Chopsticks and kung fu kicks!

Leaving on a jet plane …

Luang Probang – Vang Vieng March 31, 2010

Filed under: Laos — esacc @ 2:17 AM

We booked our van to vang vieng for a 10 am pick up from our guest house. After sitting there waiting for an hour we were informed that the bus was broken down and that we had to take the 130 bus. So we killed time around the city and returned to the guest house at 1 pm. We then waited over another hour. We were finally picked up by a tuk tuk driver and taken to the bus station and now at 220 we are finally on the road to Vang Vieng!

We are in our aircon mini bus… Curling and swirling around the mountains of Laos… When our driver informs us that in order to make it up the hil we must turn off the air con and open the windows in order to conserve power to make the ascend. Hahahaha oh Laos.

We are into the third hour of the journey and it is absolutely remarkable. I am sitting in my window seat, iPod in, just taking in all the sights. The endless mountain tops and snaking roads are phenominal. And the local villages we are driving through really explains the literal sense of the saying “go play on traffic” as these villages are literally built along the side of the road with little more than the road to play on.

In the last hour of the trip Maria and I both startig fighting off feelings of what we think must have been some sort of bug. It was an uncomfortable ride for the last part but we made it through.

Once we arrived we met up with four girls from England that we had met on the slow boat and we all decided to find a place together. We were taken to a really nice cheap place and decided to put three in each room and since we all started off in pairs we decided to split the pairs up to make up the rooms. So Maria and I spent three nights with our new friends. Our first day onyhe river we swam from river side bar to bar and played some mud volleyball and watched all the brave souls do the zip line. after all the horror stories we heard about people getting hurt we decided against ziplinning but opted just to watch. We had a blast tho!

Ou second day we went to the blue lagoon and climbed up to the cave that was there. After the hike we took a refreshing dip in the lagoon then headed back to the tube river and did some more swimming along the river.

Now we are headed to the capital of Laos – vientienne.

Sunday April 4th

Vientiane was waaaaay too hot and a bit too pricey so we decided only to spend a night there. Today we went to the Buddha park which was pretty strange but neat at the same time. This mornig we booked our ticket for the sleeper bus down to the Four Thousand Islands so we had to say farewell to our British chippies whom are heading north to Vietnam and Maria and I are gettig cozy on the 13 hour overnight bus. We are sharing a tiny bunk for the first ten hours then once we arrive in Pakse we will change buses to a sitting up bus for the last 3 hours.

I am still fighting off a bit of a cold so I feel bad for coughing and waking up the rest of the bus. Oops! I’m excited to get back near some water but I thnk we are a bit crazy for heading south in se Asia at the hottest time of year. March and April are so hot that even the locals have a hard time dealing with the heat.

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Wednesday March 31st March 30, 2010

Filed under: Laos,Thailand — esacc @ 11:37 PM

I have finished transcribing my pre-written entries … so from here on out, it will be more of a timely update (provided I can get a good wifi connection!)

It’s been just over a week since my last entry … after Chiang Mai we made the 3-4 hour van ride South West to a small hippie village of Pai. There wasn’t a lot goingon here … the town itself seemed to operate on it’s own terms … and it wasn’t uncommon for shops and restaurants to open from 5 – 8 PM. We would wake up early and walk around the town, but it honestly felt like a ghost town with little going on and few people strolling about. At night people started coming out of the woodwork to open their shops along the night market – and to take part in the endless amounts of live music – but after a couple hours, they’d pack it in for the night.

On our last day in Pai we rented a scooter and decided to check out a local waterfall outside of town. It was a fun little ride … we nominated Maria has driver after I nearly drove into oncoming traffic and a parked vehicle – hahaha so with Maria driving, it was my duty to provide the entertainment. So we scootered around while I sang songs from every Disney movie I knew.  Our last day we went and checked out the local swimming pool as well which was pretty refreshing, but aside from that, there wasn’t a whole lot to do, so we only spent 2 nights there. But I really liked the small town feel of the place and it made for some great rest and relaxation!

From there we booked our ticket to Luang Probang in Laos. – not an easy trip. From Pai we had to take a night van through the windy, mountainous roads … by van for about 6 hours, arriving at the guest house at around 2 or 3 in the morning. We “slept” for about 4 hours before we were awoken by the owner singing us Happy Birthday. We had breakfast then headed to the Laos-Thailand “border” which was nothing more than a fence with a sign … paid our fees for the Laos visa, then headed across the river to Laos immigration. From there we were granted our visas and boarded the slow boat. We spent the next 8 hours on the boat before arriving in a small town for the night. We located our guest house, had some dinner and then did some mingling with our new buddies from the boat. (After 24 hours in small areas with people, it’s amazing how well you get to know each other!) The next day, it was early to rise again and back on the slow boat for another 9 hours to Luang Probang. We arrived in the early evening and found a guest house with our new group of travel “mates” (a majority of them being British and Australian) then it was dinner time and bed time shortly after.

The next day Maria and I rented bicycles for the day at about $2 dollars a day … and we decided around lunch time – at the peak of the sun – that we were going to ride our bikes to the infamous waterfall nearby. And well, Lonely Planet said we could make the treak, so we were bound and determined to go. To our dismay, after about 10 KMs into the 35 KM journey on our cruising, gearless, basket bikes, we turned around and headed back to Luang Probang. We cruised around the small French town and decided we put forth a great effort. We rewarded ourselves with a nap then it was off to bowling for a girl’s birthday. The shops, restaurants and bars all close here around 11 PM so the thing to do is to go bowling as it’s the only place that stays open. So we did just that. We can now say we came to Luang Probang and bowled. Two games.

The next day we slept in and decided to do like the majority, and hired a driver to take us to the waterfall. Thank goodness we did! After hitting the 10 KM point in which we turned around on our bikes, the terrain got rather challenging – and without well equipped mountain bikes, we never would have made it there – let alone there and back – before dark. haha

We spent the afternoon climbing to the top of the waterfall and swimming in the swimming holes at the base of the waterfall. Then it was back to Luang Probang where we ate dinner at the night market – we shared a large buffet plate for 10,000 kip which is about $1.25 USD – and we were stuffed. We walked around the market then made it home and passed out by 7 where we basically slept for the entire night.

We booked our bus ticket from Luang Probang to Vang Vieng … the 6 hour bus ride … we arranged to be picked up at 10 AM from our guest house. At 10:45 when no one showed up, we inquired about the location of our bus and we were informed that – in true Laos transportation style – it had broken down and the next bus wouldn’t be available about 1:30. So, we are now killing time until our bus leaves at 1:30.

Vang Vieng is the main tourist attraction popular for it’s tubing. We won’t be getting in until late tonight now, so tomorrow we will make a day of tubing down the river and exploring the ruins outside the city.

 

Tuesday March 23

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 11:14 PM

Chaing Mai – we have spent 3 nights in Chiang Mai – tonight being our forth and final night. The place we are staying – The Royal Guest House – has proven to be ideal conditions and very cheap! 350 Baht total per night gets us a fan room (which, oddly, we both prefer) – two twin beds, a hot shower, toilet paper, a pool and very friendly, helpful staff. Food seems to be cheaper in Chiang Mai as well!

On Sunday we did an authentic Thai Cooking course which was delicious. We made Chicken Phad Thai, Coconut Chicken, Green Curry Chicken and Spring Rolls. Sooooo good! Sunday night we went out on the town and met up with a couple from the cooking class. Before we knew it we were deep into the cheap local beer (chang) and busting a move at a (packed) Thai club with our new “friends” from the UK and New Zealand. Monday was definitely a “Changover” day and with no plans, we took full advantage of a day of rest.

Today was a jammed day as we had the Elephant trek booked. We were picked up around 8 AM and taken to Baan Chang Elephant Park where we spent the morning feeding, kissing and learning how to ride bareback and command the elephants. We broke for a delicious lunch and in the afternoon went for a 1.5 hour hike through the park while riding bareback. It was incredible. During our rest station at the top of the hill on of the elephants (a younger one, around 5 years old) went rogue and ran around the park rampant **no one was riding the elephants at this point**. The trainers finally settled her down and took her home as we made the descend back to the entry and into the bathing pool where we got to scrub the elephants clean – all while being sprayed by the baby elephant. It was an unreal experience I will never forget!

 

Saturday March 20th

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 11:01 PM

Oh wow … I am writing this during our 13th hour on the train to Chiang Mai. One hour to go!

Yesterday Merna and I spent the day in Bangkok .. shopping and killing time until our 10 PM train to Chiang Mai departed. We had high hopes going in to the train station, but upon boarding the train we were more or less in a state of shock and confusion. We booked the 2nd class sleeper train with a fan – and it was literally like out of an old war movie. The first few hours were spent trying to understand the rave reviews we read about 2nd class sleeper trains to Chiang Mai,, which we contemplated over a few Changs (beer). Just after midnight, we were starting to feel the Chang, so we decided to hit the sack and try to sleep. Although it wasn’t a perfect sleep, we woke up chilled and comfortable. After  missing the sunrise, we then realized our beds turned into chairs too – and after falling back to sleep, we woke up with only a few hours left in the journey! We both even agreed we’d definitely do the overnight train again.

 

Thursday March 18th March 27, 2010

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 9:23 PM

We made the trek from Ko Tao to Bangkok – 3 hours on a ferry; 8 hours on a bus. Arriving in Bangkok close to 2 am we grabbed some food and tried to fall asleep. This morning we were up at 630 and in the van heading to the floating market by 7 am. The floating market was pretty neat – but such a cash grab. After the market we were taken to numerous other places that we had no interest in visiting then finally reached the tiger temple at 3 pm. There we were able to take pictures with the tigers – which was really cool but felt pretty inhumane at the same time. After just over an hour there we made he 3 hour drive back to Bangkok, stuffed our faces with delicious food for caitlins last dinner, then the waterworks started. It’s hard to imagine not seeing someone I’ve spent sooooo much time with over the past year – and moreso, not knowing when the be t time I will see her again. All I can do is hope that it is one day soon. Anyway, I was a tearful goodbye as she departed for the airport. And now it’s just me and Maria. Tomorrow we are going to make a rough plan of where we are headed – and we are bound and determined to stick to a budget!

 

Tuesday March 16th

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 12:12 AM

Ko Phangnan was a bit off the beaten track. We are finding accomodation is getting pricier than we expected. Although we managed to swindle a cabin by the beach for 1000 baht a night but with that we had to get cozy with the local lizzards as well. Our days in Ko Phangnan were mainly spent on the beach, eating or browsing the shops. We did manage to go for a traditional Thai massage and boy was it interesting.

Maria and I had just sent our dirty laundry to be cleaned so I was without any sort of under garments while wearing my last clean dress. Unaware of what an authentic Thai massage entailed we located a place and got ready. After some confusion about what the massuese wanted us to wear we layed down completely clothed. At this point there was 3 of us and two girl masseuses. We sat in anticipation of the final masseuse. Sure enough in walks a male and of course he comes to my bed. The three of us errupted into laughter and could barely contain ourselves through out the pulling and stretching yoga like positions they twisted us into. We died of laughter.

The next day we slept in and lounged on the beach for a couple hours. Monday night wad the Black Moon Party so we needed to rest up for the nights events. Around 11 pm we made our way to the party beach and it wasn’t really at all what we expected. It was all techno trance beats with modern day hippies crucifying themselves to the speakers. It was pretty trippy. We stayed for a few hours – beating the beat up – then headed back to our bungalow. Going on about 2 hours sleep, 7 am came far too quickly and before we knew it we were on the ferry to Ko Tao. To our amazement the ferry was full of Koreans heading to another isla d so we felt right at home!

Once docked in Ko Tao it took some time to find a place to stay as everythig is a bit pricier here. Eventually we managed to swindle the price of – literally a villa suite – to a more affordable price. So now we are spending our last night on the islands of thailand at the prettiest place with the best room. It’s amazing here!

 

Sunday March 14th March 26, 2010

Filed under: Thailand — esacc @ 11:53 PM

We arrived in Ko Samui on Friday night. We found a place to stay- took a much needed shower since our last place didn’t have enough running water to suffice- then we hit the streets in search of dinner. We found a bomb place with cheap delicious Thai food and ate our weight in food. afterwards we toon a taxi to the main party area but didn’t do much aside from walking around. After a short ride back to our hotel we retired to bed exhausted after a full day of travelling. Saturday turned into a major beach day. The beach was hopping with people and the waves made for a fun swim. We couldn’t stand a whole day in the sun so we hit the streets to paruse the shops. By then it was dinner time so again we ate some delicious Thai and Indian food. Then it was off to the cabaret! Quite possibly the highlight of Ko Samui. The cabaret was put on by some Thai ladyboys and it was pretty hilarious. It obvs made for some photo ops. We then called it a night as we were in for an early 630am morning. We were picked up at 730 and on the ferry by 8 bound for Ko Phangnan. We arrived by 830, saught out a place to stay and were on the beach of Haad Rin by 11 am. Rough life! Tonight we are going to watch the sunset, maybe see what Haad Rin beach night life has to offer but more than likely we will be in bed by 1030 with our books. Tomorrow will be another beach day followed by a nap and the Black Moon Party. Tonight will be the last night for a good sleep in since after tomorrow we will be on the move for a couple days.