Monthly Archives: March 2011

Leaving Vang Vieng

After a week in Vang Vieng which is known as a climbing paradise surrounded by hills and mountains, we are heading to Laos’ capital Vientiane. We enjoyed kayaking the river Nam Song, tubing through water caves on inflated tractor tyres, were stunned by beautiful sceneries and limestone cliffs, went jumping from swings into the river, crossed hanging bamboo footbridges, did some mountain trekking and of course, enjoyed Lao food. Fried rice, red and green curry, banana pancakes and excellent baguettes had a great taste, even though once there was an allergic reaction with skin rash all over the body, which fortunately disappeared after two days.

It is a shame we couldn’t go rock climbing, but one of four feet was still injured from our little motorbike accident in Chiang Mai and it was simply impossible to squeeze it into a climbing shoe. What we disliked was how touristic this place is, fully controlled by stoned and drunk western 17-25 year-olds getting wasted tubing down the river and stopping at numerous bars, or just sitting for hours in bars watching endless repetitions of Friends soaps. On every corner, concrete guesthouses are built in such a hurry that they do each other out of business. We plan to leave the touristic highway we’re on now and to see some untouched places and meet more people who aren’t only focused on tourists.

Posted in Laos, Southeast Asia | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

On the Mekong to Luang Prabang

We decided to go to Chiang Khong by bus, to enter northern Laos at Huay Xai and then travel by slow boat along the Mekong River to Luang Prabang. Everything worked out, as usual the bus driver stopped where we were supposed to spend some money. On the border to Laos, we both got a 30-day visa on arrival. The next morning, we got on our slow boat. The boat trip of two times seven hours was ok despite the rain and cold. Of course, the boat was full of tourists we had already seen in Thailand, which however was no surprise given we were travelling on a “tourist highway”. The two-day trip required an overnight stay in the small, unexciting riverside village of Pak Beng. From the boat we saw forests, fishermen, some water buffaloes and even an elephant :-)

Luang Prabang, former royal capital and World Heritage-listed, is situated 700m above sea level, at the confluence of the Nam Khan and the Mekong River. Once we got through the usual bunch inviting us to spend the night in their guesthouse ‘Need loom?’, we started to enjoy the small town and its surroundings. Even if quite touristic, it is a laid-back place with nice restaurants and guesthouses.

Orange-wrapped Buddhist monks inhabit half of the beautiful 66 historic temples. We were not sure what it meant to be living like a monk, but they seemed to enjoy using their mobile phones or watching Lao girls dressed in pink pass by on their bicycles.

Posted in Laos, Southeast Asia, Thailand | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a major town situated in northern Thailand, with a nice historical center surrounded by the remains of an ancient wall. The city is also a hotspot for tourists and serves as hub for trekking into the surrounding hills or further towards Laos and Cambodia. After busy Hat Yai we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere in Chiang Mai, rented bikes to drive around, went to the cinema and visited a number of the numerous temples. On the way to the famous Doi Suthep temple we fell with our rented motorbike and were quite lucky we got away with a few bruises on feet and knees. The temple itself was indeed impressive, also because it is situated appr. 300 m above the city.

Compared to southern Thailand we saw a lot more monks, colourful birds in small cages we wanted to free, nightlife, moskitos all around, a water buffalo market and snakes eating screaming frogs. We enjoyed fruit that tasted so fresh, tried about 20 different kinds of bananas, pineapple in salt and curry and fell in love with mixed fruit shakes. In every house and on nearly every corner you could spot a portrait of the monarch or the royal couple, and even in the cinema before the main film, people all stood up to honour the king and to watch a short film, apparently about the benefits of (constitutional) monarchy. We also realised that Asian people seem to have a different, more slapsticky kind of humour.

Ever done a Thai curry by yourself and do you know the difference between red and green peppers? We wanted to know and did a very nice cooking class at a farm outside of Chiang Mai. We prepared all the Thai classics: Red and green Thai curry (starting with the quite exhausting preparation of the curry paste in a mortar), Pad Thai, fried rice and noodles, Tom Yum Soup, spring rolls, papaya salad, sticky rice with mango and banana in coconut milk. And we ate it all!

Posted in Southeast Asia, Thailand | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ko Lanta

About five hours by boat from Phuket or two hours from Krabi, Ko Lanta is a peninsula in the beautiful Krabi province. Right at the start of our journey we had a first surprise discovering that Polish citizens only get a 15-day visa-on-arrival.

We used a week to relax at the beach, swim a lot, enjoy the food, and get our bodies and minds acquainted with everything.

Apart from exploring the island with bikes and motorcycles, we made one trip labelled ‘four-islands-tour’ in order to do snorkelling. This trip was however rather disappointing, too many tourists have already been shipped to the ever same spots, and there is nothing left to see underwater, as it’s all dead.

We were compensated by great views from the boat and one really stunning beach on Ko Kradan.

Posted in Southeast Asia, Thailand | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment