A Travellerspoint blog

Chapter seventy three - Vang Vieng

Kayaks, caterpillars and inner tubes. What a way to spend one's birthday

rain 19 °C

Day 264: Vang Vieng, Laos 19/06/2012

After a great few days in Vientiane we prepare to move on. Gemma runs out to get some breakfast whilst I shower. Hearing a knock on the door and assuming it was Gemma, I answer the door with my towel loosely draped over me. Turns out to be a member of staff. Quite a sight for him...

Leave the hotel with the staff on their best behaviour, yesterday's very public dressing down from the old West Indian woman who owns the joint (very funny to watch) was probably still ringing in their ears. We are taken to our Vang Vieng bound bus by a pick up truck, the bus being, to our distinct displeasure, full of drunken, gap year Khao San Roaders, high in number, high in spirit and highly annoying. Posh, hormonal, sweaty, intoxicated eighteen year olds are not what was particularly wanted on the eve of my twenty fifth birthday. Call me a grumpy old man but I'm sure many of you out there can sympathise. To appease me the bus takes more than a fair amount of time to leave, before the air conditioning duly packs up shortly after departure.

We arrive in Vang Vieng quite a bit later than expected with the drive taking in some seriously spectacular vistas and some seriously poor road surfaces. A short journey to the hotel G has booked as a little birthday treat and she has done well to be fair to her. A beautiful room, very luxurious with some nice facilities on site. We head for lunch across the road and wait for an hour and twenty minutes for some burnt chicken and cashew nuts and a salad. Poor. Probably won't take one of the cooking lessons they offer.

A quiet afternoon and evening - a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant, which was nice and a night in front of the telly before England play the Ukraine.

Day 265: Vang Vieng, Laos 20/06/2012

Happy birthday to me! Twenty five today and I don't look a day over thirty. Up early, some pressies and breakfast downstairs before we head out for a fun filled day of trekking, caving and kayaking. We end up in the back of a pickup truck with a couple who have graduated from Manchester. Turns out he has even come up against the mighty Hulme Hall Baa Baas in his fledgling rugby career. Small world.

We have a great morning caving - some huge caves under the limestone mountains with some stunning stalagmites and stalactites inside the mysterious, dark cavernous rooms. From here onto some water caves, where we follow the caves round in an inner tube, our first taste of Vang Vieng's tubing scene. Following the rope in the semi-darkness (just a small head torch each) with our bodies in the water and our noses at times just millimetres from the roof of the cave is not as easy as it sounds. From here we have a fabulous lunch on the go - barbecued skewers with sticky rice before we head off in the kayaks down the Nam Song River.

An incredible afternoon, paddling down the river amidst some absolutely stunning scenery. The mountains rise up vertically either side of the river, which is flowing rather fast due to the recent rain, making life considerably easier for me as Gemma sits back and relaxes. We pass through the tubing area, bars a-pumping and tubers a-drinking and back to Vang Vieng town.

Have a drink back at the hotel and head out for the afternoon/evening. We run into the Manchester students on their way back from the river and they join us for dinner back at our hotel before we have a couple of drinks before the 11.30 closing time of the town's bars.

Day 266: Vang Vieng, Laos 21/06/2012

After a very nice birthday we awake and head for breakfast downstairs, where the first bacon sandwich of the year is served and eagerly consumed. A couple of hours relaxation time ensues before we head out for a bit of tubing. We line the stomachs with some pretty ropey Pad Thai whilst watching the rain teem down. The river is gonna be high...

We get our gladrags (well swimming stuff) on and pick up our tubes. Some Irish guys in the tuk-tuk who have been tubing for four days on the bounce. Reach the river and head into the first bar. Everyone seems so young to the new old me. Have a few drinks and a couple of buckets before being dragged out of the river in the dark, cold but merry and all in one piece (bar my flip flops, which Gemma helpfully lost). A bite to eat covered in UV paint and in need of a shower, ready to check out and move on tomorrow.

Posted by tevs 03:03 Archived in Laos Tagged laos kayaking caving tubing vang_vieng Comments (0)

Chapter seventy two - Vientiane

Laos...

overcast 27 °C

Day 258: Vientiane, Laos 13/06/2012

Well, we arrive at Nong Khai station at around ten thirty and despite the few young, impressionable, loud and murderable Canadian kids that decide to shout their mouths off (so glad we weren’t in their carriage – the laser eye/clenched fist to the face treatment doesn’t always go down well) we realise that Laos could be a real decent place to spend some time (despite the frantic search for two passport photos). Amazingly, the authorities still allow us through after a frantic attack on a more than irritating nineteen year old drunk Canuck and we catch a cab to Laos proper with a Kiwi and a man/daughter combo from Hong Kong.

The search for a hotel/room is a short one and after a quick check in a decent shower, we are off out, on the piss as it emerges. A couple of beers turns into plenty and we even end up watching Aussie patter-cake. Unfortunately, not able to describe/discuss the rest of the evening…

Day 259: Vientiane, Laos 14/06/2012

Wow, would love to have spent the first morning in Laos appreciating that life isn’t always spent feeling rough as a badger’s arse…where has this ivory tusk/dragon’s head come from????? Given the way I feel, I’m glad I don’t know the answer…

We drag ourselves out for lunch. A pate, pork and salad baguette is almost as good as a fry up for the physiological problems. However, a trip back to the room and a lie down reveals death to be the single easiest solution to the way we (I) feel. Death becomes particularly attractive when the runs kick in.

Ride the storm and I drag Gem out for an impromptu dinner and she is more than appreciative (maybe) after an afternoon dying watching HBO. Despite being well out of (lip) synch, HBO helps ease the afternoon headache, despite reminding one of his oral deficiencies after one or two normal drinks. Beer Lao is mental it seems…

We head out for dinner and have a nice evening, which makes us both feel a bit better. Some amazing food and another Beer Lao help us pass the time and we are soon back at the room. Reception take the piss (‘more beer sir?) and we are back in bed.

Day 260: Vientiane, Laos 15/06/2012

Well then, wake feeling a million times better than we did yesterday that's for sure. After another quick baguette breakfast (and very good they are too) we head out for a walk around the city. There are some absolutely beautiful sights to be seen, some incredible architecture and a very pleasant, relaxed and friendly atmosphere found throughout the city. We finally visit the ornate, peaceful Buddhist temple situated literally next door to our hotel. It has only taken three days but still...

After a spot of lunch we make a detour to the Vietnamese consulate to get our visas sorted, stopping en route for passport photos (not needed) and US Dollars (most certainly needed). After a slight wait for the consul to come back from lunch it takes precisely three minutes and $110 for our 30 day tourist visas to make their way into our passports. A pleasingly easy process, the ease of which makes us hope that they are actually real.

A quick jaunt back into the town centre sees me left on my own as Gemma has some 'secret birthday stuff' to sort out. Strolling along the banks of the Mekong on the new promenade and through the park on its banks allows me some personal reflection time, which is always a scary experience. After a nice tea we stroll back through the park and potter round the weekend market, where the world's greatest saleswoman somehow sells me a lampshade I wasn't even looking at...

Day 261: Vientiane, Laos 16/06/2012

A bit of a lie in after staying up to watch England 'perform' against Sweden in the wee hours here. We pack and move hotels as the one we are in asks us to move rooms, whilst generously agreeing to offer us a shared toilet room for the same price as the en-suite we have been staying in...works out well as we end up in a plush hotel just down the road.

Some more baguettes for lunch (a nice reminder of home yet the Asian fillings allow us to feel like we aren't cheating Laos) before a long, leisurely stroll around the less touristy parts of town, visiting the local produce market and getting completely lost in a residential part of the city. With the hangover still recent enough for me to appreciate normality this is an interesting way to see how the locals really live and to see that the peaceful, chilled out vibe of the centre spans the whole of the city. We end up stumbling across the 'Lao Arc de Triumphe' and return to the room with sore legs and very dirty feet.

After a bit of skype and a spot of dinner, we return to the room to take advantage of our new room's mod cons - a/c and LCD tv never felt so good.

Day 262: Vientiane, Laos 17/06/2012

A very quiet Sunday enjoyed by all, which should be a real interesting read for you all. Take advantage of the cafe culture and the weather and enjoy a leisurely stroll back down to the river. The Mekong reminds me of Southport, with the water hundreds of metres from the bank. There is even room for herds of cows to graze and kids to run around, without even the slightest chance of falling in. A skype session and a curry complete a very unadventurous day.

Day 263: Vientiane, Laos 18/06/2012

A bit more to report on today you will be pleased to hear, starting with me heading out for a haircut first thing. After strolling past numerous barbers on our previous strolls, I really struggle to find someone to give me a trim. Eventually find a unisex salon, where the woman cutting my hair looks petrified to tackle my sun bleached mop. She needn't have worried as she does an infinitely better job than the last woman in Kuala Lumpur, though she does not want a photo of me for her portfolio, which is a shame.

Out for lunch and then we go out to find the COPE centre, a rehabilitation centre for victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO), which is found across the country in worryingly high quantities. Our Lonely Planet map is very wrong about its location so we arrive after a bit of a hike but find that it was worth persevering with. A really moving yet inspiring exhibition highlights the great work that the organisation does to provide medical care and support for victims of UXO, as well as people requiring medical attention for other reasons that normally would not have access to such provision.

We meet Peter Kym, a twenty year old success story of the COPE centre, who after losing both hands and being blinded by an unexploded bomb five years ago, has been educated and supported by the centre. His charm and wit, as well as his gratitude to the centre and the life they have allowed him to live, make him a real inspirational figure, and after speaking with him for an hour or so, not somebody we will forget in a hurry.

Back in town, I tackle some of the gaps in the blog and we head out for dinner. Ready to move on tomorrow.

Posted by tevs 11:19 Archived in Laos Tagged beer city laos vientiane great Comments (0)

Chapter seventy two - Vientiane

Laos...

overcast 27 °C

Day 259: Vientiane, Laos 13/06/2012

Well, we arrive at Nong Khai station at around ten thirty and despite the few young, impressionable, loud and murderable Canadian kids that decide to shout their mouths off (so glad we weren’t in their carriage – the laser eye/clenched fist to the face treatment doesn’t always go down well) we realise that Laos could be a real decent place to spend some time (despite the frantic search for two passport photos). Amazingly, the authorities still allow us through after a frantic attack on a more than irritating nineteen year old drunk Canuck and we catch a cab to Laos proper with a Kiwi and a man/daughter combo from Hong Kong.

The search for a hotel/room is a short one and after a quick check in a decent shower, we are off out, on the piss as it emerges. A couple of beers turns into plenty and we even end up watching Aussie patter-cake. Unfortunately, not able to describe/discuss the rest of the evening…

Day 257: Vientiane, Laos 14/06/2012

Wow, would love to have spent the first morning in Laos appreciating that life isn’t always spent feeling rough as a badger’s arse…where has this ivory tusk/dragon’s head come from????? Given the way I feel, I’m glad I don’t know the answer…

We drag ourselves out for lunch. A pate, pork and salad baguette is almost as good as a fry up for the physiological problems. However, a trip back to the room and a lie down reveals death to be the single easiest solution to the way we (I) feel. Death becomes particularly attractive when the runs kick in.

Ride the storm and I drag Gem out for an impromptu dinner and she is more than appreciative (maybe) after an afternoon dying watching HBO. Despite being well out of (lip) synch, HBO helps ease the afternoon headache, despite reminding one of his oral deficiencies after one or two normal drinks. Beer Lao is mental it seems…

We head out for dinner and have a nice evening, which makes us both feel a bit better. Some amazing food and another Beer Lao help us pass the time and we are soon back at the room. Reception take the piss (‘more beer sir?) and we are back in bed.

Posted by tevs 11:19 Archived in Laos Tagged beer city laos vientiane great Comments (0)

Chapter seventy one - Somewhere on a bus between BKK & Lao

Surprisingly decent journey

overcast 26 °C

Day 257: Somewhere north of Bangkok, somewhere south of Laos 12/06/2012

Up after a bit of a lie in at the Train Inn, and then we are out for about twelveish. We drop the bags at the left luggage bit of the station and then change things up a bit by having some noodle soup at the ridiculously good, ridiculously cheap noodle soup stand at the train station. A nice day out is needed before the overnight journey (not sure what to expect) so grab a tuk-tuk to Siam Square again.

After a visit to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (excellent – some amazing art, etc.) we head back to our favourite medium of art, cinematic art, to watch Mel Gibson in ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’. Despite the couple of hours we need to kill, it is an excellent piece of cinematography (new word for both me and the blog) and we make a hasty exit to ensure we make it to the train station for our carriage to Laos.

A quick dash across the road for a bit of dinner (polystyrene trays – still QUALITY) and some products from 7-eleven and we are ready for the overnight rail journey to another country. Despite the relative comfort of the train bunks we still can’t quite comprehend how comfortable the beds on the train are. Especially when the curtains allow us to exclude the absolute weirdo from Scandinavia sat opposite us as we pull away.

Posted by tevs 09:44 Archived in Thailand Tagged football thailand bangkok city_living Comments (0)

Chapter seventy - Bangkok (again)

More markets?

overcast 27 °C

Day 253: Bangkok, Thailand 08/06/2012

So, awoken at five in the morning by the driver screaming, ‘Quick, quick, the air conditioning is broken. Get on the next bus’. Everybody in a dazed and confused state given the fact we were all asleep a few seconds previously. At this point we are bundled onto a local stopping service bus, which just about manages to accommodate all the passengers plus our luggage.

Arrive in Bangkok pissed off at the palava of swapping buses and enjoying the early morning commute into the city centre. When the bus eventually drops us off it becomes clear that the cabin crew has had an inside man and somebody has been rifling through the bags and been on the rob. Luckily, we are a bit wiser than some of the younger travellers and all our valuables are on us...

Catch the rest of the rush hour bus service to Hualumphong and check into our favourite hotel, the Train Inn. A nice hot shower later, we are back on the streets of Bangers and enjoying a little bit of lunch before taking a quick stroll to the trade market for a bit more of our favourite pastime.

Today we see a new bit of Bangkok in the form of Siam Square, which is a very nice shopping district, full of little boutique shops, vintage stores and very, very upmarket shopping malls. Then onto the 1960s in the form of the Lido cinema. One screen, one showing, one size of salted popcorn available. Prometheus is poor, but then a head back to the DVD room at the Train (as we regulars call it) to watch a little Sherlock (amazing series) before watching the first game of the Euros.

Day 254: Bangkok, Thailand 09/06/2012

A very good night’s sleep and there is always the joy of a nice, hot shower to make us all feel a little bit better. A great bit of breakfast at the train station (noodle soup) and we are straight onto the MRT for Chatachuk Market, the biggest market in the world and after arriving at eleven we stay literally all day there, encountering stalls, zones and universes unseen by human eye on any of our previous visits. We buy a few little bits and pieces before being inhumanely driven away by the rain around half five.

A very uneventful evening at the Train Inn watching some more Sherlock and some more soccer (sorry people back home for using this derogatory term) after dinner. A wee bit of skyping to start the evening and life could not get any better.

Day 255: Bangkok, Thailand 10/06/2012

Happy birthday wee sister!

Given the familiarity of yesterday’s Bangkok experience, we decide to have a noodle soup breakfast at the train station and then head to this massive weekend market we have heard about before.

Again we buy a few things and see some more things we hadn’t/haven’t seen before and haven’t/hadn’t bargained for (cock fights). The pet section is ridiculous and coming out of the market with two puppies, a baby snake, a little crocodile, a handbag designed for my new sugar glider, a huge wooden horse and a new eighty litre backpack (guess the real purchase…), I walk out munching on a huge bag of deep fried grasshoppers. Despite sounding like an Ant and Dec inspired challenge this crunchy treat is exactly that, a crunchy treat.

Head back to our neck of the woods and we give a massive happy birthday to Rosie on skype before having a bit of decent scran at the side of the road for about a quid. Euro 2012 again somehow takes precedent over an early night.

Day 256: Bangkok, Thailand 11/06/2012

A bit of a lie in is followed by a spot of breakfast at the roadside (some more impressed than others…) and although I quite realise how boring this blog is becoming, we hit the silver screen and enjoy the most ridiculously big bucket of popcorn we have ever seen for a pound. Men In Black 3 is not quite the biggest sell out movie I have ever seen but come on Will! Quite enjoyable though.

Leave the safety of the cinema and discover that the rain is hammering down like a decent day in the north of England somewhere (despite hearing the news on the hosepipe ban in the southeast). England play tonight and despite searching frantically for somewhere that can shelter me from the inadequacy of Woy’s (respect) squad on the world or even European front, we end up in public at the Paragon Centre’s Chang Screen (after a bit of umming and ahhing and some youtube), where we proceed to make the worst TV interview since Balotelli after the FA Cup game last year (‘can I say shit?’). Despite the experiences in India (the mere mention of India makes me realise how boring this blog is becoming after the sub-continental leg), we hope this never goes out.

England just about over-under-perform and so we are reasonably happy…head home ready for our journey to the border tomorrow.

Posted by tevs 08:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged football thailand bangkok city_living Comments (0)

(Entries 31 - 35 of 108) « Page .. 2 3 4 5 6 [7] 8 9 10 11 12 .. »