Lao Laos.. hmm tasty!

Its been a week or so since our last post when we were leaving Nam and heading into Laos.. And what a faaabuloso week its been…

Think we have finally settled into the ‘backpacking’ … Ok ok flashpacking lifestyle… More of the self-guided tours, jumping off random things, wandering the streets, eating from the market and being inspired by the gazillions of serial travellers..

Having nearly been a month of travelling, I think it has just hit us that we aren’t going home for a while yet and it ROcKs!!

As soon as we arrived in Vientianne, the capital of Laos, we couldn’t help but feel the need to chiiiiillll right out… After about 3 hours in Laos we could already see why people rave on about it… Totally loved the vibe of the place. Despite Vientianne receiving very mixed reviews, the friendliness of the people and the lazy sunday morning feel of the city gave us a great warm up to the culture of Laos. As I said to Rishi at the time, if this is the less liked part of Laos, I can’t wait to get to the loved parts!

Overall the main highlight of Vientianne for us was the Bhudda park.. Which has loads of statues of Bhudda and even Hindu Gods including a gorgeous statute of Krishna, but it’s 25km out of town…easy to get to for 50p on the local bus! Don’t take a tuk tuk there..

Our other most favourite place was a little cafe called Fruit Heaven which began our addiction, and I mean addiction to yuuummy fruit shakes…hmm, my mouth is watering thinking about them… You get a fruit shake for less than a dollar in Laos… it’s not whether you should have one, it becomes a question of what fruit to have this time!

To give an idea of what Laos is like, the best story I can recall is in this little cafe where one of the staff got an order wrong and they had a little telling off, but all the while they were smiling and said it so jovially that it seemed more like friends just chatting… SOoo relaxed.. Something I could definitely learn from!! I know Rishi agrees…

We moved on to Vang Vieng pretty soon after, having heard that its an absolutely gorgeous place which has been trampled by 18 year old chavs who are constantly stoned and drunk… Sweeet!… Ok to be fair I was a little apprehensive, hmm, that’s sooo unusal for me, no?!…

Anywho, after our bus ride, aka a minivan which was made for little Laos people, I.e. No space… we immediately found ourselves a little guesthouse, dumped our bags and went exploring. VV is a super duper party and chill out place.

We tried to pack in as much as we could in our time there… Caving was loads of fun, especially the water cave where you sit on a tube and drag yourself further and further in… Being chased by several dogs while trekking through local villages was undoubtedly another one of the highlights too, especially when even our tour guide was suggesting we make a run for it and had to warn the dogs of with sticks… Really inspires a lot of confidence! Lol…

But the ultimate part of VV has to be tubing… We sat on tubes about 5km up the river from VV and floated down past loads of bars, pumping out party music, who throw you a rope and drag you in when you want to stop… At the bars you can go nuts by ziplining, sliding or just diving headfirst into the river… Be careful when it’s low tide though, sooo many people were on crutches or had got other injuries! Eek!… We somehow managed to get a chaperone who followed us on a kayak and pushed our tube along till we got to his bar… As anyone who’s been here knows, first thing you gotta do when you stop is knock back some Lao Lao… A shot of whisky… Hmmm, tasty… And obviously I had to wash that down with something a bit sweeter so we ordered a vodka lemonade… 5 bucks for a bucket of the stuff and it tasted really good too…! This has to be the ultimate party/adventure destination in SE Asia!

Even if you don’t drink or you aren’t 18… Tubing alone is a super cool experience. The scenery is absolutely awesome as you float down, and the people aren’t all chavs…it’s all totally up to you how good you make your trip while you’re there!

After a tiring, strenuous day rolling down the river… Don’t scoff.. It’s hard work flapping yourself down that river!! Lol… You are bound to be hungry… Starving!! We enjoyed our cheap as chips food sitting on raised ‘floor’ like seating while watching god knows how many episodes of Family Guy… I cannot understand why people put Vang Vieng down… This day has to be one of our most favourite in the trip so far! BIG THUMBS UP VV!!!

Sadly, we had to move on, but that’s the amazing part of travelling… End of one fantastic place, means moving onto another.. And meeting even more new people!

Off to Luang Prabang, which is sooo beautiful.. It has the Mekong River on one side, the Nam Song on the other..and plenty of temples in between…

Rishi will I’m sure go on and on about the new obsession I developed with photographing monks…Seriously they totally make the photo so much more exciting.. And then I discovered the kid monks.. Cute AND fantastic colouring for pictures..!! It was a 2 for 1 I couldn’t resist.

Despite, Rishi having teased me on my monk obsession… He made us stand around one of the temples while the monks were getting showered up and dressed… Before they came down for chanting (amazing vibe) and prayers inside the main temple… It was worth waiting for though. The monks found us as intriguing as we did them.. Seeing an Indian is apparently a exciting sight! Talking to them in broken English/ sign language we got an insight into their lives as monks.. They are just normal boys wanting to get an education and because many families can’t afford it, the boys become monks.. They won’t necessarily remain as monks forever.. But while they commit to this life, they commit to 4am prayers, only two meals a day, shaving their heads monthly, living on alms from the local people…and a devotion to Bhuddism. Pretty full on..

If you do go to Luang Prabang, get up at early to watch (6am) the procession of 200 monks through the city as they collect alms from the local people… Ok its probably more tourists now, but the sight is fantastic and something you are unlikely to see elsewhere… It took us 3 mornings and several snooze buttons before we did it.. but we got there in the end…

There are not sooo many activities in LP… But you will know the most popular thing to do here as soon as you arrive because you’ll hear the ringing in your ears from the tuk tuk drivers… “Waterfall today… Cheap cheap”.. Of our 4 days here, we did go to the waterfall once with a French/Finnish couple and a couple of girls from Dorset.. I’m particularly proud of myself. After going on an trekking adventure to the top of the falls and sliding down the otherside!!

(It was kind of steep!!) I became Jane from the Jungle.. I even had my safari print bikini on… I flung myself using a rope into the waterfall lake… I think the other spectators worked out that I was scared, as I collated a queue of people behind me waiting to do the same thing and when I finally jumped in, everyone cheered for me! … Woooh!

I must mention the night market here too, firstly because its surprisingly a pretty market with the usual handicrafts, notebooks , jewellery etc but more so because we visited it EVERY night we were in Luang Prabang… Rishi bought some of those big travelling people trousers and actually looks good in them while I bought a random chunky silver chain… Well I had to get something and I’d already bought another pair of short shorts in VV, there’s only so many of those I could get!! (Sure the girls will disagree with this).. 😉

This part of the trip, we really started to get into traveller mode.. We even gave up our nice Phousi guesthouse for our last night in Luang Prabang to stay in one of the cheap guesthouses without A/C!!! I knooooow!! Am only kidding, it really wasn’t bad at all…but, we had been spoilt while in Laos cos it’s super cheap here.

Being in Laos and meeting some really cool people over the past few weeks, we’ve really started to enjoy the trip… Letting ourselves really get into the activities and sights and also permitting ourselves to just STOP, relax and soak it all in… Crazy talk from a city girl ei?

I’ve read 800 pages of Shantaram in the last month, and also decided with Rishi to go on loads more of these trips… Hope we remember this when we get back!

Missing everyone back home. Not that you’ll recognise us…Over-indulgence of food and sunshine means that day by day we are getting darker and fatter… O well!!

Till next time… x

All templed out…

Phew! That was an amazing couple of days…

It all began with another early start. 4am, lizard in our bathroom, but nothing could deter us. This morning we were off to see the Angkor temples and had paid extra to go and see the sunrise over the main, most magnificent of the temples Angkor Wat.

Getting to the lookout point was fun in itself, racing through the city against all the other temple-goers, it was our speedy tuk tuk against the world! A quick look ahead and vroom vroom we were over taking at least 2 other tuk tuks… O yeeah… The tuk tuk dropped us off at the bridge which goes over the moat into the Angkor Wat area…obviously being before sunrise, we couldn’t see anything.. We stumbled through to the sunrise point, not that we knew the way, we just followed the silhouettes of the other travellers and grabbed a spot directly in front of the lake that reflects Angkor. We were glad we got there early, because the place was packed up very soon after and people were willing to put their tripods in some very uncomfortable places to make sure they had a good view!

Sunrise was beautiful over Angkor, definitely worth getting up early for.. Although our photos may not do it justice, I did notice the Iphones probably had better shots than the ones taken with slrs, so judge the experience on those photos! (this is a crappy photo, but having trouble uploading a good one!)

We then wandered round Angkor and several other temples through the day. The temples are huge stone structures which had been built as temples to Lord Vishnu, however later on as the Cambodian national religion became Bhuddism, the temples were taken over and had Bhudda statutes installed. Additional temples were built which were entirely Bhuddist too. In many of the temples you still see large Vishnu statues, stories from Hindu tradition carved into the walls and even Shiv ling jis still in great condition.

The temples that stood out the most had to be Angkor; for its grandeur and the beauty of the moat around the huge temple complex; Bayon for the spectacular Buddha heads which tower above the temple and Ta Prohm which had a jungle like atmosphere with humongous trees growing out of it…

I personally found that a couple of the smaller temples we visited, such as Thommanon had incredible atmospheres and a great sense of peace when sitting there. This could have been partially due to less tourists being there but nonetheless they provided a great spot to admire the architecture and grounds in a way closer to what I imagine people in the older times would have done.

We ended the day by walking up to the mountain temple Phnom Bakeng and grabbing a fantastic location off the edge of the temple to watch the sunset. To be fair the sunset was a bit of a let down as the sky had become quite hazy, but we got to meet a really cool Spanish couple who were now living in China and a dude from London who was travelling for 6 months so not so bad!

After the long day, we were definitely templed out, so despite having a 3 day pass we decided we’d take the next day to just chill out and check out Siem Reap…

.. Yes we went shopping.. And we visited the market not just once but went back a good 3 or 4 times during the day.. And actually discovered new parts each time (As Rishi said if we had walked the market systematically, line by line, we could have avoided the multiple visits)..there was a hairdressing alley, beauty alley and sewing people alley on top of all the normal stuff all within the market! It was pretty cool.

The shopping was interspersed with eating. Despite seeing the appealling spicy snails stand, we opted for an awesome Italian restaurant for lunch. The pizza and pasta were both soooo good, we were shocked at how amazing the food was. By far the best restaurant as yet..

Being a Sunday, (we didn’t know it was Sunday), there were many young kids around town trying to sell postcards, bangles, anything you wanted for ‘one dolla’. A phrase, I’m sure we won’t forget easily.. Could buy just about anything for one dolla.. Rishi and I have both been to India and other developing countries where you see the kids living a very ‘different’ lifestyle to what we’ve grown up to, but it still shocks you every time you see the little kids trying to earn a living from selling stuff to tourists or getting excited because you gave them a pretty much empty coke can…

You obviously consider how blessed we are and what grace has been bestowed on us that our childhood was exactly that, an innocent childhood. Even now, at the ripe old age of 27 and 28, our parents still ensure we have food, shelter and anything else we may ever need. They even packed us snacks for this trip! You inevitably compare this to the young children you see hanging around town on their own and appreciate what you have and have a sense of sorrow for what you imagine they are suffering…

But who are we to assume this? Who is to say that our childhood is the better way of growing up?… The freedom the kids have here, the beautiful surroundings and the community feel are all things that my parents certainly rave on about from their upbringing in Africa… Perhaps getting excited from one dolla and a few sips from a coke can puts you in stead for a happier and more content life and isn’t that what we keep searching for anyway?

As Milan always tells us in Chyk class, ‘If happiness was in that Gucci handbag or BMW, we would all have the same level of happiness from getting one, but we don’t.’


On a lighter note…today was special day for Rishi, which I can’t forget to mention, as he had his first Thai style massage and I think he has now been converted… Well I’m judging by the glazed look he had on his face when he came back from the massage which was either pensive relaxation or pure horror… Nothing like paying for a woman to beat you with her hands and feet… Although Rish obviously got into the pampering theme and had a fish pedicure… they chowed down on those feet like there was no tomorrow… NICE!

Anyhow, tomorrow we are taking a scenic boat ride to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia meaning another early start! Yay.

The adventure begins… ooh forget that, I spy a market…

Woohooo we just finished the first 2 days of our 120 day (and more) adventure ALREADY…and still it hasn’t sunk in that we’re going to be away for so long!

We started out in Bangkok, which is somewhere me and Anj have been to before, so we decided to make this our chillaxing part of the trip to get over the jet lag…we stayed in siam square in a super modern and clean hostel (thanks to super anj’s incredibly detailed research)

The last time I’d been in Thailand I was like 13 or something small, so seeing it with new eyes, I couldn’t help compare it to India with the little tuk tuk rickshaws driving around, lots of market stalls everywhere you go and plenty of noise around the city (even though India probably wins on that front hands down!)

Now as sad as it seems, No we didn’t see the lying Buddha statue and nor the golden palace, as we both remember them pretty well…

Instead we pretty much spent the WHOLE time in the markets and the malls!

The malls, Siam paragon especially, are major high end malls (it even had a Lamborgini show room on the top floor)…this was slightly out of our price budget for this trip!…so we window shopped and then left.

That left the markets…we were told by our favourite guide, the old discussion forums on trip advisor, that china town is a must visit!

So we scootered down in our very metro sexual pink tuk tuk! To be honest, when we reached we were a little disapointed, but then again don’t know what we expected!

Loads of shops on the main road consisting of gold shops and small Chinese restaurants selling shark fin soup where to be honest none of us veggies would risk even entering.

However the tiny side streets with their market stalls was amazing just to see…loads of little stalls selling handbags, jewellery, food, t-shirts and other small trinkets etc…

This is where the WARNING sign comes in for the guys traveling with their other half…we then ended up at two further night markets in Siam and Patpong (very famous) selling similar stuff…

For the ladies though, Anj will testify that she preferred the markets in Siam for their fashion!.. Luckily for me, many of the clothes were too big for her! Phew!.. Me, I preferred the variety of home stuff, t-shirts etc at patpong, even though it is part of the red light district, where we had people trying to sell us on sex shows! Not good unless your into that sort of thing!

Well overall Bangkok, even if it has been mainly shopping, has been loads of fun with some great Thai food too! A good way to start the trip… Yum.

Now as we sit on the bus on our way to our next stop…Cambodia I wonder what’s in store for us there…can’t wait for us to reach! Another 5 hours to go…and that’s just to the border!

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157625918239169″]