has suffered so much and continues to be in a shambles.

In Vietnam we could have skipped the beaches. Not a patch on the ones in Thailand and pointless unless you are a kitesurfer. It was a shame missing out on Hue, Hoi An and Sappa. Here is where you have to keep your wits about you, there are many more scammers and self-interested people than in the other two countries.

I think we were wise to avoid Laos. Myanmar might have been interesting but we hadn't done any research. Northern Malaysia could also have been cool, or even Indonesia (though apart from beaching is there much else you can do with 2 small children?).

All in all it has been a stress-free taster of the region which we have all enjoyed immensely. It's great spending so much time together and seeing how the kids soak it all in. It's also nice to see we are pretty much on budget - money isn't important and all that but it is an issue if we want to do this for 8 months.

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