Motorbike diary – part 2

April 24, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Laos | Leave a comment

One of the many villages that we passed through, the people here were so friendly and were all curious when we stopped by. the children were curious, but a bit shy – they kind of treated us like exotic animals. they all eventually came up to play with us, except for one little boy who ran back to his mother.

the kids were great. notice how the little girls had to take care of the babies. the babies were so cute, but in a sad, sad way – they looked like little people (rather than chubby babes) because they were so skinny.

Tad katamtok (too big to jump off of)

this snake was just in the middle of the road

some of the roads were crazy and filled with potholes. I(hudson) only ran into 2 (i’m quite impressed with that) but we were lucky not to get a puncture as they were huge. yeah, I(kjelly) was on the back of the bike with a huge backpack and terrified every time I noticed we were headed for a giant pot hole. we saw a few locals pushing their bikes b/c of flat tires.

can’t remember the name of this one, but it was really pretty with lots of green. was a little bit touristy in that there was a path leading to the bottom and a few people around.

The highest waterfall – Tad fane

This waterfall had a raft so you could pull yourself across to the other side. you can barely see us underneath the falls – there was a bit of land to stand on. maybe because it was nearly dusk, but the water here was freezing, especially when we took the raft underneath the falls.

crossing the river involved us taking a “ferry” – well 2 little boats with a plank in between. we had to lug the damn bike on this ramshackle ferry, which was a little scary.

the remains of wat phu, which was part of the khmer empire built in the early 10th century. climbing to the top was a real pain.

although nowhere near the size of angkor wat, the architecture was pretty amazing

a crocadile carving in stone. there were also some cool buddhist carving and bas-reliefs.

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Motorbike diary – part 1

April 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Posted in Laos | 1 Comment

We really weren’t ready to leave Laos so we headed to the less-travelled south to check out some of the more remote areas. The best way to explore is to hire a motorbike, so we set off on a 5 day adventure around southern Laos. our bike was okay, pretty tough really, but getting used to shifting gears was a bit rough.

Our trip involved us touring the bolaven plateau, an elevated area with countless waterfalls and ethnic villages.

I’m standing at the edge of a huge cliff that normally has tons of water flowing over it. Getting here was a bit scary and involved a hike down a steep hill – hudson almost wanted  to bike down the hill.

just a little trickle when we saw it…  but still pretty cool to look over the edge

 This was one of our first waterfalls; we were both desperate to jump in, but when i(hudson) awkwardly simulated jumping in the falls to the locals, they laughed and then shouted other people over and they laughed. we didn’t think it was a good idea. this waterfall was really beautiful and it looked like you could jump in (but maybe never get back out).

our next waterfall, Tad Lo was a mix of river and small waterfalls. a few elephants loved to play in the water -they’re surprisingly agile on those slippery rocks.

The local kids in laos were so friendly and loved to hang around(trying on our sunglasses was a favorite activity). They were also useful in showing us the areas where we could jump in. the water here was pretty shallow, but i could flip into it and the crazy little kids were diving in. only the boys are allowed to really swim around; the girls only get in to bathe (with their clothes on) and wash clothes. Even I wore my clothes because I think the laos people would be shocked by a bikini.

even though the water seemed very clean and refreshing, most rural people used it to bathe and do laundry (with detergent and stuff). we saw this all over laos and one ki at tad lo was shampooing his hair while diving around.

Tad Lo – these falls were so pretty and secluded.

We were told that some pretty mean ‘penis-eating’ fish (im sure i’ts a myth) lived in this pool so i was naturally dubious to get in. These Laotian guys were busy doing their laundry in the water, but were easily persuaded to come and pratt around with us.

a mission impossible shot… yeah the laotian guys showed us where to jump in – the scary part was scaling the rocky wall to get to the top of the falls

hudson and the boys

Tad Hua khon, our favourite waterfall. it was 100 metres long and deep everywhere, so kind of like a huge swimming pool.

 It was great to jump off the top. we drove up on a forest path and discovered this place. it was so quiet with no one around. the water was black and beautiful and I swam around the bottom and discovered most places were really deep. hudson made me check the depth a couple times before he jumped – don’t blame him, it felt really high. the part where he is standing had small pools as well.

After a while a few laotian kids creeped up. they were not used to seeing westerners so they followed us and watched from afar. When we tried to approach them they ran off at first but kelly used her expert children skills (teaching them to give high fives) and befriended them

Would love to have access to this place all the time,, the perfect place to relax on a hot day.

yeah, i really miss this waterfall and would love to go back. we stayed a little ways down the road at someone’s house basically – the only accomodation for miles around. no running water or proper toilet and they only had noodle soup(actually, no, they had some lettuce leaves which i ate with fresh cilantro). i wouldn’t want to stay there too long, but it was cool to see how the rural people live all the time. there is a big problem in southern laos of not enough food; it was pretty apparent. even though the people were very poor and only had the basics (we passed some people who had whole families in one open-walled shack room), they were very friendly and laid-back. they never begged and always were quick to wave and smile – and play in the waterfalls with us.

Vientiane

April 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Posted in Laos | Leave a comment

After experiencing the tranquility of Luang Prabang, the craziness of Vang Vieng, we visited the capital city. Vientiane is a city on the Mekong so we expected some nice views. Instead we were greeted by construction all along the river bank, not ideal for photography.  When looking round the city you see the french influence in the architecture. you can also see the french influence in the tasty bakeries – it was so exciting to eat a real cookie.

Patuxai – the arc de triomphe of laos

That dam – Black stupa 

Kelly experienced a laos massage and we both had a herbal sauna. the massage was pretty good; it involved a lot of popping and pulling i guess. the sauna was nice – would have been good to have a cool pool to jump into rather than walking outside into the sweltering heat.

we also had a fun bar crawl night after eating laos style on some ground cushions outside by the river. the meal was kind of crap to be honest, but we liked the laos beer and as the night went on met a few funny laos characters. sadly the pics from this night are temporarily lost.

Vang Vieng

April 16, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Posted in Laos | Leave a comment

Vang vieng is a riverside town, surrounded by countryside and cave-filled rock formations.  Nearly everybody who visits Laos heads to vang vieng and this is usually for the sole reason of tubing. The town has turned into a bit of a student hang out. There are numerous bars showing endless re-runs of ‘friends’ and they all serve shitty food – which is the perfect combo for hungover idiots.

The rock formations were amazing to look at

Perfect, relaxed chilled out scenery

View from the river

we hired a bike to do some exploring; all the locals were busy riding across this bridge, but as soon as we saw it kelly hopped off and i thought it best to push my bike like an amateur rather than fall into to the river like an idiot

the kids here were so funny. This one little kid was walking along the road carrying a heavy load and took it upon himself to get a seaty, i couldn’t really kick him off. – this was the day we rented bicycles instead of a motorbike. the roads are crazy and cycling was definitely tough.

Our favourite place was the blue lagoon. The water here was so inviting and relaxing. We spent a couple of days  here just reading and swimming. the lagoon was really so unbelievaably blue with lots of fish and butterflies around -there were also very few other people around. it took forever to get to, esp on those damn bicycles, but was well worth it.

It took kelly a while to get her confidence up but then she started her gymnastic display off the tree. This shot looks like it’s going to be the biggest belly flop ever, she pulled it off though and landed perfectly and graciously accepted the applause from all the fans around the lagoon

this water cave went really far back, it got to a point where we couldn’t see anything and a few reeds tickling your leg can really send you sprinting back to the light. supposedly you can swim against the current deep into this cave, but we wussed out about 40 meters in.

Another fantastic cave, we explored this on our own for a while, there was one point where there was a hole with a 5o foot drop. this cave, located a steep climb up from the blue lagoon, was huge. we couldn’t even cover all of it, and we wandered around for about an hour. definitely creepy and somewhere you could easily get lost. yeah the 50 foot drop had one little skull-and-crossbones hand-painted sign that we nearly missed. safe.

a scary looking passageway

shortarse hudson. most of the caves had beautiful stalagmites growing from the ceiling, like this large white one behind us. the pics don’t really do the insides of the caves justice – they were so black and empty, but the stalamite stuff really sparkled.

this cave had a lagoon inside, you couldn’t see anything without a torch. The guide took us there and we messed around on tubes with him. We talked him into jumping off the side of the cave into the freezing cold water; obviously he expected us to do the same, but it was fun. -oh yeah, when hudson refers to “the guide,” he means this random local that we didn’t pay or anything – this guy just walked up to us in the woods, led us to a hut where he gave us some rice whisky out of bamboo shoots and then “guided” us to this cave with a black-water lagoon inside. it was out of a horror movie for sure. hudson managed to climb up the rock wall and jump like the guy did, but i was a big wuss and only made it b/c the guy grabbed me and hauled me up the wall like dead weight.

the guide. in his undies.

After hearing ‘you’ve got to go tubing’ from far too many people, we had to try it out. The river is sidelined by numerous bars dishing out buckets of whisky and free shots and they all have crazy rope swings and even giant slides. A good combination.

total chaos. could never be legal in most countries.

We had to try the swings. You know when someone falls badly as you can hear the slap on the water and the groans from the people on the side. Kelly had the unfortunate pleasure of a huge flop, she had the bruise for about a week afterwards. -yeah it was so bad that a local through a rope at me because he thought i might be too dazed to swim. which i was.

this slide was pretty fun, managed to land without much pain or maybe it was the beer that helped. we saw loads of kids all over town with huge bandages, limps and gashes so i think we faired pretty well, despite my giant bruise.

awkward.

One of the only tubers who made it to the end. What generally happens to people (us included), is that they stop at all the early bars (there are 8 within the fist 100 metres) and lose track of time, and eventually just get a tuk tuk ride back before it gets dark instead of tubing down the 3 hour strecth of river.

Have to say im really glad we did tubing, it was a lot of fun and kind of like being at university again. We met a lot of people who were staying in vang vieng for weeks and were just going everyday – definitely couldn’t handle that. After tubing the best thing to do was to chill out in one of the bars and watch a few (seven) episodes of friends. there was a crazy island night scene that the die-hard tubing crew liked, but it was a little cheesed out for us – even after an afternoon of whiskey buckets.

Luang Prabang

March 19, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Laos | Leave a comment

Even though we were ready to get out of vietnam, I wasn’t really prepared for the journey into laos. The trip took 3 days, involved 5 buses and two nights in shithole towns – I thought we’d never make it to Luang Prabang. After packing into yet another crappy minibus, delegated to the very back corner, hudson and I took bets on how long until the first local got carsick inside the van. I won with a bet of 17 minutes.

The first eight hour journey was actually beautiful – amazing views as we were winding our way around mountains.

Unfortunately the ride took ages because of what I guess you could call the dirt roads – they were so narrow and uneven, I’m surprised our little minibus survived.

After forging several creeks in the minibus, we were finally made to get out and take this ferry. seemed kind of a scam because the minibus went across on the same ferry, except when we were on it the ferry stopped in the middle of the river and we had to hop in these little banan leaf type boats for the last twenty feet.

After a strange altercation involving some lazy laotians and an irate french man, we realized we’d have to get a tuktuk to the next bus station. they kept insisting on strapping our luggage to the roof; turns out this was so the luggage space and aisle space could be used for random commodities like used truck wheels, 5000 bushels of onions, and local people.

i like to keep my hood up on these journeys. it makes me feel like the germs can’t get me.

one ride involved cramming 22 people into a 12 passenger van (we were in the back again), during which my neighbor, a random vietnemese, kept sleeping on me and putting his gigantic child’s head and feet in my lap for 7 hours. we also stayed in two $5 hotels, but at least in one of the towns we found a bar to eat in; i had a cold and was too ill to really eat so i just polished off my cough medicine bottle.
finally we made it to luang prabang; after our crazy journey, i wasn’t too confident about laos. however, the beautiful city changed my mind.

 the pic above is a view of the city from atop Phu si, a large hill with shrines, a cave and buddhas.

inside the cave was a beautiful shrine with burning candles and incense.

luang prabang is a world heritage site and was so lovely, especially after vietnam. from our hotel to the market, we meandered through little streets full of beautiful wats (buddhist temples); the architecture was gorgeous and monks lived on many of the wats. every morning the monks walk through the city collecting alms and food; the monks here seemed so much happier than the ones in bangkok who were barefoot and sad. there were even baby monks – i guess children as young as seven can start training and living in wats.

 

the markets were one of our favorites part of luang prabang. they had such delicious fruit and huge sandwiches for just a dollar.

at the night market there was even more food stalls and we ate there everynight. laos fish, grilled meats, noodles – so tasty. this fish tasted a lot better than it looked.

the night markets also had blocks and blocks of beautiful textiles, scarves, bags and other stuff. i was dying to buy a duvet, but i couldn’t really tote it around in my backpack.

one day we went to this waterfall. we didn’t know what to expect, but the waterfall was awesome.

The water was so blue and there were so many levels we couldn’t even see the top of the falls.

we climbed this bitch of a hill straight up – basically on our hands and knees – and i thought it might not be worth it, but the view was amazing. we could see all the way down into pools and more falls.

you could literally hang over the falls from a pool and look straight down.

to get to this pool, we walked through pools and some jungle where i nearly stepped on a snake. we couldn’t figure out how to get back up to this pool until we saw a couple kids climbing up a falls. it was crazy to climb up a bunch of water and rocks, but it made the pool really secluded.

hudson makes an awkward jump.

randomly there was also a black bear conservatory near the falls.

i was so sad to leave luang prabang. such a nice town to walk around and such friendly people.

we stayed in a lovely hotel along the river.

the lady who owned our hotel had this cute little dog, Babydog. see below for cuteness. hudson temporarily kidnapped him so we could play with him in our room.

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