Sunday, 23 July 2006

water water everywhere

Got a bit of time to kill at the moment (understatement) so thought I'd fill you blogfans in on my most recent adventures, all naturally, are fascinating.

A lovely bus journey took me to Tadlo, and this time the 'real asia experience' because joy of joys there was not only a CD player, but also a DVD player so endured 6 hours of Lao kareoke (sp?) videos played at top volume. Lao pop music? It's not good. In fact one hour long video consisted purely of one bloke and four dancers doing exactly the same thing in every song, though knew it was a different song because man was wearing a different shirt. Aaaiiioooww jaaaa hmmmaaa dddaaaahhhj is how I think the words went. That was a particularly slow hour. Got off the bus in pitch darkness to discover that had to walk between 1 and 2km (depending on how old your Lonely Planet is) to get to the place we were staying. Shock horror there was a waterfall here, tell a lie, there were 3 waterfalls here. I finally got to ride an elephant here (yay), and don't knock my photographic skills, it isn't all that easy to incorporate self and elephant in a picture when balancing precariously atop said elephant. Needless to say I decided to leave my high fashion silver poncho behind and oh yes, it rained.

Decided to leave this debarcle behind and headed off on another 'asia experience' bus - this time had loads of chickens flapping maniacally all the way to go to Si Pha Don or Four Thousand Islands where the Mekong spreads out a bit down at the bottom corner of Laos. Here I became as one with a hammock and did absolutely nothing for a day or so, with the company of my new best friend Billy (who followed me everywhere I went, though in fairness he was a dog and I did keep feeding him). Very rural, lots of mud (not that I fell over in it at all, damnit), piglets and rice paddies here, and surprise surprise there was also a WATERFALL (!) on the mighty Mekong. Again, I left aforementioned poncho behind, it rained, again. Think there could be a lesson to learn here...

Enough of all that laziness malarky. Back on the road again (just about - see piccie, if only we had this woman with us in Africa it would have saved us a fair bit of time tearing apart the truck and standing about with hands on hips in traditional 'hmmm, there's something mechanically wrong here and by standing here like this I'm helping out' pose) and now just waiting waiting waiting for my 'VIP' (I'll believe it when I see it) bus back to Vientiane (made a bit of a bodge up of my route planning into Vietnam so now have about 2 days and nights of bus travel largely over same bit of road in different directions ahead of me).

Apparently scientists discovered a new species of rat previously unknown to man when doing a test of a 'meat stick' kebab sold in Laos. So it's back on the viggies (with Argentinian accent) for me. Oh and a guide to the pictures should you really need one: (1) me on elephant, (2) girl washing up bamboo hut style, (3) sunset as seen from my hammock, (4) whooshing waterfall and (5) mechanics on the go.

Monday, 17 July 2006

Va va vieng voom

Sabaai dii sabaai dii (the call of Lao children)! Finally left Luang Prabang, which is a place 'you just have to go to' - was really nice and chilled with monks lining the streets (apparently this is the time of year when they all go into hiding with freshly shaven heads into the monastries, which goes some way to explain the otherwise inexplicable bell ringing and drum banging that went on at about 4am everyday), the home of Hive (again, you just have to go there) and a good spot for a bike ride (yes I got lost, very lost, again).

Hit the shores of the Mekong River again in Vang Vieng where hopped onto a (very temperamental) tuk-tuk 3km up the road and floated downstream on a inner-tyre of a tractor: the tubing phenomena is born! Brilliant fun! If you ignore the indignity of getting stuck in a tree/weeds or bumping into bridges. Seems these Lao dudes know what people want from a lazy river trip so there were plenty of riverside bars to stop off in and best of all some wicked but scary swings that launched you flying into the river (or in my case unceremoniously splatted you into it, whoops). Can't get much better than blobbing down a river with a Beer Lao in one hand and some amazing scenery in the background (which I would share with you but no way was I taking my camera near water) so you'll have to make do with these land-shots of Vang Vieng at night.

Enough of that enjoying oneself malarky it's back to travelling again, so landed up in Vientiane, capital city, and surprise surprise, it rained, a lot, just as we were getting off the bus. Laos - it's wet (see piccie, if it ever uploads, slow slow sloooooww computer, well anyways you've all seen rain before, it's wet cos I've just given up waiting - oh no, finally it's appeared, there you go, rain). Had a couple of yummy foods (did however skip frog and 'little piggy intestines' advertised on the menu) on the banks of (yes you guessed it) the Mekong River and made a swift exit down to here, Savannakhet. I say swift, delete that. 8 hours on a bus, the main 'highway' in Lao really is just a country lane-type-road. Though I did get a tofu sandwich, promise you it was nicer than it sounds... This place is a bit like Luang Prabang but more french (bizarre) and much quieter, which is good seeing as I have a wee bit of sleep to catch up on! That's pretty much me up to date now, oh and I caved in to that meat craving (nothing to do with the tofu sandwich surely) and had a pork kebab, and then another, and one more for the road and I'm making no promises that I wont have another...

Sunday, 9 July 2006

La La Laos Land

G'day folks. New day new country. I say new day, I mean new few days because it took that long just to get anywhere. Day 1 left Chiang Mai to go to border (Thai/Laos) on bus, Day 2 crossed border in POURING RAIN (absolutely soaked, took about whole journey for my trousers to move from wet to damp in the drying out process) and hopped onto the 'slow boat' up the Mekong river. It was slow. Stopped over at some little village that seemed to exist for the pure purpose of housing us boaties for the night. Pretty dire nights sleep on mattress that turned out to be made of wood. Day 3 on the slow boat again, this time was upgraded so some people had seats that had clearly been half-inched from a bus, though we had to sit on more wooden seats. Laos - comfy it aint. Piccie (slightly blurry, still not got hang of this modern tech) is of some of us 'slow boaters' (l-r: UK Harry, Argi Dolo and Ozzi Jane) powering on through the journey with the aid of dipping pineapple in our teacups of Beer Lao, classy we are. Scenery pretty nice on way (despite rain rain rain) and then finally arrived at destination Luang Prabang.

Obviously the first thing we did was get a pizza, then head off down to get some mojitos (yayayay), and later onto a loverrrly spot called the Vietnam Bar (I really hope Vietnam is nothing like this place), which was nice. Currently living in a kind of bizarre 'slow boat world' where everywhere we go it seems that everyone we met on the boat is there too, or they are people met millions of years ago in different places (couple of guys who also did Challenger in Isle of Wight are here too - bizarre). Went to see this waterfall yesterday (see los picturos on rightos) so spent time avoiding leaches splashing about there for the day - awesome.

Today is cultural day and are going to hire some bikes to go around, though so far only managed breakfast (brunch) and to come on internet, hmmmm. But true to form I did get lost this morning so already had a walk around more of the 'city' than intended. Happy days.

Saturday, 1 July 2006

wat's that?

Yes yes, I know 'what' isn't spelt like that, but 'Wat' is. Chiang Mai: here a Wat, there a Wat, everywhere a Wat Wat. Hired out a cycle yesterday and went wonder-about, there's a big temple on top of a hill where an elephant left it (apparently many many years ago an elephant was carrying whole temple on its back, decided to walk all way up hill only to die on spot leaving temple behind, as you do) that I thought would make a nice bike ride. Lasted for about 5 minutes (exaggeration) until realised getting a lift to the top with some dudes from New Yoirrrrrk with fun New Yoirrrk accents (don't know how to express them in writing) and just zippy zip zipping back down would be much more fun (it was). Got lost on way back to guesthouse, accidently stumbled upon some more Wats and monks being monkey-ish (is that what you call the work of a monk I don't know). Found another 12 million Wats. Cycled round and round and round (swear these streets keep on moving) and eventually made it back to my guesthouse only to be attacked by a giant butterfly (scary). Foolishly went out on bike again for dinner, got lost, again. Found another Wat, or 5. Seems not a lot else to do in Chiang Mai other than getting lost and finding Wats. What's a Wat I hear you ask, erm, temple type thing where the more gold the better I think (see picture above).

Actually that was a big lie, there is something else to do in Chiang Mai as did a Thai cookery course today which was quite fun, am well and truly stuffed with food. Bought all the ingredients from market (see piccie: oi piggy - you lookin' at me?!) in the morning and spent afternoon pounding and chopping and pounding some more; apparently with a little more work I will make 'good Thai wife' (not sure I actually want to be good Thai wife, but that's by-the-by). Thinking of learning how to be a mahout (elephant trainer) tomorrow because I know that's the kind of skill employers are looking for on a CV, hope I don't get trampled on.

Oh, and the geographically challenged amongst you may find help in knowing where I am by looking right (or is it left, erm) and following the link "is Baghdad near Iraq" (ex-Talybronx residents of M8 will know where that came from) and you will find yourself looking at a map of my rough location about this world.

Alas, must toddle off now, apparently there are some Wats around here that I "really must" see...

P.S. oh and at the request of some of the more aged readers out there (Johnny) you will be happy to discover that a mojito is in fact a delicious beverage containing rum, soda, mint and lemon - it remained elusive but managed to find a substitute (in the many roguely titled cocktails such as Foo Girl and Blue Hawath - still have no idea what they were, but they came in pretty colours).