A Travellerspoint blog

Another peaceful sit-in protest

sunny 23 °C
View Great Escape to the East! on Tam-Jo's travel map.

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We spent most of the early part of this morning running away from tuk-tuk drivers who were chasing us with offers of rides to Kuang Si Waterfalls.... we were actually planning on going to the waterfalls today, but we were not about to pay the extortionate fares quoted to us on the way from JoMa cafe to our hostel. They soon wised up to the fact that we knew they were trying to rip us off and quoted us a more reasonable price, but we were too annoyed with them by then to accept! Some may call us stubborn, I like to think we stick to our decisions! Unfortunately for us, the tuk tuk driver we booked through our hostel turned out to be one of the drivers that we had refused earlier..... awkward!

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Anyway, skipping past that, off we headed on the 40 minute ride out of Luang Prabang to the falls. First stop, the bear rescue centre. Very interesting. Onwards! Before we even got to the waterfall we stumbled across a number of unbelievably blue pools which looked very inviting, except for the fact that it was a cold day and the water was freezing!!

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The waterfalls themselves were amazing, and the hike up to the top was very enjoyable, even if we weren't exactly wearing the right footwear (I went native in the end - barefoot!). After an iced coffee at the cafe we decided to go for the plunge! Soooooo cold!

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On our way back to Luang Prabang our tuk tuk broke down - typical! But it gave us a chance to wandered around the local village while our driver changed the tyre! Then back in Luang Prabang we managed to get into an argument with a woman about bus trips. We were hoping to book seats in a minivan to Phonsavahn for the following day but were informed that you needed to book seats a day in advance. It seemed to us that the lady behind the desk just did not like us and did not want to book us tickets. We fell back on our old faithful tactic of sitting down and refusing to move. After a lot of pleasantries, some very logical arguments and the eventual realisation that we were not leaving without bus tickets, the lady finally gave in and booked us on the minivan. WIN!

Tonight we plan on heading out to look around the night market and I'm sure we will end up spending a fortune on souveneirs again! We are totally back in our travelling groove after the Christmas break!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 19:36 Archived in Laos Tagged luangprabang Comments (1)

Beautiful crowded sunset

sunny 26 °C
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Most of the day was spent on some much needed life admin...snore!

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We left our hostel late afternoon to walk up to the stupa on Mount Phousi in the middle of Luang Prabang to see the sunset. Clearly this is a popular thing to do as it was packed on top of the hill. But we did witness a beautiful sunset in a beautiful setting, albeit while having close up photos taken of us by some middle aged man. Not impressed with that!

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We walked down the other side of the hill to see all the golden Buddha statues, of which there were many, listening to monks chanting as we went.

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Then onto the Hive bar for a delicious dinner of pizza, pork chop, and daiquiris and to watch the Ethnik fashion show which the bar puts on most nights. The outfits were so beautiful. Jo particularly liked the clothes which had anything shiny on them (such a magpie!). And then the most amazing breakdancing performance either of us have ever seen...incredible!!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 02:43 Archived in Laos Tagged luangprabang Comments (0)

Anyone for bowling?

sunny 27 °C
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After an epic lie in this morning, we finally ventured out of our room to try out the free breakfast at the hostel, which was supposed to be on until 10am. 9.30am and they were out of food - must be good, must get up earlier in future! But this was a good excuse to get out into town and try the delights of JoMa cafe, as recommended by Sarah and Felix. LUSH! Its amazing how we always manage to find one fantastic Western food place in which to have one of our daily meals! Necessary at this point, as rice/noodles three times a day would be a killer this far into the trip!

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After some delicious sandwiches and salads (SALAD! YUM!) we started our wander through the UNESCO heritage town of Luang Prabang. It is beautiful! The French influence in Laos is easily seen here in the architechture, but somehow, despite the flood of tourists, the town has retained its Laotian identity. Wooden shacks, monks in bright orange robes, rickety bridges across huge brown rivers, beautiful temple ruins... all very lovely! We even visited a museum, aren't we good?!

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This evening we met a friend from Chiang Mai for dinner and tried water buffalo - tough but tasty! After a few drinks, curfew hit. Yes, that's right, the town has a curfew. So all bars shut by 11.30pm to give their patrons and employees time to get home before midnight. However, the local bowling alley is located just outside the town limits and is not therefore subject to the curfew. So what else could we do but head over there for a game to end our evening of fun? Who knew bowling made such a good end to the night?! But as all the crowds of loud, youngsters began filing in we escaped home to blogging and bed.

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 00:48 Archived in Laos Tagged luangprabang Comments (0)

How many people can you fit on one slow boat?

sunny 26 °C
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The day started off well enough...best ever banana pancake for breakfast! It was downhill from there...

First of all, we missed the pick up truck to take us down to the boat. So we had to walk down with all our stuff. It was all downhill though so not too bad.

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What was bad was the state of the boat when we got there...crazy number of people all over the place! We got there an hour before the boat was scheduled to leave but it was packed already. Somehow we managed to find two seats...still not quite sure how we managed that! There was no room for our bags under the boards where we were sitting so I took mine to the engine room at the back of the boat (where there were so many people I could barely squeeze through) and Jo had hers thrown on the roof!! Over the course of the next hour, more and more people were piled onto the boat. As there were no seats left, these people were sent to the back to sit on the floor by the engine or had to sit on the floor at the front of the boat.

It got worse and worse and finally some westerners who had the misfortunate of being in the back of the boat snapped! Demanding to speak to the captain, they were adamant that we needed another boat. It was clear by this point that only one boat was being put on this day when two were put on yesterday for the same number of people. Of course, as we were all on one boat, and it hadn't yet sunk, the captain had little incentive to put on another. And so we started to move!! To escape the horrendous engine room at the back, people filtered down the aisle to plonk themselves on cushions making the whole boat ridiculously overcrowded...it was going to be a long 8 hours for us all.

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But we made it to Luang Prabang in one piece. And after being ripped off for a (very short) ride in a tuk-tuk, we arrived at our hostel.

In the evening we went to Utopia bar with some people who introduced themselves to us at the hostel by showing us the empty bottle of whisky they had just finished...the empty bottle had a snake and a scorpian in it!! Yuck! A gin and tonic and a couple of big bottles of Beer Laos each and we were ready for bed...it had been a long day!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 05:55 Archived in Laos Tagged luangprabang Comments (1)

Are we in Laos?

sunny 24 °C
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This morning offered us our first views of the Mekong river, and Laos! After somehow managing to skip over Thailand emigration (apparently it all got sorted last night!) we jumped straight in a boat to cross the muddy brown waters of the river and head into the next country. Stepping out onto dry land on the other side Tam was shocked to discover that we were now in Laos (I think she might have been a bit sleep deprived!). We headed into the small metal hut on the riverside that claimed to be Laos immigration. After a bit of queing we figured out where we were supposed to be showing passports etc. and paid the nominal $1 additional weekend charge to get our passports stamped.

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Miraculously at this point, some random Laos man who was organising our trip to Luang Prabang found us in the crowds of other tourists and led us to various locations in which to wait to get on the slow boat. After eventually walking the plank onto the boat, literally, we found we had to fight to get a couple of seats. But we managed - we're getting seriously ruthless now about seating!! And so began the 7 hour boat trip to Pak Beng, most of which was spent trying to drown out the voices of a particularly irritating few individuals! We managed to soak up the sights along the river (very pretty!) and Tam almost finished a book. But there is really nothing more to report on the journey!

We arrived at Pak Beng at about 6.30pm and found the van that would transport us up to our hotel. We had pretty low expectations about accomodation in Pak Beng, having read several trip advisor reports of basement rooms infested with rats etc. The ride to the hotel didn't give us much hope for anything more - a rickety pickup truck, which us Falangs were squeezed into. Thank God we were so tightly packed in though, as I had to help hold an older man upright on the sharp turns to ensure he didn't fall out the back! We were pleasantly surprised though - clean and comfortable with a balcony restaurant overlooking the river. After a beer Lao, some fried rice and Bob Marley on the sound system we are happy campers!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 20:13 Archived in Laos Tagged mekong Comments (0)

Goodbye Northern Thailand


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The top ten things we've learnt whilst in Northern Thailand:
1. Breakfast World rocks! 63 types of breakfast?! Thats a challenge we can get on board with!
2. Be careful when climbing into tuk tuks.... apparently its harder than it seems (talk to Tam!)
3. Hospitals are not an extreme measure when ill. Waiting to see if the illness clears up for two weeks is an idiotic idea!
4. Embrace the face mask!
5. Dog fancy dress is an amazing money making scheme, although you have to feel sorry for the poor dogs!
6. Pineapple and grapes in a curry - amazing!
7. MANGO STICKY RICE - enough said!
8. Scary sculptures of skulls and grabbing hands are an acceptable way to decorate a temple.
9. We are braver than we thought... and make very good gibbons!
10. Bugs taste bad and get stuck in your teeth!

Posted by Tam-Jo 20:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Day 1 of our 3 day journey to Luang Prabang

sunny 29 °C
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We got up early this morning so that we could have a final trip to Breakfastworld before our minibus pickup...I know...we're completely obsessed! Some speed eating was in order though as our taxi got completely lost on the way there. But we still had time for some cocoa pops, a small cooked breakfast and a catch up with Simran and Alex who we had convinced to join us there!

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Nothing much to report on for the rest of the day. We sat in a minibus for most of it, but did we did make a couple of stops to see Thailand's highest hot spring and to visit the the White Temple near Chiang Rai which was just beautiful. Quite a comfy journey although Jo had to put up with the woman next to her covering her whole face with a huge scarf any time that Jo coughed. Awkward!

We're now in our hotel for the night. Jo's been for a swim, we've eaten some noodles, went for a quick walk in the area (there is nothing here!) and will probably try and watch a Harry Potter film on the laptop tonight!

Up early tomorrow for the overland border crossing into Laos!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 22:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiangmai chaingrai Comments (1)

Meeting friends, old and new

sunny 30 °C
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Today started with a lot of chores. Washing, followed by our routine trip to Breakfast World where Tam was ecstatic to be able to have coco pops (!), our last trip to Boots before Laos (where we suspect we will not be able to find basic necessities!), a trip to the pharmacy to stock up on drugs, a trip to the British pub for one last cider and some Western cuisine, an hour at the White Orchid for a manipedi for me and a foot massage for Tam and then a quick trip to a lovely temple on our way home (just so we can say we did SOME sightseeing in Chiang Mai and didn't spend most of our time here getting pampered and eating breakfast!) where we saw some monks meditating .

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After a quick refresh at the hostel we headed out again to the Night Bazaar to meet Simran and Alex. Simran and Tam climbed Mount Kilimanjaro together a number of years ago, and despite living in close proximity (we're talking maybe half an hour away from each other), haven't seen each other in two years. Naturally, on learning that their paths would cross for one night in Chiang Mai we had to meet up! And a lovely evening it was too! Cheap market food, some Thai music and dancing, some very impressive breakdancing and a spot of shopping, all in very good company!

Now we're home to pack before catching our bus to the Laos border tomorrow!!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 22:01 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiangmai Comments (0)

Masterchef!

sunny 30 °C
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We spent the whole day today at a cookery school on the outskirts of Chiang Mai called Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. First lesson...vegetable carving! We learnt how to carve a tomato into a rose and a lotus flower and how to carve a carrot into a leaf. Jo was amazing at the leaves and I mastered the lotus flower so between us we can decorate a plate of food quite nicely!

Through the course of the day we learnt to make the following dishes (all of which we ate and were delicious!):
- Clear Soup with Minced Pork
- Spring Rolls
- Roast Duck with Red Curry
- Fried Chicken with Ginger
- Chicken in Pandanus Leaves
- Mango with Sticky Rice

You can expect great things of us when we get back ;-)

Unfortunately, Jo was still really ill when we got back so we decided a trip to the hospital was needed. Thank you to Louise who gave us the name of the hospital she used recenly! We went there and it was great...friendly, efficient, hardly any waiting around, although Jo did have to wear an "attractive" green mask on account of her coughing!

Poor Jo was diagnosed with a chest infection so they gave her an injection, a bag full of meds and instructions to come back tomorrow if it isn't any better. The doctor wants it cleared up ASAP. He was quite worried when Jo told him we'd be leaving for Laos the day after tomorrow...apparently the hospitals in Laos should be avoided!! Luckily by the time we got back to the hostel, the injection appeared to have helped already. Get well soon Jo!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 21:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiangmai Comments (0)

Pork chop failings!

sunny 29 °C
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Whilst New Years Eve was an epic fail for me, I did at least wake up without a hangover today. Woohoo! A good start to the New Year, now if only I could shift this God awful cough. Even Tam woke up feeling suprisingly good. We spent a good few hours watching trashy TV in bed and then the hang over cravings began and Tam was soon desperate for a pork chop (no joke!). Knowing where we could get a good one (and this is in no way any kind of an inuendo!), we grabbed a tuk tuk and headed out into the streets of Chiang Mai towards the Writers Club. It was shut. Fail! So we went next door and after half an hour managed to order some food. It was awful. Fail! So we headed back to the hostel and back to bed, deciding that 2013 just wasn't worth facing quite yet!

We tried again for the pork chop later and were successful! :-)

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 20:50 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiangmai Comments (0)

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