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Showing posts from January, 2009

Let's Fly Lao Airlines!!!

Oh so proud of being ahead of schedule (this affords us more lazy time) we are jetsetting off to Hanoi this afternoon on the affordable and reliable air carrier Lao Airlines. With a 100% safety record (i.e. no records made public) I think we are in good hands. For those of you who think otherwise, our flight number is QV313. We depart Luang Prabang at 1645 hours, and, all going well, we arrive in Hanoi at 1535.

It's a 50 minute flight to Hanoi. We chose this over a 24hr bus ride, which may or may not have been cut short at 10 or so hours in (by dumping us at the border again). To even begin the 24hr bus ride, we would have had to take another 11hr bus just to get to the right bus stop. Bugger that.

This morning we have many errands to run: pick up laundry, attempt to fit souviniers in bag, buy another bag, check weather in Hanoi, pay for room, and spend all our remaining kip. Will post of our safe arrivel at our earliest convenience.

Bec,
Luang Prabang

Water Buffalo

Today we revisited the tubing office (actually it was a different office. It looks like they have different operators running the show on different days) and took the short tuk tuk trip back up the the launching point of the tubing run.

We politely waved off the bar owners and their bamboo poles, determined to make it the whole way this time. And we did! Four hours later! Let's just say the river gets slow at spots. We also stopped for lunch at the most deserted bar we could find. Unfortunately the staff thought that two guests constituted playing some blown out Eminem from four enormous speakers. We ate quickly.

I'm glad we did the whole trip properly, for a while we were actually out of earshot of the dance beats. The highlight of the trip was witnessing a heard of water buffalo going for a dip not a few metres from where we floated. There were about 10 adults, 3 of which I think were albino(!?), neck deep in the river, and 4 calves, who refused to get their hooves wet. From a…

Dripping wet, shivering drunkards... in tubes.

I don't suppose anyone else will appreciate the delicate irony* here, but I truly thought that being in Laos on Australia Day would allow me to safely ignore my homeland. It has, however, brought me in contact with more Australians than I usually meet in a month. Yes, this is partly because I'm a hermit, but also because there are way the fuck too many Australians in Vang Vieng. It might be the horribly obnoxious riverside club scene that draws us in, or it may be the beautiful scener-- nope, it's most likely the club scene.

An afternoon tubing sounds like fun. Nice, relaxing fun just floating gradually downriver... all you need to do is make it past the half-dozen or so bars littered along the banks. Try to ignore the shitty... shitty music and once you're past the big slide (yes, the big slide) it actually does live up to my snobbish expectations.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) most people don't make it past the big slide. And as such, a tuk-tuk service is se…

Vientiane

Here are some photos of the capital of Laos for your enjoyment.








Tena Bungalows, Don Det

My second sale for the trip! Earning me a profit of $10.70, the kind and wise purchaser of this tee paid for four night accommodation on the tranquil island of Don Det, one of the 4000 Islands in the very south of Laos.

Tena/Tana/Thana Bungalows (the signs were all different)
Don Det, 4000 Islands, Laos
20,000 kip (US$2.50) per night

Includes:

Private balcony with two and a half hammocks.


A window, with glass!!! This is rare on Don Det, Ijust want to point this out. If you're lucky enough to get a window, it's usually solid wood, for airing, not lighting, purposes. But we got glass! At no extra cost!

An on-property spa complex.


An electric light bulb (also rare). Electricity is availaable between 6pm and 10pm.


A mosquitio net (only slgihtly dusty). Let's also take the opportunity the look at that glass window again! Also note the amount of natural light! We stayed in one other bungalow with a wooden window, no light and solid wood walls. Bring a torch, day or night.

No top sheet (by…

A very important day

That's right people! It's the most important day in the world, a day when hundreds of thousands of Australians get together to celebrate one thing - Chinese New Year!! I hope you are all busy throwing lettuce heads at dragons.

Today we are taking it easy after our tubing escapades of yesterday. My god, I cannot describe how crazy it was. You think tubing down a 3km stretch of river and you think serene mountain scapes, drifting waters, waving children etc. But no, in fact we barely made it 1km down the river, as we were lassoed by bar owners and distracted by the bucket cocktails and flying foxes and rope swings and dancing bikini girls (I can only take so many exposed bum cheeks) and blaring dance music and crazy craziness. We met nothing but Australians all day, and I liken it to spring break madness. At the last bar there was a massive bonfire, which was handy as we were all freezing by this stage. From there we grabbed a tuk tuk back to town with 6 other party goers, which …

Vang Vieng

Man this place is awesome. Did you that water in it's natural state was originally clear? As in see-through!? After gazing at the muddy Mekong so long I was beginning to doubt clear water as a myth. But the river here in Vang Vieng has set me straight. You can still see the rocky bottom at two metres deep. Not to mention the fish.

We have a great room with hot water and a doona (yay!) and are about to set out on a cave exploration expedition. Tomorrow we will most likely be tubing the 3km stretch of river which is miraculously lined in bars serving buckets of beer and stuff. It will most likely be a quick for me and Paul :|

Stay tuned for many a photo of fabulous scenery and stuff.

Bec
Vang Vieng

Moving on

Tomorrow we head off to Vang Vieng. Our current guest house is a little bit dodgy looking so I'm not sure if we should get the tickets from them or elsewhere. I don't suppose it makes a difference but hey!

Oh to be a VIP

Did I say awful? I meant freakin' awesome!!! The sleeper bus was very nearly completely great fun. The only drawback was the squat toilet (which I could live with) being blocked (which I couldn't). Fun Fun. Thankfully we stopped at a mid-way bus station at 12.30am and I found the toilets (after walking in the wrong direction for a few hundred metres). These cost a whopping 1000 kip to use, which I did not have, so I owe a nice tourist somewhere some money. So on your super spensive VIP express bus monster, you get a small double bed - we got the ground floor - a pillow and a super warm and cosy doona in lovely Lao yellow with butterfly stitching. Aside from the size, it's the best bedding we've had the whole trip. You also get an amusing bus attendant handing out chocolate Lactosoy drink boxes, little cakes in packets (twinkies?) and water bottles, and cracking onto our good-looking companions from Chile. Chilenos are nice people! Here is a photo of one named Elena (Ma…

Next Stop Vientiane

Our original plan was to thoroughly explore every stop on our journey north, but we accidentally spent over a week on the paradisical island of Don Det. Plan B is to spend 20 hours travelling and skip everything between Don Det and the capital. It goes like this: 200,000 kip ($25 US), short boat ride, 2 hour bus ride to Pakse, 4-5 hour roam around Pakse town, 10 hour sleeper bus to Vientiane. Our more hardcore friends then caught the next bus to Vang Vieng (4 more hours) but we're going to give it a few days in the capital first.

We've never done a sleeper bus before but expect it to be thoroughly awful. Yay!

Here are some photos to keep you busy.

This is a 30 second exposure from the middle of a rice field on Don Det. It looks much more impressive on my camera than on this monitor.

This is Paul on the bike he's been renting for $1 a day.


And this is the view from our little bungalow's little balcony.

Welcome to Laos

Being on a balcony, overlooking the vast Mekong dotted with islands, after having spent three days paddling and cycling around a tiny island, eating good food and drinking great cocktails, I'm concerned that I won't be able to properly describe the nightmare of a border crossing that got us here.

It started in Kratie, Cambodia, when we booked our through, repeat through, ticket to Don Det island in Laos. We and six other people are assured that we're paying for a through ticket, with one minibus change at the border. Eight people in total, buying their tickets from four different locations in Kratie, make it to the border safe and sound. There's a manual boom gate and a little booth on the side of the road, and not much else. No drivers or buses waiting to pick up any tourists making their own way. Barely a drinks stand selling warm Pepsi. So we wait for Cambodian immigration to finish their lunch, pay our dollar exit fee, get about six new stamps in our passport and we…

Guesthouse # 9 Siem Reap

I recently made a sale of this t-shirt on redbubble, which earnt me $10.70. This sale paid for nearly two whole nights accommodation while we were in Siem Reap. Here is a photo review of said accommodation so the buyer can enjoy their charity more fully.
Number 9 Guesthouse Siem Reap US$5 per night.
Includes:
ensuite bathroom (toilet paper and towel supplied) two large beds with silk decoration (just like the hilton!)
chill-out area/restaurant with: pool table, hammocks (although get in fast as staff are swinging in these most of the day) bucket chairs and electic mosquito racket hire.media library movie theatre and swimming pool Thanks to the buyer for their kind purchase :)

Kratie

A few photos from Kratie. Nice and quite, small and riverside is pretty nice. Don't get too close or you'll notice the rubbish. People set up stalls along the river and serve food and drink so you can watch the sunset. People gather a lot over here specifically to watch the sunset. Isn't that nice?

Angkor Photos

Kratie

We've been working hard on gaining mileage so you haven't heard from us since Siem Reap. Since then we returned to Phnom Penh for one night at number 9 sister guesthouse again, only this room was the worst we had. Termites had destroyed the walls and we spent the night expecting the roof to cave in on us. There was also a great big bulge around a nasty gash in the wall paneling that I'm pretty sure was one of the lesser gateways to hell.

After that we jumped on a mostly empty bus with the first French-Canadians we've met, who argued every dollar they ever spent. Apparently they paid $7 for tickets on a fast mini-bus, and we'd paid $5 for whatever would get us to Kratie in whatever time. Of course we ended up on the same bus, but only after half an hour of them standing on the kerb refusing to board because they paid $2 more than us for a minibus. Then they complained about a $2.50 moto ride (a half hour moto ride). Poor French-Canadians!

In Kratie, we have the best b…

The Temples of Angkor: bring money

After two days of strolling around 800 year old temples, I am templed out. It was a mostly pleasant experience, putting aside the expense.

Our tuk tuk driver was acting a bit awkward the whole two days, I think he was expecting us to turn around at any minute and say your fee is ridiculous buddy, let's halve it. But too polite to insist, we paid him.

If you plan on eating or drinking whilst touring the temples, get your guesthouse to make you a sandwich. The food is about three times worse than anywhere in town, and three times more expensive. Too hot to bother, we paid for the stupidly priced food as well.

I'm not kidding when I say bring money. Paul and I usually get around town eating and internetting all day with a $20 note and some reil in our pocket. It was out of laziness that we left the entirety of our most recent atm withdrawl in the daypack, and lucky we did.

Entry to the Angkor area for three days is US$40. If you actully manage to fill three days, the tuk tuks will co…

Rollercoaster

Man we have been in Siem Reap about twenty hours now and only just worked out where we are. We have two maps of town, and two business cards with basic maps on them and damned if Paul or myself could make any sense of any of it! To top things off, any tuk tuk driver or guesthouse operator we asked to point to our location on a map would wave their finger non-commitally at some blank area on the page and say 'about here'. I think our mistake was over-estimating the size of Siem Reap. We expect a fifteen or twenty minute slog through the dusty streets looking for this particular landmark and we come upon it in about two minutes. There also appears to be two central markets in town, just to be thorough in confusing us, so as soon as we get some confidence in our position this market shows up and suddenly we may or may not be four blocks away. Gargh!

We have it sorted now though, forget the maps, just remember the direct route from our guesthouse to this really awesome (although a …

Back from the dead

First of all I'd like to apologise for Paul's gross post yesterday.
Our life threatening illness has thankfully only lasted 24 hours. Yesterday we ate absolutely no food, and I had a pretty unhappy fever during which I couldn't decide if I was hot or cold, and poor Paul had to get up and turn the fan on or off about thirty times at my mumbled request. This morning for breakfast we risked glass of lemon juice and one slice of toast each. These stayed put so we pigged out on lunch and now we have enough energy to go to the tourist desk and beg new bus tickets (with a quick stopover at the internet cafe).

So our one night stop over in Phnom Penh has turned into an 8 night saga, but I assure you we will be on the bus to Siem Reap tomorrow morning! Interruptions included two day wait for Visa, after two day wait for weekend, then new year's (did I mention it was monsooned out?) and then illness. But hey it's not like we had a schedule to keep.

Bec,
Phnom Penh

We didn't quite make it to Siem Reap

If Bec had the energy to lift her head off the pillow right now she'd probably say something funny about how we're dying - but she's sent me instead. We're still in Phnom Penh due to a catastrophic case of food poisoning... or maybe it's just gas. I don't know... all I know is that I haven't eaten a crumb all day and have instead regurgitated all of last nights dinner.

Thanks to my fast metabolism I was the one that started puking first, and for a while it seemed as though Bec had somehow resisted being poisoned altogether, but then in the middle of the day Bec caught up to me and is still hovering all woozy-like over the shower-bucket cum vomit receptacle.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that we had to cancel our Bus to Siem Reap, and will be holding fort until we know we're okay to travel again. Unfortunately, Bec flushed all the vomit before I could get a photo of it, but you can use your imagination, it was mostly bile and Indian food. Yummy, I ca…

Shameless

Before bussing off to Siem Reap for some temple hopping, and in case it has somehow slipped your attention, I'd just like to mention that some of the photography you see here, and some you don't, is available for purchase over at redbubble - the place with the T-Shirts.

You heard me!

Here is how fabulous some lame-o photograph can look if you put a frame around it:Our passports arrived back safely, Lao Visas included. I was a bit wierded out by the lack of paperwork involved at the tourist office that organised them for us, and lo and behold they filled out the embassy's forms for us and went so far as to forge our signature - if that's not customer service I don't know what is!

Stay tuned for some mind boggling images from the temples of Angkor, where we are heading bright and early (10am) tomorrow morning.

Bec,
Phnom Penh