The Ho Chi Minh Way: With a few days left on my visa I was keen to cross the border into Laos. The amazingly helpful Ben, owner of Easy Tiger Hostel and The Farmstay in Phong Nha, recommended that instead of taking a very long, boring and not necessarily cheap bus ride, I take a far more fun and adventurous route by motorbike through Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park and down the Ho Chi Minh Way to Khe Sanh, renowned as the most scenic road you can experience on two wheels in Vietnam. Not being confident enough to drive all that way on my own, I hired an “Easyrider”, a motorbike tour guide who does all the driving for you whilst you sit back and enjoy the scenery. It was a tad pricey for a backpacker budget, $65 for the eight hour journey (lunch included), but it was worth every penny and the perfect way to get a dose of the motorbike experience without any hassle (we actually rescued a young German guy on the way who’d managed to crash his bike into a barrier and completely smash up his front wheel!). My driver An was extremely experienced and great fun to spend the day with. The landscapes were mesmerising and we also passed through minority villages with the locals waving, smiling and shouting hello. It was such a memorable way to spend my last day in this spectacular country – highly recommended!
How to cross the border at Khe Sanh: This was easy enough for anyone wanting a more off-the-beaten-track route into Laos. After a long day on the bike I spent the night at a hotel in town. The next day An very kindly dropped me at the border 20km away and I got my passport stamped at immigration ($35 for the visa) before taking a short motorbike taxi on the otherside (5000 kip/60 cents) to the bus station. There were only local buses available here so I did have to endure a six hour hot, sweaty and incredibly cramped journey to the nearest major town Savannakhet. It was kind of fun though, so long as you don’t mind the locals staring at you and speaking Laos to you! There’s not much to see and do in Savannakhet and hardly any westerners around (not necessarily a bad thing) but it’s a good point to get a connection to your next destination.