A Travellerspoint blog

Going solo in Cambodia!

Going solo in Cambodia!

Well, I guess I've been just having too good a time to blog about it. Well, actually I feel like I'm working a 9-5 again. I'm currently in Phuket Thailand but I'll update you on all that next time.

So last we met I was in Laos still finishing up a bike trip, the next stop was Cambodia but before that, I chilled out in Don Det for a few days right beside the border. Don Det is more of a chilled out version of Vang Vieng...though it will most likely catch up in the coming years. Don Det is just one island of hundreds and is known for its white river dolphins. I'm gonna just give you a few pics and move on as we have a lot of ground to cover.
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These kids had their own homemade horses (Knights of Nigh! Ha - for any Monty Python fans)
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I had already organised my visa in Phnom Penh so it was just a matter of logistics. I decided to take a bus to the border and cross. The crossing was quick but the wait on the other side to get a bus took hours, this is why a book is necessary for travel!
kratie_1_009.jpg Immigration Office kratie_1_010.jpg The border crossing.

Finally, we were herded onto a bus, and off we were going. I had decided to stop off at Kratie and check it out as it was on the way and I was in no rush, plus it would give me time to plan out where I wanted to go in Cambodia. As soon as I got off the bus I was rushed by a lot of guys selling their hotel. One sounded ok and I agreed to come to check it out...it ended up being up like 6 flights of stairs and right down the back. I'd probably get lost.. it was a huge place. I checked out a lot of places and finally found something reasonable. A view from my balcony kratie_1_022.jpg This is the balcony.. lol kratie_1_099.jpg I liked the reflection ok...

Kratie was a riverside town, it had a central square market and it seemed the town then spread from there. Here are some pics of the area.. kratie_1_095.jpg Central market area. kratie_1_092.jpgkratie_1_090.jpgkratie_1_085.jpgkratie_1_064.jpgkratie_1_025.jpgkratie_1_023.jpgkratie_1_073.jpgMain street by the river.
No matter where you are there is always a temple... kratie_1_040.jpgkratie_1_049.jpgkratie_1_050.jpgkratie_1_052.jpgkratie_1_057.jpg

To tell you the truth I didn't do too much in Kratie. There is a place you can go and see the white river dolphins like in Don Det but I read about it costing like $20-30 when you get to the river etc which seemed like a bit of a ripoff and I was still on tight arse budgeting. I decided to amuse myself and head out at night which was eerie, to say the least, the place was dead at night but so busy during the day. I think places like that are the creepiest at night...like schools or carnivals. Here are some pics kratie_1_121.jpgkratie_1_123.jpg The marketplace from other pic at night. kratie_1_120.jpgkratie_1_101.jpg I found one little store open.

Well, Kratie got old after a few days so I decided it was time to head to the capitol making my way down south to where I had heard there were nice beaches. I organised a bus for the next day (always called a VIP bus). I'm loaded in and for once it seems not to be overcrowded but almost as soon as I start enjoying the extra room we stop and another minivan pulls up and they have a people exchange from theirs to ours, then we pick up a family in suburbia...I'm now cramped up with no room to move with 16 people in a 12-seater van. The van driver is also a maniac which doesn't help the matter...in the middle legs squashed together in a car filled only with locals I sit in agony for 6 hours. Oh and mid journey the driver runs over a dog and continues on casually at breakneck speed. We also pass a crash with bodies covered by bamboo mats, feet sticking out, and a van with an impact shattered windscreen :/

So I reach Phnom Penh central, by then people have been dropped off and I enjoy maybe the last hour in normal comfort. As soon as I get out I am barraged with tuk-tuk drivers trying to get my fee... I have a price of a dollar in mind to get where I need to go and see who takes it... I'm off and out, heading to the hostel I had looked up (cheapest I could find) that had dorms, it is mostly rooms in Cambodia like a lot of sth east Asia. kampot_1_005.jpg
The hostel was cheap but I was on the top floor below a tin roof which was loud when it rained and an oven when hot. Spent a while there enjoying the new people and cheap drinks :) After a while, I thought I had better do something more than drink and party.

I jumped on board with some other travellers and shared a tuk-tuk to see the killing fields. The killing fields were quite a somber experience. You are handed a headset for an audio guide which you take to areas matching the recording with the number of the spot. The strange thing was that, unlike other places I have visited, it is all quiet. The reflection of what the guides are telling you in that somber silence is quite something. Time and time again I have been reminded in my travels of how damned lucky I am to of been born in Australia. That we have no land borders with other countries. The atrocities that the Cambodian people had to endure were truly horrific and really not that long ago (Although in this particular case, it was more civil war). Which means that a lot of people still affected are alive today, including those that committed the war crimes. I don't have any photos as I thought it was bad form. Speaking of bad form, as soon as you come out of the place you are approached to come to a shooting range (By the way the rumour is true, you CAN shoot a cow with a bazooka!).

I decided it was time to move on and head south to Kampot. Usually, people bypass Kampot and go straight to the party area of Cambodia which is Sihanoukville. I had read up on it though and decided that Kampot is a good central hub for the places I wanted to visit and I could day trip to Sihanoukville. I'd had enough of the party vibe, and needed to recharge. The bus there was smooth sailing and again I was accosted with offers of tuk-tuks and hotels, they even have pictures on a big piece of cardboard. I chose the first reasonable looking one and was on my way, it had been a long ride but at least it was the big bus so not squishy. The next day I looked for something cheaper and found a gem. An Asian Arabian penthouse of a dorm! Plus the place had a pub and a free mini golf course, I was sold!
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Kampot was quite small and not so touristy which was a good change. I hired a bike and planned out a few days of exploring caves, salt fields, and abandoned French colonial estates. Here are some pics...
large_motoscoot_1_089.jpgmotoscoot_1_097.jpgmotoscoot_1_099.jpgmotoscoot_1_065.jpgmotoscoot_1_056.jpgmotoscoot_1_111.jpg I got lost here, which trail do I take to the cave I was sure to find... a huge pig and her piglets watched me with interest...motoscoot_1_104.jpg
Finally, I found a cave (I found out later that it was not the one I was looking for but ended up better). As soon as I turned off the engine of my motorbike I had three kids offering their tour services through the maze inside the cave. I took them up on it as it seemed they'd be coming along hassling me the whole way anyhow. I ended up paying them $1 U.S. each, Cambodia predominately uses American dollars, and are preferred. This cave had this part of it where a huge part of the ceiling inside was suspended in the air by not much support .. motoscoot_1_007.jpgmotoscoot_1_024.jpgmotoscoot_1_035.jpg
Here was a spooky picture that I got in the cave, can you see what I see?? It's like mirroring the way I'm taking the photograph... motoscoot_1_027.jpg The kids had showed me a large hole where they found a lot of bones from people the Khmer Rouge killed, it is rumoured the cave is haunted...

Coming back to town I finally decide to take a shot of the beauty store signs, dunno if it's just me but this wouldn't encourage me to come in... kampot_1_056.jpg and they are everywhere and worse than this sometimes, lol... here are a couple more of the town.. kampot_1_055.jpgkampot_1_043.jpgkampot_1_041.jpg

Next day a quick ride to Kep for a dip in the ocean.. motoscoot_1_118.jpgmotoscoot_1_126.jpgmotoscoot_1_151.jpgmotoscoot_1_152.jpgmotoscoot_1_176.jpg

The next place was the Bokor Mountains. This was the area where the French had built their church and housing, even a casino. All these buildings are now just dilapidated shells of their former beauty. They decided to build here due to the cooler climate that the altitude brought. It was a great ride of winding roads through the jungle I guess, as it is reported that tigers still roam wild there and I did not get eaten. The church and colonial buildings had an eerie presence, the moving mist only adding to it. At one time I could not see more than three metres ahead of myself the fog was so thick.
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On the way back I thought I might go find the Zoo and see what it was like. I had read that the zoo was quite bad a few years back and that WWF had intervened and has been helping the zoo get back on track. Health and safety were obviously not their first priority. Reaching the zoo I rode up to the parking area and proceeded to walk around. So in most zoos, you don't feed the animals but here I don't think they really cared or would sell you food. Also, the cages were right in your face too, so you could stick your hand in and pat that cute monkey if you wanted, and the same went for the tiger and lion cages. You could stick your arm in at any time you were that close, actually a kid did come and pat the tiger while I was there... I'm gonna hope that he was a worker there.
motoscooting_2_195.jpg I mean like you wouldn't want to give that a pat, lil kitty :)
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Now this was hard not to stick my hand in and pat... motoscooting_2_231.jpgmotoscooting_2_232.jpgmotoscooting_2_236.jpg and I was actually about to risk a pat on the fence till I saw this motoscooting_2_241.jpg
Later on down the path I saw this, which made me wonder how secure the lion cages were.. motoscooting_2_218.jpgty
If there was a mastermind in the zoo, perhaps even behind the jailbreak just pictured...it'd be this fella motoscooting_2_280.jpg
Here's the local party animal stayin up all night, bit bright today? motoscooting_2_307.jpg
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Some had the zoo life figured out... motoscooting_2_487.jpgmotoscooting_2_432.jpgmotoscooting_2_527.jpg
Lastly a jaunt down to Sihanoukville to check out these beaches, they were ok...plus a fishing village on the way was nice.
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I'm gonna leave it here as I have a lot more to cover, and I don't want to take up your whole day ;p
More to come!

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 22:56 Archived in Cambodia Tagged fields cambodia kampot angkor wat bike killing reap scooter siem phnom penh Comments (3)

4 days on the Road, Laos

"The Loop" 4 days bike tour in Laos

Well it wasn’t just me and the road, I did have some of the Travellers of Anarchy with me. I jump a little ahead myself again and I want to show you the amazing bus Bas was able to get for us... it had fairies on the side of it and was all pink inside! biking_1_001.jpg It was the best bus I've been on yet, well done Bas! Though I could have done without the karaoke music for over half the way :/ The karaoke music is constant on these busses and that is the hardest part of keeping sane on the long trips... it's difficult...

Anyhow, we arrive in Tha Khaek. We had heard of a couple good places to get bikes, one being near the bus station but we actually ended up hiring our bikes from more centrally in the city from Mr. Wang Wang for $4 p/day. The bikes were not Japanese like I had wanted but the Chinese ones we got held up really well and I did punish mine quite a bit being a novice rider.

So the ride is a well-known route called "The Loop" ingeniously. It is 475km long and takes 4 days approx to ride for the main roads but added up with all the side treks more like 600km+. Here is the route map The_Loop.jpg
Most of the roads are something you would consider to be a road but there is still much to be desired and it's a good idea to keep an eye on the road at all times as even on the nicest roads you have potholes come up out of nowhere randomly.

The first day went well and we visited a few sites and had a swim, Soon it became apparent that we had not timed our visits and the time it would take to get to our first destination. But there was good reason, here are some of the pics from our visits, large_biking_1_091.jpgbiking_1_085.jpgbiking_1_056.jpgbiking_1_049.jpgbiking_1_104.jpgbiking_1_113.jpg Now throughout this cave the guide kept showing me these rock formation that looked like Elephants, well they did kind of but not as much as a formation I discovered...see if you can see it in this picture... it's carrying a tree in its trunk. biking_1_120.jpg Don't see it? It's layered so the first layer is the head then the other layers of the body come behind. The head is looking straight on with the trunk in the middle holding a trunk..well...anyhow I claimed the discovery so if you go..you know.
This picture looks like Australia huh! biking_1_126.jpg When we were leaving there were locals being strange in the bushes, upon further inspection we found that they had a bag of snakes and lizards with them as we ran when they released them haha biking_1_133.jpg Next stop was this strange holy cave which had carved stairways looking much like that famous picture or type of picture with endless cycles or stairs. biking_1_137.jpgbiking_1_161.jpgbiking_1_194.jpgbiking_1_214.jpg When we were leaving we spotted some monks for some amazing pictures and a great chat. biking_1_215.jpgbiking_1_226.jpgbiking_1_238.jpgbiking_1_239.jpg This Gem supplied by the great Bas. large_biking_1_240.jpgbiking_1_242.jpgbiking_1_250.jpglarge_biking_1_262.jpg

We found ourselves well short of reaching our first sleeping stop when dark came and the road had deteriorated to a dusty dirt road with lots of potholes. Having a constant dust cloud ahead of me and the occasional car or truck going past making it impossible to see anything in the pitch black jungle...no lights here! Finally, after a few hours, we came across a town that we believed to be the right place... we were greeted with smiles and laughing by our hostel manager as we rode in weary and dirty. Best greeting ever, and we celebrated our survival with spring rolls! 1biking_1_288.jpg From there we continued on to the next destination. The road along this section of the ride was the worst with wet muddy slippery dusty roads for hours. By the end of it with muddy bikes and legs we had the road start to form into something rideable again. After this haul we decided we were due for a stop, finding a local shop in the town we stopped off. They were busy removing shells from peanuts for the day it seemed. We stayed for a while getting coffee and lollies (sharing with the collection of kids around) and chatting/laughing. biking_2_021.jpgbiking_2_024.jpgbiking_2_020.jpgbiking_2_072.jpgbiking_2_034.jpgbiking_2_035.jpgbiking_2_043.jpgbiking_2_048.jpgbiking_2_079.jpglarge_biking_2_077.jpgbiking_2_008.jpg

On our last stop, we did fairly well arriving in town before dark. Once reaching the edges of town we stopped and asked some people where we were...before we knew it we were in a party of some sort having drinks poured down our throats and dancing. large_biking_2_096.jpgbiking_2_100.jpgbiking_2_099.jpg The kids were a crack-up large_biking_2_088.jpgbiking_2_082.jpgbiking_2_089.jpg Soon we head off before we can't ride anymore, they even offer us to sleep there haha the hostel we found was not short of beer or views... biking_2_005.jpg

The next day was nice roads but a long drive with a waterfall in between... large_biking_2_018.jpg That’s the Frenchy we picked up along the way. biking_2_041.jpgbiking_2_044.jpg But 20 km out my tyre decides now is a good time to go flat. Luckily there were two bikes and we go find the next town and a mechanic, we ride a km or so to get help. After a while of speaking with multiple people, I am told I need to bring the bike here, so I get dropped off and start the walk back with the bike. Finally, get there and get it all fixed after hours of waiting don_det_018.jpg... though entertained by the locals helping us out the time passes quickly. Then it's a night ride to town which is hard with bugs in your teeth and no lights on the streets, but we make it.

In the end, it was a great ride and well worth doing.

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 02:23 Archived in Laos Tagged ride laos bike loop tha the_loop theak Comments (0)

Vang Vieng to Vientiane, Laos

Village of Sin and the captial of Laos

I've been a bit slack on keeping up to date on these and I'd like to blame the shoddy net in Cambodia but...actually, that'll do ha.

So back to Luang Prabang for a quick reunion with the Spaniards and then onto Vang Vieng, the village of sin! I'm gonna make it sweet and just give you some pics for LP ;p

I decided to go to the waterfall this time… I was not disappointed. large_waterfall_LP_050.jpgwaterfall_LP_044.jpgwaterfall_LP_097.jpgwaterfall_LP_080.jpgwaterfall_LP_057.jpgwaterfall_LP_040.jpgwaterfall_LP_047.jpg They also had Bears there, dunno why but hey, they seemed comfy hanging in a hammock... large_waterfall_LP_029.jpgwaterfall_LP_032.jpg At the bottom of the waterfall there was this track and I could not help but have to climb it as it did become a bit of a climb...I mean...what if it was amazing up there! I could not let that pass and find out later... waterfall_LP_123.jpg This is all I got :(
I love the tuk-tuks in Laos, they are so colourful!luang_to_VV_001.jpg The way home... waterfall_LP_125.jpg

So the way out started off badly with an avalanche that set us back only really 40 minutes or so, which really was quite impressive...but I think they had been there a while before us. luang_to_VV_009.jpgluang_to_VV_007.jpg The army looked more intent on how they looked luang_to_VV_014.jpgluang_to_VV_025.jpg Finally we continue on and do a stop off for food and toilet...I enjoy the view...luang_to_VV_039.jpg

Next was Vang Vieng! Now I had heard a lot of stories before getting here and had already judged that I was not going to stay here long when I was not in the party mood. Also, the stories I heard from many a traveller involved Australians dying, to which I answer it is just Australians are easily led astray with our carefree attitude, mostly by the Dutch I should add by my experience (Bas!:p) lol. Here is what the place looks like VV_021.jpgVV_005.jpgVV_030.jpgVV_033.jpgVV_035.jpgVV_037.jpgVV_040.jpgVV_041.jpgVV_046.jpglarge_VV_047.jpgVV_062.jpg So now that you know the layout of the place let me tell you how it all works. So Vang Vieng is pretty lawless. A southeast Asia western town with a bought off sheriff, acting on behalf of the town's bar 'n' hotel owner. The place is full of restaurants with "happy" menus. What this involves is some psychedelic additive (Usually magic mushrooms) added pretty much to any food or beverage you want. As I mentioned previously, there are a lot of stories of Australians dying (other nationalities also I'm sure). This is due to NOT drinking with any moderation at all whilst floating in a big tyre tube down the Mekong River. Here is the place you get your allocated tube VV_027.jpg After this you are responsible for keeping this tube and returning with it or paying the loss of tubes cost which is like $5. That may not seem much but it is a lot here and really, the people that steal them (local kids) are in on it all, and I'm sure get a commission of sorts... many a time I had to yell threats to get my tube returned (Not that I'd be able to swim at that stage, hence why people die!). So the thing is when you get to the river you tube/float and then get pulled in by numerous bars throwing ropes to you on the riverside whose first order of business is to make you swig a bottle of Loa Loa whiskey...which is disgusting but free all over...because it's disgusting. So you can imagine that with this and also drinking buckets of spirits you become pretty inebriated, pretty quickly. At the bars, they have these zip lines out into the water which is another reason why people die. There are dangerous rocks all over under the water people crack their heads on. I remember seeing a sign saying something like "If you jump you will die...seriously...we love you." as warnings, but if you decide to use the zip line and jump they will do nothing to deter you. I guess the sign is clause enough for deniability of harm?!

So I had said that I would not do tubing after the first night. By the way, our bungalow was RIGHT next to the bar, you can see here in this pic VV_081.jpg That is us on the furthest right VV_010.jpg You can see how close we were :/

Anyhow, I ended up tubing the next day and from what I've told you, you can pretty much fill in the blanks of what happened....no really...fill in the blanks because I don't remember much having woken up on the river in the morning with no memory of how I got there and local kids prodding me with sticks while they giggled, then having to find my way back "home". The thing to remember is that I woke up with my kidneys within my body!

So after that, I was pretty much a zombie, which is great because that is what Vang Vieng caters to. You see they understand that after a hard night and waking up on bamboo on the riverside, you need to veg out but still keep the vitals going with the mundane things like eating and drinking. Here enters the restaurants of VV. Maybe it's best you just see them first VV_076.jpg but they don't come with bad views... VV has amazingly beautiful scenery VV_077.jpgVV_060.jpgVV_083.jpg Anyhow what the first picture there of the restaurant shows is TV screens and lie down tables. They have Friends and Family Guy running 24/7 on the TV screens there so that you can veg out and dribble on the floor in TV bliss. I might say now that the people serving you seem like they'd rather stab you cut you up and serve you to the next vegetable that comes in the door. They must hate all the mad tourists they get coming through.

Anyhow I decided to leave sooner rather than later onto to Vientiane the Capital of Laos! I'm not gonna lie, it wasn't thaaat interesting but here are some pics from roaming about... large_storm_011.jpgstorm_003.jpg These are everywhere, they are for the spirits so they have a place to stay. storm_022.jpg Someone important I'm sure. storm_029.jpg... So Vientiane had a lot of storms when I was there, seemed to be like clockwork. One night there was a particularly big electrical storm so I went out on the balcony to try and get a lightning capture. I was very surprised AND lucky to of gotten this pic! large_storm_090.jpg

So Vientiane was pretty uneventful on a blog scale, but I did some things, saw some stuff... it was really good...

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 09:10 Archived in Laos Tagged water laos waterfall tuktuk prabang luang tuk vang vieng Comments (0)

Travellers of Anarchy

Ridin the roads of Laos

Arriving in Luang Namtha we quickly found the hostel we had been recommended which was great! It was a fully enclosed backpacker’s paradise. Well it was more than I had been used to for a while anyhow ;p
Quickly we made friends with some Spanish fellows who I went out on a biking trip around town with, 38 km of sightseeing!
The first site we go to is a hella uphill ride, and we are met with an old lady charging to see it, so like the tight arse I am, I back up whilst the others talk to her and take my pic from there, lol. bike_namtha_011.jpg Here are a couple of pictures found along the way..bike_namtha_016.jpgbike_namtha_023.jpgbike_namtha_027.jpg
bike_namtha_049.jpg Soon I stopped at a shack to grab a picture bike_namtha_062.jpg I had some lychees I had been carrying around and this looked like a great setting to relax and have some refreshing fruit (I'd been craving Lychee's for a while now). I should mention that by this stage any form of fashion was gone. I had an odd assortment of clothes picked up from my travels, which was based more on 'if the price is right' than anything else, lol... so this is like..backpacker chic I'll call it haha bike_namtha_072.jpgbike_namtha_065.jpgbike_namtha_063.jpg The day is quite warm and even though we all look ridiculously good looking, we are sweating man stink from every orifice! Sooo when we came across a river with someone washing in it, it seemed like a good idea to go down for a dip... bike_namtha_107.jpg So In we got except for Jordi white. It was enjoyable up until the stage that we got out and asked ourselves what that smell was...hmm smells like poop...Oh, ok it's the river. Oh well, we just choose to move on and not think about it too much, lol. Next, we go and get some food, not being able to find the place recommended we try a market and find nothing worthy of the word "meal". We spy some fruit stands tho bike_namtha_128.jpg and decide we will all just get lots of fruit...for some reason, we all end up with a watermelon each (it was hot!). I have a lady cut me open a coconut, they really are great for hydrating (Thanks Brennan) bike_namtha_133.jpg. So we have all this fruit, then we notice a somewhat eating stand on the side of the market. One of the Spanish comes back from a reconnaissance mission and informs that there is rice! So we decide that that is more appetizing than the fruit, so off we go. Now the place is not your 5-star establishments... bike_namtha_139.jpg But when you’re hungry and well you just have to give things a go sometimes and was I surprised... it was VERY good!bike_namtha_140.jpg It was very spicy, so we were glad we got the watermelon! bike_namtha_136.jpg Well onwards we continued, here are the pics bike_namtha_193.jpgbike_namtha_187.jpgbike_namtha_162.jpgbike_namtha_163.jpgbike_namtha_181.jpgbike_namtha_124.jpgbike_namtha_100.jpgbike_namtha_095.jpg
I have to say it was an amazing ride, the scenery was ..Umm amazing ;p It's that ride that you imagine having before you have come over. Through rice paddy fields and old dirt towns with kids running around playing games. We went down one path and it was swarming with butterflies, was...amazing ;p

The next day I met a Dutch couple...and well as soon as I knew they were Dutch they were my new best friends :) It seems that the guy's birthday was tomorrow and they were planning to go on a motorbike trip. So we all invited ourselves to their planned birthday trip of course! The next day we all gathered for a day trip on the roads of Laos. This is what the motley bunch looked like... large_Sons_of_Anarchy_003.jpg
Never before had the roads of Laos encountered such a mean gang of killer bikers! The Travellers of Anarchy were here!

The Chopper!
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Soon in we stopped at a school where we proceeded to teach them skills that would lead them successfully through life! Sons_of_Anarchy_024.jpg Arm farting!!
We got to a market and bought Lao Lao whiskey with what we had left from the bike pot, this stuff is horrid and potent!Sons_of_Anarchy_052.jpg Soon we were at a Hmong village and the girls tried on some traditional clothing. They had a hard time with having bigger breasts than they were made for, lol Sons_of_Anarchy_063.jpgSons_of_Anarchy_065.jpgSons_of_Anarchy_067.jpgSons_of_Anarchy_070.jpg The school.. Sons_of_Anarchy_071.jpg The ghost gate... Sons_of_Anarchy_073.jpg we got yelled at a little for going too close...I'm sure it was for our own benefit! Sons_of_Anarchy_078.jpg The end was a waterfall (which I never saw, they wanted to charge us and we thought we'd send one up with a camera instead ;p)Sons_of_Anarchy_100.jpg
Ok, so we head back and there is rain and we all are running out of fuel but luckily we reach a shack selling some in bottles, I did learn a neat trick on cruising downhill with the bike turned off then restarting again when you need to saving fuel.

Next, we all head down as a group back to Luang Prabang (Love this place!) on the way to Vang Vieng. While in LP I think it is time I actually go and see some of the sites. Somehow I end up going to see the central temple/stupa? A big golden thing in the middle of town on a hill. Things always seem to be a bit different when you go at night (May know what I mean if you read the Japan posts), so at midnight, I head off with another Dutch. We try to ninja our way up but there are dogs, and we are drunk :/ and bark they do...I just hope that the monks don't come out and kick our arse! Anyhow we get to the top and it's all silent and cool, there are these flood lights lighting up the stupa which is gold and looks cool. All of a sudden I hear "Subadee!" ... taken aback I turn my attention upwards from where I heard the call (It means, Hello!) and I see a strange sight. There is a man climbing over the stupa with a bamboo fishing rod with a moth on the end! I'm not sure what he is doing and my Laos does not help to create a conversation on the subject but he is running about collecting moths and has this rod...fling it out every now and then. I can only assume he is fishing for bats?!??! Anyhow the point is... it's good to try sites and such at night because there truly is a different feel to them and you see things you would otherwise never see.

The next day it's time to go and see this waterfall everyone keeps going on about and have a swim. The swim was actually more the drawcard! I'm just going to fling out a heap of photos at this point. Actually, before I do, there was one surprise. They had black bears there also, they seemed pretty relaxed in their hammocks waterfall_LP_029.jpgwaterfall_LP_032.jpg Ok, now I’m gonna just give you the waterfall pics. The swim was great and the waterfall was surprisingly good also. Though the trek up to the top was not worth it at all :/ waterfall_LP_040.jpgwaterfall_LP_050.jpgwaterfall_LP_057.jpgwaterfall_LP_091.jpglarge_waterfall_LP_097.jpg This is what I climbed and slipped and sweated for... hardly worth it :/ waterfall_LP_123.jpg Then it's time to go home... large_waterfall_LP_125.jpg

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 06:24 Archived in Laos Tagged ride rice laos bike drive scooter biker namtha Comments (0)

The Ewok experience!

livin amongst the trees

Since an early age, I’ve always dreamt of living in the trees. Building tree houses (a plank across two branches in my lazy case) and swings...forts in the forest. I mean what kid hasn't had these dreams?? The star wars films only enhanced this with the Ewok villages and then in later days the elven tree-top homes of Lord of the Rings.

So a dream come true, I got to live amongst the canopy of the jungle in Laos!!!!
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Fortunately, we are able to watch the sunset from our tree house :)

This had been something I had been planning on since day one of researching at home what to do in Laos. I'm wrapped that I actually got to do it as there is a lot of talk on the internet about it being hard to get bookings. I sent an email and got a reply within about 2 days, others have bad stories of no contact, etc. Anyhow, arriving in Huay Xai we do the normal room checks of different guesthouses till we find one (I'm with the new yorkian Theresa, who is half Laos making it much better to communicate :p). The next day we meet at the office ready to head out, we are going with three other Dutch girls and also a guy from the U.S.A. heading out there to help build another tree house...he's an architect/engineer. How he talks about the building of the tree houses reassures me that it will be stable.

Out we drive for about 2 hours, the guy from the U.S. who had been here before to help build the earlier tree houses comments on how different the landscape is coming back again. As we look out the window you can see a lot of barren land with felled trees, he explains that it was all jungle the last time he came... a pity. We get dropped off and shown our harnesses which we will wear for the trek into the jungle which is about 2-3 hours. I think to go to the toilet here quickly, being our last stop at semi civilisation. Quickly I learn that bees will be a problem in the area as there are 100 or so buzzing around me.

The trek was fine though some of our group struggled at the start, it was very humid and sweat poured off you, but the guides had many stops along the way... too many if you ask me. Eventually, we reached our first zip line...it was f@*$'n high! I'm not going to lie to you, I was a little taken aback.Gibbon_209.jpg Gibbon_050.jpg But what the hell right, if those little fuzzy Ewoks can do this then surely I can! Now I have a lack of photos mainly because I was obsessed with getting the perfect feet picture to send to my family. We have this thing recently where you take a picture of your feet where you are and post it on our family chat...anyhow I have like a million pictures of my feet zipping along but failed to really get anything of the great views from the line haha AND in the end I only got a few usable shots...Gibbon_054.jpgGibbon_093.jpg it's very hard taking photo's whilst zip lining and I paid for it by getting zip burns on my head...I had quite the collection by the end (If you’re not catching it, I put my head on the metal wire as I was scooting along it, therefore, ripping the flesh from my scalp). Now one could say that you could avoid this by wearing a hat, which is true but I was always adamant that I would not do it again. Well in the end I decided to wear my cap and ingeniously wear it backwards when zip lining...this worked well for a while until I forgot to turn it and lost my cap mid-way watching it float to the ground... :( (I’ve since been wearing a Laos bought trucker cap which is lopsided due to classy workmanship. I actually was filming that zip line and you can hear my wails when it leaves me...

There was a lot of zip-lining and it was exhilarating every time! Finally, we came to a place where the guides let us know was the tree house, which sits 150m up from the ground. large_Gibbon_217.jpg The tree house was nothing short of amazing, a lot better than I had expected. It was multi-storied the bottom was the entrance via zip line on one side and on the other side the bathroom with toilet, shower, and sink. Up the stairs, you enter the main level with a sink with drinkable water on tap along the trunk and flooring surrounding beds and a table and stools. There was another level from here which seemed to be the penthouse where you could set up another bed. Here are some pics Gibbon_152.jpgGibbon_149.jpgGibbon_148.jpgGibbon_159.jpgGibbon_191.jpg

The architect had split up from us by now but I could see the tree they were building from ours, you can see a blue shirt in the tree if you look closely large_Gibbon_251.jpg The trees are massive and well suited to houses but all are different and designed for that specific tree. The other thing we could see from our tree was a MASSIVE tree that housed the largest amount of bees I have ever seen, those things hanging from the limbs are hives! large_Gibbon_141.jpgGibbon_144.jpg We travelled to its base the next day to have a look Gibbon_205.jpgGibbon_200.jpg

As we arrive the guides quickly prepare us some snack food, lychee, mango, and honey crisps Gibbon_147.jpg they are leaving and will be back in two hours or so...they have their own camp a little way off. Eventually, they come back and bring us dinner, it's really quite nice and ample supply to fill me up. They leave for the night letting us know they will come for us in the morning, also mentioning that if we get a bad storm with big winds they will also come for us and to be ready as trees may fall...or something along those lines. That night it is soooo hot in the tent it's almost unbearable until the winds start to pick up, soon I see light flash across the sky and distant thunder. Hot and bothered I crawl out to watch the incoming jungle storm, it was pretty amazing watching over the jungle canopy in pitch-black darkness as the storm rolls in...and it was big! So windy that I heard another tree fall a short distance away. Constantly I thought the guides would be coming to take us but nup they never came.

The next day was much the same but we got to zip around a bit more, the guides said they would be taking us for a swim today which was met with eager enthusiasm! So after some zipping and some trekking, we reach a point where we must now trek downstairs. Some may know that since Korea my knee has been playing up and these stairs killed it. By the end, I was in hella pain so I definitely have some issues there. We finally reach a hut that sells beer and cold soft drinks, you would have thought us gone a month by how we skull the drinks. A river is right next to the hut and we have a swim to freshen up, and then head out to civilisation by truck with retrofitted seats in the ute tray. I decide that outside will be better as I envied the people last time with having the outside breeze. Wrong decision... the road going out is crazy bumpy nearly kicking me out a few times but I make it back in Huay Xai, and we meet up with our other travellers to head on to Luang Namtha.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 22:44 Archived in Laos Tagged jungle laos gibbon bees gibbon_experience ewok Comments (0)

4 days of Waterfighting!!

Luang Prabang, Loas

=SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND.==
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Once again my lack of preparation kicked me in the ass! I was two days off leaving for Laos and I had run out of money... I had just enough to cover the visa on arrival and the taxi to the airport. So I survived for two days on one meal and stolen sweet rolls from my Halong Bay trip (knew they would come in handy!). Heading to the airport I could only think of what I was going to do when I arrived, my conclusion was to just sleep at the airport until I could get money out :/

After going through the normal airport confusion I head out to the plane and it is a smaller plane than I am used to. It has propellers instead of jet engines. The plane trip takes only 40 minutes or so, and getting off I realise my expectations of major airports in southeast Asia needs to be re-assessed.

I head to Immigration and get my visa done, an American girl asks to share a taxi into town (I don't mention that I have no money yet). We pass customs and I try the ATM there and amazingly I have available funds....seriously like a half hour makes the difference?!

Another half hour later and the American girl is having a shower in my bathroom...I know right! Waaaiit! it's not what you think, she was all hot and sweaty... because we were walki...it was hot....ok ok whatever! Anyhow I was meeting friends from previous travels that are doing the same route, they had already organised rooms, and was bunking in with one of them...turns out that there was a hiccup in the plans and they had brought another person (I had said that the American could maybe bunk in with one of us). It all worked out though as the American and myself found a hostel and shared which was difficult in itself trying to dodge the kids bent on drenching us...we were slow and large targets with our backpacks! (Finally, I have found a use for the navy seal waterproof bags I have been carrying around!). Here a couple of pics ( I would have liked more, but water and my camera definitely do not mix!) luang_2_117.jpgluang_2_027.jpgluang_2_014.jpgluang_2_131.jpg Not only do you get drenched but tarred also, and every other dye colour with powder thrown at you, cars are also subject to decoration IMG_1902.jpg and if you're wondering how this could happen IMG_1908.jpg I would get mobbed by kids looking like this at times also haha IMG_1896.jpg IMG_1885.jpgIMG_1888.jpgIMG_1882.jpg

Luang Prabang is truly beautiful, I'm not sure if it's the lush green vegetation, the Mekong River surrounding the town, or the many serene monks that roam the streets and temples. The pace of life is a slow one but in this heat who really wants to rush?!

Entering into a country on its new year is a great way to start! We chose to hire a bicycle and ride around the town exploring, being drenched along the way helped with the heat. I would be drenched and then given beer and food, it was a great way to interact with the locals. I believe the reason for it all is to wash away all the bad mojo. There was a procession down the street where we were staying, monks would sit on floats of sorts driven down the street getting pretty much drenched by people pouring water on them, but more ritualistically.luang_2_165.jpg In the procession I notice some fellows I'd seen before luang_2_245.jpgluang_2_249.jpg...I couldn't put my finger on it at the time but it soon came to me, they are the evil Wing Kong of Big Trouble in Little China!large_bigtrouble..na_gang.jpg

Anyhow bicycling around we ended up taking a turn into a worn path heading into the jungle...ending up at a small rustic (had logs for chairs and tables in the dirt) bar on the opposing side from the peak of the peninsula Laos_Mekong_boat_003.jpg We happen to get there at sunset :) IMG_1847.jpg It was beautiful, only enhanced by watching the monks come down to swim and play. I had a dip myself in the water there amongst some rocks... it was clean and refreshing. To get back, we found a shortcut along a bamboo bridge IMG_1855.jpg Finding that we had to pay on the other side we bargained half the price because we only used oneway, lol.

The next day I spent drinking and water fighting. The gun I got was super strong and sometimes I forgot how strong... there was a small kid in a tub that splashed me and I shot a burst into his chest nearly boring a hole through him. You know that moment when a child falls or bangs their head and they pause, it can go either way at that moment they come out of the shock of it... you may get hysteria and crying, or laughing like it never happened. Well, that was the situation, so I tried desperately to make him laugh then walked off quickly as his parents watched me disapprovingly.

The American girl, you know let's give her a name... Linda. Linda was a huge food junkie which was cool because I tried a lot of stall stuff that I wouldn't of normally, but there was a downside. Once she left I found myself thinking I'm quite the iron stomach food stall taster, so I suggest to the others that we go and eat down this food alley where it is only 10,000 kip (a little over $1 aus) for a buffet of food IMG_1920.jpg Well this was a very bad decision and I paid for it for the next 3 days! (Immodium is my new best friend) The food alley was part of a larger night market open every night it seemed and it actually has some very nice stuff...will buy something on my way back there I'm sure.

Here are some pictures from Luang Prabang large_luang_2_037.jpgluang_2_068.jpglarge_luang_2_062.jpgluang_2_071.jpgluang_2_085.jpgluang_2_088.jpgluang_2_100.jpgluang_2_112.jpgluang_2_128.jpglarge_luang_2_113.jpgluang_2_148.jpglarge_luang_2_145.jpgluang_2_150.jpgluang_2_168.jpgluang_2_186.jpgluang_2_198.jpgluang_2_195.jpgluang_2_219.jpgluang_2_240.jpgluang_2_251.jpgluang_2_232.jpgIMG_1923.jpg

So next was a 2 day slow boat ride up the Mekong to get to where I needed to be for the Gibbon Experience. We had heard horror stories of people having to stand and there being no room but it was fine for us on the first one at capacity and the second one was less and had a lot of room (could be that going up river is less crowded). We could not get a boat that would go all the way and you needed to stay at the halfway point in Pak Beng. Here are some pictures at the halfway point Laos_Mekong_boat_025.jpgLaos_Mekong_boat_027.jpgLaos_Mekong_boat_018.jpgLaos_Mekong_boat_022.jpgLaos_Mekong_boat_024.jpgLaos_Mekong_boat_035.jpgLaos_Mekong_boat_036.jpg The next day we continued to Huay Xai, both trips taking about 10 hours or so. The boat was extremely loud if you are more to the rear so there was no conversation. If you do travel on one of these boats the seats move so move them to face each other and you have a footrest for a more comfortable journey (pro tip!). Here is the boat there Laos_Mekong_boat_009.jpg This was the second one Laos_Mekong_boat_032.jpg And here are some random pics from the boat...My destination is Huay Xai where I will be doing the Gibbon Experience living in the trees and zipping along the jungle canopy :)
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Soooo Ewok adventure coming soon! :)

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 19:36 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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