Monday, November 28, 2005

Luang Prabang & Chang Mai

Hey, greetings from Thailand

We spent 3 nights in Luang Prabang in northern Laos. It was nice but it had been hyped up to such an extent that it couldn't really meet our expectations. It was a nicer town than Vang Vieng but the scenery was nothing in comparison. We didn't really do anything worth blogging about (there was a cool waterfall but they don't blog so well) so we'll get on to Thailand.

We decided to take the speed boat to the border (gasp of horror from Binx) as we thought we could get all the way to Chang Mai in one day instead of it taking 2 days to get to the border plus the next morning to get to Chang Mai. Well the speedboat people messed us about pretty badly, but (to cut a long story short) we just made it to the border as it closed and arrived in Thailand at 18.05, 5 mins after the border closed. Fortunately they let us in, for no fee. By 18.30 we were on a minibus to Chiang Mai and arrived by 11pm, what a day!

Thailand is so westernised compared to Laos it was like a mini culture shock coming back into civilisation and having smooth roads and western companies around. We did a 2 day trek, the first day was pretty hardcore hill climbing but the second day was cool. We did a 1 hour elephant ride which was awesome. I sat on the neck while Suze clung onto the chair for dear life and we had a baby elephant following us which was nice. We also did some white water rafting and then got 9 people on a bamboo raft which promptly sank 1-2 feet under the water whilst our slightly mad tour guide delighted in tipping it up and soaking us up to our necks. We've booked a 1 day cookery course for tomorrow and then we fly (yes fly, slumming it as usual) to Bangkok.

I'll do photos at some point, now i'm going to email everyone who hasn't commented on my blog yet, hopefully some new people will comment.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Vientiane and Vang Vieng (Photos)

Greetings from Laos

I'm currently in Luang Prabang in northern Laos but nothing of note has happened here yet so let me tell you about the past few days.

We travelled overnight to Vientiane, the capital of Laos (If your geography isn't up to scratch) The main tourist attraction is this thing

I can't remember the name off the top of my head but it certainly is an impressively gold structure. We only spent one night here and then travelled up to Vang Vieng which has some beautiful scenery.

See what i mean! We chilled out here for 3 nights and spent 1 afternoon tubing (think floating down a river in the inner tube of a tractor) and the next day kayaking and looking at caves. The town was very backpackery with certain menu items designed with alternative types in mind, here's an example. (guess what the O stands for???)

We've spent the past few days travelling with a wicked austrian guy called imo, i'll see if i can find a picture of him somewhere, a very handsome man to be sure.

Tony requested more pictures and i have a few from the past few weeks which haven't made it on here yet so here they are, keep commenting!

Rocket boat in Cambodia

National museum in Phnom Penh

And now some photos from the Angkor temple complex, first up Bayon

Ta Prohm

Angkor Wat

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Crossing the border from Cambodia to Laos

If anyone is wondering about doing this trip it's easy. We took a speedboat from Kratie to Stung Treng and then on to the border. Once there we paid the Cambodian side $1 which you could probably avoid paying if you argue. We paid $1 to cross the river from Cambodia to Laos as the boats we had come on had mysteriously lost their drivers, then $1 on the Laos side which you have to pay. (It's $2 on tue/wed/thu apparently) From there we got a lift to Don Det via a waterfall for $3 including the boat over to Don Det from Nakasang. If you have a 2003ish lonely planet it will make out that this journey is very difficult but it isn't at all, as long as you don't decide to be an example of western incorruptibility and refuse to pay the border guards, you'll be there all week if you do.

Anyway, that's for people who wish to know about the border crossing, most people probably want to know what me and suze are up to. We arrived in Kratie at 2pm and were on a tour to see freshwater dolphins at 3pm. The dolphins were quite shy so we didn't see a great deal but there were a few of them quite near our boat. The next day we got rocket boats up the Mekong river to the border, quite a thrilling ride as they go about 70 kph. Binx warned me off these in nothern Laos but i couldn't see another way of getting to the border and as i made it unscathed i'm glad i did it. When we go from Laos to Thailand we can get a slow boat for 2 days or a fast boat for 5 hours, i think we might take a slow boat next time but we'll see.

We spent 2 nights in Don Det doing very little. It's very tranquil and scenic, we stayed in a bungalow for $0.75pppn and there is no electricity supply so once the generator is turned off at night which powers the main building it's very quiet and dark. Most people who go there end up staying about a week doing bugger all but suze and i are hardcore and have too much more to see to just relax and not do anything, Raaa!

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Oooh Cambodia, it used to be dodgy, now its fine but you can immdediately see how much poorer it is than Vietnam. The traditional buildings we had to look so hard for in Vietnam are everywhere in Cambodia. However the rules regarding western imports are a little less strict here so in many ways it appears more developed, i had my first cappuccino for 3 weeks the other day and it was like mana from heaven. They also have normal bakeries which has allowed suze and i to resume our staple breakfeast of croissants and various sticky gooey cakes.

So we've been to Phnom Penh, the capital and Siem Reap which is where Angkor Wat is. Phnom Penh is cool, better than Hanoi and Saigon. We haven't covered all the attractions here (which are mostly based on the indiscrimnate slaughter of cambodians in the 70's) as we were feeling a bit tired and there's only so many prisons/torture camps/killing fields you can go to before you just want to chill out by the river with a beer. We spent 2 nights in Phnom Penh before heading up to Siem Reap.

After a very hot and sweaty bus ride we got to Siem Reap and wound up staying in a wooden shack with a mosquito net in it, very rustic. We found a friendly TukTuk driver (think moped with a 2 wheeled carriage on the back, you feel like a king until you hit a bumpy road) and went up a tall temple for sunset and then spent the whole next day seeing pretty awesome temples. They are about 1000-600 years old and trees have recolonised some of them creating some amazing images, i'll put some up soon.

Due to the regular bus journeys we are making our standard wake up time is about 6am at the moment, i trust all those people working hard will be glad to hear it. We're back in Phnom Penh now and tomorrow we're going to Kratie to see some freshwater dolphins and then off to Stung Treng to figure out a border crossing into Laos. I don't know when i'll next be able to post as Laos is quite backwards but i'll see what i can do, hang in there!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Dalat, Mui Ne, Saigon

Right, it's been a while since i regaled you with tales so here's the lowdown.

We travelled from Nha Trang to Dalat on the open tour bus and found that in order to see any of the sights in Dalat one has to either hire bikes or get a guide. We'd never ridden bikes so we got a guide, an Easy Rider to be precise. They hang around on the streets and don't have an office to avoid tax but they're good guides. We did a 1 day tour around Dalat and enjoyed it so much we decided to do a 2 day trip to Mui Ne with the same guys. When we did the longer trip we had our big packs strapped on the back so it was like being in an armchair, very nice for seeing the Vietnamese jungle and hills. We got out in the sticks and saw some of the real Vietnam where it isn't designed for tourists and it was very refreshing. It would be nice to do the whole country like that but the costs would rack up quite badly, i do now have dreams of buying a bike and touring South America though i still haven't actually ridden one so i might do that first.

The guides left us at Mui Ne which is a sea side town 5 hours from Saigon. We decided not to stay the night so we booked a 1am bus and then went sand surfing, basically get a large piece of plastic and shoot down a large sand dune with some vietnamese children helping you out (and pulling Suze back up the slope!)

So we got to Saigon at 6am, lovely. Walked around and saw the city, i wasn't particularly impressed, it's no Beijing or Bangkok, but there was a few things to see. Today we went to the Cu Chi tunnels where you can go through the tunnels the vietcong used when they were fighting the yanks and then we went to the war remnants museum which had captured aeroplanes and howitzers outside which you could look around and touch, very cool. Tomorrow we get the bus to Phnom Penh in Cambodia so we'll have spent precisely 3 weeks in Vietnam, marvellous!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More Photos

I finally got my old memory card downloaded so now i can share some photos from the first couple of weeks of the trip, enjoy. (click on the photos to get a sharper version)

The Great Wall of China

Beijing's forbidden city

How about that for a high definition LCD (Sony Centre, Tokyo)

Himeji Castle, Japan

The bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo

Carnival in Hong Kong

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nha Trang

I imagine Nha Trang is quite a happening place in high season, however Nov 1st is definitely not high season around here. We arrived about 7am and went out to look around but there was no one about and the waves were so vicious looking we didn't go in the sea (neither did anyone else, i'm not just a wuss) We went to the sailing club and played a couple of games of chess and then went back for a siesta, ROCK!

Still things picked up later when a canadian couple we had met in Hoi An wandered into the same bar as us on Halloween. Being North Americans they take Halloween very seriously so they were dressed up as trees with a hammock between them and their male friend was dressed in drag. You have to see a guy in drag in vietnam, the loacals couldn't believe it, guys were crossing the street to grope him and people were falling off their bikes looking over their shoulders, it was hilarious. Theres a photo on here now which isn't working at present but hopefully will be when you read this (Magic Macca is on the case)

We booked a boat trip for the next day which was pretty cool, we ended up drinking mulberry wine while hanging from life preservers in the sea and the chefs and guide bloke put on a show playing songs from around the world (yellow submarine, la bamba,etc)

Now we're in Dalat and we're doing a motorbike tour tomorrow which should be fun, my first time on a motorbike (no i'm not driving). Then we hightail it to Ho Chi Minh to pick up some Laos visas and then head into Cambodia, Oooooooh!


Hey, we found a decent internet connection so now i should be able to bring you my travels in glorious technicolor!

Suze gets ambushed by vietnamese pineapple seller in Hanoi

Water buffalo in Sapa

Fancy a place in Hong Kong? (Divide by 12 for pounds)

Halloween in Nha Trang, check the poster on the wall.