Archive for the 'Laos' Category

Published by Linda on 06 Jul 2008

The Power Canoe to Chiang Mai

And so the day we’d been dreading for so many weeks dawned. It was a dry day which was a good start. Monica still triple-bagged all the contents of her bag and double-bagged her entire rucksack just in case!! I know that’s overload but you get really wet sitting in the canoe so it stands to reason that you might as well prevent ALL your gear getting wet too!! I should mention that the guidebooks don’t recommend that you use this canoe as they have flipped from time to time resulting in fatalities!!!!!

Anyway we had a lucky break in that 4 of the group decided to fly, which meant we could use their seats – seats being a very loose term!! Only 4 people per leg (2 hours) had to sit like the pic below…… 

…..whereas it should have been all of us. It was a long journey though and loads of us got really sunburnt but we made which was the main thing. The scenery was spectacular going down the Mekong River and you could see particles of gold in the sand when we stopped for breaks. Had to do the boarder crossing when we got to Thailand and then a six hour bus journey which was luxury compared to the boat!! Anyway we got into Chiang Mai at about midnight and put it all behind us. I’m kinda glad I experienced it too – now that it’s over anyway.

Chiang Mai is jam-packed with things to do. I decided to go for an elephant ride and bamboo rafting. Horrible to say it but the elephant ride was horrible. It seemed to be okay at the beginning but the four of us that went wanted to leave ten minutes after getting there. There were loads of elephants in a kind of barn and we couldn’t understand how they were all standing so close together until we saw them chained up on really short chains so they can only just stand there. We just felt awful and fed the poor fellas loads of bananas to ease our guilt. It should be noted that another lot of us went elephant riding, in a different facility, the following day and had a much more positive experience. it just so happened that we chose the wrong one.

After that we went bamboo rafting which is really just a gentle trip down the river but pleasant nonetheless. Just as we had got over the whole elephant experience we floated by one which was tethered to a tree and he was trying to pull his chain out of the ground!! Just kill me!! Kill me now!

The next day myself, Kat and Suze decided we would abseil down a 55 metre waterfall. It was brilliant!!!! Some rush! Didn’t look down much because I think I would have freaked myself out. It was dead slippy though so we were sliding all over the place. It was a single rope system which basically meant you fed the rope through with one hand and released it with the other. Had some nice looking rope burn by the end of the descent!!! This is myself and Kat looking fantastic in our gear :-) Suze had her waterproof camera, which we’ve had some technical difficulties with, but hopefully I’ll be able to post them up soon. Had a lovely swim under the waterfall after we’d finished and felt like we’d conquered the world!

We finished off our day by visiting the highest point in Thailand and saw the King’s and Queen’s Pergodas. Really beautiful spot, unfortunately the photos are a bit misty as we were literally up in the clouds!!!

So tired that evening that I treated myself to a thai massage which cost about 4 euro and ended our evening on the hotel veranda with pizza and beer. That summed up my activities in Chiang Mai but there was a pile of other things to do like white water rafting (I’m holding off until New Zealand), caving (did my time in caves!!), rock climbing and thai cookery courses. Amy also did a few days meditating and living with the monks which was pretty cool.

Must also mention the hotel that we stayed at which was like a mini jungle sanctuary. Loads of wildlife including birds, a parrot and a few turtles. Very leafy and lush spot and I’d recommend it and Chiang Mai to anyone.

 

 

 

Published by Linda on 01 Jul 2008

Lovely Laos – Vientiane/Van Vien/Loang Prabang

My friend Seanin (who kindly let me stay with him in Hong Kong) told me Laos is lovely. And he was right, it really is. Very chilled out here. No big long list of things to do which is a nice break after a 21 hour journey here!!! (More boarder crossings and train delays – Siobhan there was a dead cow on the track……I’m not joking… but had to laugh thinking of your Cork/Dublin journey)

So we arrived in Vientiane and have been relaxing since we got here. Did go to see a Temple  and you won’t believe it but it’s the first temple I’ve actually liked – not too full of gold stuff :-) Guess what though…..we weren’t allowed to take photos in there – typical!! We also took a Tuk-Tuk ride around town. It rained solidly on our second day here so we left that as our cultural intake for the day. We did pass by this monument, which mirrors L’Arc de Triomphe. There’s a funny story behind it though. The American gave Laos concrete to build a runway and instead they decided to build this. Excellent!!!

Basically just chillaxed for the rest of the day and then got a great massage which actually even chilled me out for a while and that’s no mean feat!!!!!

We moved onto Van Vien after this, arrived after a bus journey into the mountains to more rain which didn’t bode well for our long planned tubing event!! Tubing is basically sitting on a rubber ring, floating down a river and being pulled into bars for drinks!! Would have been so much fun. Anyway we went on a bike ride to see some caves instead. The Lao people have a different idea of “seeing caves” though – we actually ended up on our bellies crawling through some very small, mucky caves and ended up looking like this……..

 

Had to clean up in the river afterwards which was lots of fun.

One of the girls on tour, Fiona, had her birthday in Van Vien too so we celebrated in style. Loads of fun that night, even demonstated a little Irish dancing!! Van Vien is very, very chilled and would have loved a couple more days there.

Horribly hungover, we left for Loang Prabang the following day. We had a nightmare of a bus journey (complete with mental bus driver) back down the windy mountain road!!! The driver was a lunatic and only calmed down slightly when the back door opened and a couple of our rucksacks fell out!! Loang Prabang is great too and the sun was out to greet us after the dreadful journey. We weren’t fit for much afterwards – I’ll tell you that. The following day a few of us decided not to join the group (to see more caves – think we’d served our time!!) and had a lie in followed by a leisurely breakfast. Then we went to see this amazing Waterfall and had a swim in the Lagoon which was just fantastic. Was feeling brave that day so I jumped into the water from this tree…..

 

….it was only about 4 metres above the water but it was enough. Was also going to jump from here…..

 

…..but I totally lost my nerve and afterwards I found out a guy did it and dislocated his shoulder so I was kinda glad I choked!

And so the eve of our speed canoe journey was upon us and lots of us were feeling kinda nervous to be honest. All the guidebooks recommend to make alternative travel plans as the canoes have been known to flip and 4 of the girls decided to fly. I kinda wanted to prove to myself I could do it and thought it might be fun actually. If I survive I’ll let you know how it goes……