Asian Adventure Review - part 2
8 May 2010 sunsetfiesta said
the usual early start here and you travel through more typical northern Thailand scenery, at this point you are used to it but nonetheless cool. the highlight of the morning is the stop at condoms and cabbages. I will let thoe of you doing the trip to find for yourself what this is. The hotel is OK, nothing to brag about but you are close to internet, massage and food, plenty of western foods to feel like home if you want (not mcdonalds though, i mean pizza, sandwiches...). This place isnt a highlight, the hilltribes optional excursion is a good experience but not that great, its basically a bunch of ethnic Thai people dumped in this piece of land donated by the king. Its good to see the culture but on ce you see one tribe, it gets old. Once again, you can choose to head out and have a fun night out, get some decent food or have an early night.
an early start is in order but this time you head to what I think is the best part of the tour, laid back Laos. You get to spend 7 days here so enjoy it! Now the upcoming tours won't have to worry about this but for us, the mekong river was extremely low and the part we were supposed to travel along by boat was unpassable but more about that later. A few hours in the bus sees you arrive at the thai/Laos border crossing over the mekong river. Now this is chaotic place as the border control is so relaxed and unorganised plus you have a ost of othee tours and backpackers trying to get visas processed at the same time. However once you get through that, its on to njoy the river cruise.
Now for my tour, at that time the river was too low so we had to travel the whole day in an old, crappy coach through a rather beautiful at times scenic route through rural Laos. it was good to see that part most people don't but damn was it gruelling. Lucky for the rest of you china has had to let water out of their dams and fill the mekong back up. We arrived after dinner at the guesthouse which is very modest but when you are tired, any old bed will do.
you wake up to a beautiful setting in Pakbeng, the guest houe overlooks the mekong and if you look across the gold tinged water you see a hillside covered in a light fog and you may see the odd elephant roaming the farmland. A good photo opp.
Now for those of you doing this tour you may be sick of the boat cruise i don't know we but we enjoyed it, there is alchol to be bought (beerlaos, the beer of Laos and cheap as hell!) and good views to be seen. A good chance to talk to your fellow travellers or get drunk! You make one stop, that is to a cave I forgot th name of but basically its full of little buddha statues and is very sacred to the locals. Good photo opp aswell!
You then Arrive around noon at Luang Prabang, a great town you are gonna love. After settling in to your room, you get to go on a bike tour of the town. You cruise past cool colonial french/asian architecture and our favourite, you get to try snake whiskey! Big jars of laos whiskey filled with snakes, centipedes and lizards. awesome fun.
It is a free night so may I suggest you take advantage of the many restaurants and bars and just enjoy yourself in this cool town. You might want to check out the night markets and grab a bargain, have fun bartering but keep in mind at all these markets in laos, it is kinda all the same stuff.
If you are a drinker, beware of Laos Laos whiskey, it is brutal. You will soon find out it is customary to receive free shots of whiskey, enjoy the service if you wish! but beware lol.
This day is incredible. You start ealry with the group being divided in two to ride elephants through the jungle. This is awesome, a great photo opp and it lasts for over an hour. You get to ride on the elephants neck aswell! You also pass by an incredible lake, so breathtaking. Get others to take photos of you on the elephants neck and just experience the amazing animals up close and personal.
After lunch you take buses to this waterfall that is preceeded by beautiful blue spring pools. Yet more photo opps abound and teh chance to swim or swing from a rope or dive from a waterfall, if the day is hot this will refresh you! A must do this place is great.
One tip, when on this tour take advantage of the massage parlours aswell the fish massage! it is a tank of certain fish that nibble on your dead skin cells. Truly Asian experience!
Today brings a rather interesting but gruelling trip from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng. You drive past amazing scenery, the usual rice paddies with the odd buffalo strolling through right next to steep, jagged limestone cliffs that are synonomous with SE Asia. You arrive mid afternoon in Vang Vieng and your guide will tell you this place isn't the real Laos. Vang Vieng is a backpackers town really, you see them everywhere and basically drive the towns economy.
Once you settle in to your hotel you go on a brief guide of the town and then basically it'sa free night. You will most likely follow teh group to one of the many restaurants that serve pretty much the same thing, sandwiches, pizza etc. The cool thing about these places is that they each play a specific sitcom all day and night. I only found it was either friends or family guy. The food is decent and gives you a real slice of home. The fun ensued later on when most people went clubbing at the Q bar I believe its called and you will see people getting stoned or buying "special drinks", no need to explain that one lol.
My advice, don't get too drunk tonight, you have plenty of adventure activities the next day aswell as tubing (which is the better opportunity to get drunk).
Today you awake to stunning views (if you face the back of the hotel) of the mountians shrouded in a fine mist. It's really a free day where you can go kayaking, caving, rock climbing, or nothing at all. I suggest tubing, you basically pay for an old tractor tire tube and get dropped off out of town to float along the Nam Song river. great views but once yu get to the riverside bars, you can choose to hop off, get drunk on cheap booze and swing from ropes, slides or zip lines. This is epci fun and theres even mud volleyball/wrestling which is epic when your drunk. If your not into partying, don't bother, just continue cruising down the river. youtube "tubing in vang vieng" if you want a better picture.
The night is up to you, if you got mad drunk in the day, you'll wanna wind it up early.
The journey out of vang vieng to vientiane is rather boring compared to the journey in so catch up with your fellow tour mates or plug in your ipod.
when you arrive in town its a day of sightseeing with a rather depressing visit to the COPE centre which deals with people who have lost limbs, mainly from unexploded bombs dropped in the vietnam war or from landmines during the indochina war. Its very eye opening but also very depressing.
Next you visit another temple but by now I was over temples and seeing golden stupas lol.Following this you visit a monument built to commemorate the Laotiians freedom from the french and survival from attack by the americans. Its kind of like the arc de triomphe in france, very impressive and good views of the city. We were amazingly lucky when we were their because the prime minister and his officials rocked up fr some reason and it was quite funny because our local guide was scared of going to jail for looking at them!
In the free time in the late afternoon I walked around the city centre and grabbed some food, regretably because for dinner you visit a restaurant that employs street kids and teh food is good. You can finish the night off by joing the group for drinks in a bar next door to teh hotel, but it closes at 12. A few of us were lucky to be told about a rooftop party happening at another hotel so we whisked of over there and partyed the night away, only to find a few ladyboys!
Cambodia to come soon!
- rock climbing
- travel advice
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19 Nov 2010 cpquin said
I found your review helpful. Any chance for a posting for Part 3???
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19 Nov 2010 sunsetfiesta said
OK so I am finally adding the Cambodia section of the tour, the memories are not so fresh 8 months on but I’ll give it a shot…
DAY 11: fly from vientiane to Phnom Penh
you fly out in the morning, its a pretty simple process and the flight is about an hour, I think less maybe… once you settle into the hotel which is actually pretty decent but in an interesting location (you have plenty of places to eat across the street but you also get a whiff of fish from the nearby street market), you hop on the bus to visit memorial sites for the Kmher rouge massacre.
The first place you visit is a school that was converted into a concentration camp and i gotta say it is creepy and depressing. Now if you are like me and never knew about the khmer rouge beforehand, you start to question things like why the US bombed the **** out of vietnam but didnt help the cambodians from the khmer rouge… but thats a debate for some other time! we were lucky enough to see one of the extremely few survivors who has only recently built up the courage to visit teh place again and he gave us a brief talk on where his cell was and what they did… I wont say much more, if you are gonna do this tour you need to see and hear this **** yourself. Next stop is one of the killing fields where people were brought to essentially be killed by pretty ****ed up methods, once again you need to see it yourself. I wasnt prepared to see a memorial tower full of the skulls of the poor people and bones and clothing sticking out of teh ground but thats what you see, pretty depressing but eye opening and i’m glad I saw it, you never hear about this in school which makes it all the more sombre.
So yeah after that interesting portion of the day you basically can chill for about an hour or so before you head out for a free night ( if you wish of course!). The tour guide gives you a map of cool places to eat so me and a couple others chose the colonial bar i think its called, it basically looks over the river and I have to say the food is effin amazing! its not necessarily traditional local food but boy is it good. I had bourbon pork ribs and some mexican chicken dish that was one of the best meals of my life, you gotta go to that place. Now cambodia uses american dollars mostly so its more expensive than thailand and certainly Laos but still cheap. So anyway after the meal we caught up with about half the tour group upstairs and drank for a bit looking out of the river and streets, great night it was. we saw all these massive colourful geckos over the walls too, I thouhgt they were blue with red spots but others reckoned they were green lol I dunno but still really cool. So about an hour later a small group of us decided to go to this “exclusive” club that our guide said to be careful about lol but it was really cool, just like a decent nightclub back home with **** music though. This was the first place we saw with bouncers that actually frisked us! Now we were warned about certain people there that are international drug dealers but the ones we thought were involved tunred out to be pretty cool and friendly lol so who knows… (the place is called the riverside I think, same name as one I went to in chiang mai too).
Once inside we just did the usual, got many drinks, danced and what not but as time went on I danced with some chick who couldnt speak english but she asked her two guy friends to give me her number lol like I was gonna call her from Aus! she was hot anyway so I didnt refuse! soon after most people from our group went back to the hotel so it was me and one other bloke left, so we got another drink and walked up to the baclony to have a smoke but we happened to stand next to these three chicks. So one girl is going through her phone looking at pictures of this hot model and the guy I was with asked who she is, and we found out it was actually her! so he basically used that to chat her up and for a couple minutes I watched hime make progress lol until I noticed that one of her friends was alone looking bored so I took the opportunity to chat <!--graemlin:;)--> so basically we found out these girls love aussies ( or atleast white, blonde foreigners lol) and they agreed to come back to the hotel. SWEET! so yeah needless to say what happened next lol it was a great night ;p
Ok day 12 will be coming really soon, I promise!
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22 Nov 2010 sunsetfiesta said
DAY 12: phnom Penh to Siem Reap
this is another flying day however it is much shorter to siem reap.The process is straght forward just like any flight and while flying takes up less time, a bus ride is more interesting in this part of the world.
So, Siem Reap. This city is in my opinion better than Phnom penh due to it’s smaller size. The highlight of today is a visit to the tonle sap lake which is basically this vital ecosystem for not only the animals that live there but the communities that rely upon it, especially the village that is floating in the middle of it. It was in the afternoon we arrived here and we boarded the usual boat you see in SEA and headed out through a small river on to the lake and its pretty cool to see the silhouette of the approaching homes against the setting sun. Now you get these people that take there kids out on boats with them and approach all the tourist boats trying to sell drinks and things, along with a chance to hold a python. Now I bought a drink but its pretty dodgy considering the water most likely touches those cans and the entire village dumps its sewerage and rubbish in there, not to mention all the other towns that live by the lake but nevermind, I was alright! So our stop is this fish farm which has a pit of these catfish where you throw in a bit of food and they all go mental and splash up all the water, pretty scary at first cos you dont expect it but then funny when you see unsuspecting people get splashed lol. Theres also crocodiles and native tropical fish in tanks, pretty cool if your like me and into tropical fish. Otherwise you just enjoy the sunset and wait around to go back into town.
So tonight is a free night, everyone went to a strip of restaurants which is close to a market and on this strip is one that angelia jolie frequented when filming tomb raider in the nearby temples and there is a drink named after her there too. I didnt go there I was more keen on trying out some more unusual meats like croc and snake. It was a group of about 6 of us that found a restaurant that specialised in excactly that. They have these packages where you pick 5 animals you want and cook the meat yourself on these little charcoal pits on your table. Now I had croc which is basically like tough chicken, snake which is even tougher but not tasty at all, beef, chicken and buffalo, which tastes like beef lol. That wasnt particularly great but I’m glad I tried snake.
Now I was pretty tired today so I joined a few people to the market, bought a nice painting (I racked up quite a few by this point) and decided to head to bed. Considering tomorrow was the day we visit Angkor Wat and our wake up call was extra early at 4am, it was a good idea to rest up.
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2 Dec 2010 cpquin said
Big Thanks for sharing your experience!! Appreciate it greatly!
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10 Jan 2012 Explorer1120250_ Nat said
Loved reading your story
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