A Travellerspoint blog

April 2015

4) Laos

Laos

We are so torn when it comes to how we feel about Laos. The long boat ride was brilliant and we loved Luang Prabang. The time we spent in Kasi with Uncle Tom was unbelievable and the Lao landscape and scenery was some of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life. But as we went South we were less charmed by the country and we felt the people were less friendly, no doubt jaded by the types of tourists we ourselves try to avoid. I would never go back to Vang Vieng, nor would I recommend it to anyone looking for a nice place to visit. The capital Vientiane was fine. Just a city with no surprises nice or otherwise. 4000 Islands, namely Don Det, was such a disappointment. Now we love nature and getting back to basics, but everyone on that island needs to contribute to cleaning it up. If I could sum it up in one word it would be 'spoiled.' It probably used to be very beautiful. It is no surprise that I got sick on Don Det because I feel that basic hygiene is lacking around the island. If you are set on visiting 4000 Islands, skip Don Det and choose Don Khong or Don Khon. I am grateful to Laos for the friends we made, but it is not a country we will be rushing back to.

Day 84 - Thursday 5th March - Pakbeng/Luang Prabang

The process of crossing the border from Thailand happened quickly and without incident and then we were in Huay Xai in Laos. We boarded a boat to begin our 2 day slow boat journey down the Mekong River. I popped a travel sickness tablet just before the boat set off so I mostly slept and took some pictures of the beautiful scenery when I woke up. I should probably add that it's not my intention to be missing out on all these amazing scenes, I just can't risk feeling like I did on the way to Pai and these bloody things knock me out!
We had an overnight stay in the village of Pakbeng. Upon first impressions it was a bit like a scene from the film Silent Hill, especially after sunset. We'd read loads of bad reviews about the guesthouses here. Because everybody who takes the slow boat has no choice but to stop here, we'd read that the service was non existent, the food terrible and that there were frequent robbings from guesthouse rooms. We did some research and booked ahead at a place called DP's. It cost a little more but was really nice and had dinner and breakfast included and the shower was great, which is apparently uncommon in Laos. We had a drink with Inti and Gabby then got an early night. The next morning we boarded the boat early and got a better seat with a table. We ended up sitting with travel companions Kat from Canada and Rich from Canterbury. We spent the morning getting to know each other, chatting and playing cards. Early afternoon, a houseboat went past and it was HUGE. This created a MASSIVE wave that washed over the side of the boat and soaked everyone on the left from head to toe (this was mostly us) For a split second we all just sat looking at each other, water dripping off our playing cards and noses and then the boat sprang into action. People's bags were all over the floor with their electricals in, mobiles were on the tables, money in pockets. Some poor guy was working on his laptop when it hit. Nobody was hurt however and we were lucky that neither of our phones had been out at that time. Half the boat stripped off and we hung all our clothes up to dry. Don't think the laptop made it though.
After another full day on the boat we docked and travelled to Luang Prabang with Kat and Rich. Over the next couple of days we hung out with them and Sam Hopkins who had made his way over from Vietnam. Last night Mat and I went for dinner with Kat, Rich, Inti and Gabby. They had a DIY BBQ thing which was pretty cool and I sat and ate my vegetable rice (no seafood!) After that we went to a cool bar called Utopia but didn't have a late one because Laos has a curfew of 23:30. Rich has gone South to Vang Vieng today, Kat goes there tomorrow and Inti and Gabby go North. We have a bus in the morning to a little village called Ban Na before we start our two day motorbike lessons and tour.

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Getting on the slow boat in Laos

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Scenes of the River Mekong

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What is better than a beer in the sun, on a boat, with friends?

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Trying to dry our clothes after the wave hit

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Welcome to Pakbeng! Just kidding....

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Kuang Si Falls - Luang Prabang. You can swim in the pools although the water is freezing!

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Mat, Sam, Inti and Gabby

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Sam, Kat, Rich and Mat

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Mat sticking his finger up as usual

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*Photograph by Inti Herteleer*

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Rich, Sam and Mat

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*Photograph by Inti Herteleer*

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*Photograph by Inti Herteleer*

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BBQ

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Luang Prabang Markets

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Sam and Mat at Mount Phousi

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Mount Phousi sunset - Luang Prabang

Day 85 - Friday 6th March - Ban Na

We've just been dumped at an intersection by the bus driver and had to trek 3km in the blistering sun through little villages IN FLIPFLOPS to get to our guesthouse. It's in the middle of nowhere and is the only guesthouse for miles. The walk was really beautiful though and the villagers all called hello to us as we passed. Our guesthouse is a hut full of spiders with an icy trickle for a shower, no fan or a/c, very authentic. *Flashpackers my arse. Mat's just chilling in his hammock overlooking the river and chatting with the only other people in the guesthouse, who are also in their hammocks. It's all very relaxing! There is a French-Canadian couple with their son and a Hawaiian/American couple with their two children. All the kids are being schooled by the parents whilst they're on the road. These children tear arse around shoeless, playing in the river, making rafts, catching frogs, experiencing real life and culture everywhere they go. They are absolutely fearless and I have no doubt that all of them will grow up to be amazing people.

  • Flashpackers - Flashpacking is a neologism used to refer to affluent backpackers. Whereas backpacking is traditionally associated with budget travel and destinations that are relatively cheap, flashpacking has an association of more disposable income while traveling and has been defined simply as backpacking with a bigger budget (This is what Kat labelled us!)

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The beginning of our trek to Nola's Guesthouse

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Beautiful scenes of rice and vegetable paddies

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A lady fishing

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Nola's Guesthouse

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The family's kitchen where we cooked ourselves breakfast

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Icy trickle

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Ammock

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Our wooden hut at Nola's

Day 86 - Saturday 7th March - Kasi Town

We've had an absolutely surreal day today. Right now I'm in our room at Uncle Tom's Guesthouse, listening to Mat and Tom in the bar singing Al Green's 'Let's get it on' on karaoke. I've never felt so far out of my comfort zone and far away from home and I absolutely love it. We left Nola's Guesthouse today in a flagged down car full of Lao people who absolutely pissed themselves at our 'Sa bai dee!' We paid the driver 20000Kip to drop us at the intersection. From there the intention was to hitch hike so we flagged down a pick up truck and tried to explain where we needed to be. Somehow we managed to get there using only 3 phrases. Sa bai dee! (Hello) khop chai (thank you) and han ping pet (BBQ duck house)
We're doing a two day dirt bike course with Uncle Tom. He's a lovely Welsh guy that teaches idiots like me to ride a motorbike. I've gone from riding a scooter into a ditch to riding an enduro bike with gears around. It's way more complex than twist and go but Mat's absolutely nailing it. He's been riding Gary (small bike) on the road today while I've been Tom's passenger. But then Mat rode the big yellow bike (called Red) around the paddock this afternoon which means if I do well tomorrow, I can take Gary onto a road and Mat can ride Red.

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The filthy truck we hitch hiked in

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Uncle Tom, what a guy!

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Mat and his finger again

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Me taking it all very seriously

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This is right before I set off and immediately stalled it

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We drove through some beautiful Lao villages

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Mat and Tom doing Karaoke

Day 87 - Sunday 8th March - Vang Vieng

As we left Tom and got in the tuk tuk to the bus station, Mat said 'I feel really sad leaving him' and I started to cry and Mat was welling up too. Tom was one of the most fantastic people we have ever have had the pleasure of spending time with and we felt like we were leaving our best friend. I can imagine that everyone who has to say goodbye to him feels like this. We've said goodbye to a lot of people over the last few months but this was easily the hardest and we'd only known him 2 days!
We got to Vang Vieng and had a wander round, what a shit hole.
Here is a really well written article that sums up Vang Vieng perfectly http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/07/vang-vieng-laos-party-town
Thank god we've only got 2 nights here. We went for a drink and some dinner but I had a really bad allergic reaction to something so we cancelled our order and left. I was fine this morning so we decided to go tubing. Now don't get me wrong, back in the day, Mat and I liked a party, but we're knocking on 30 now and we're a bit over 'happy pizza's.' However, we couldn't really come to Vang Vieng and not do the very thing it's famous for. So what happened that day, is that I think we smashed the record for 'tubing completed in the fastest time in dry season' and 'least amount of alcoholic drinks consumed whilst tubing.' We hopped in our tuk tuk with loads of rough, awful British people, talking about getting effed up and doing mushrooms and we just cringed and died. We got in the river and immediately heard the thump thump of terrible music from the first bar. As we neared it, people were shouting for us to stop so we could get our first beers of the day. We just ignored them and carried on and this happened at all the next bars as we floated by. They must have thought we were super boring, but if getting drunk at 11am with a load of douchebags on a smelly river with the loudest music ever, makes me boring, then I absolutely am. Oh god I've turned into my parents.
In summary, I enjoyed looking at the stunning scenery while floating down a river with my bottle of water. I didn't enjoy my arse dragging on rocks due to the low water level though. It must have been absolutely brutal before they shut down most of the bars. Another good thing about doing it so early and fast, was that there no other awful tubers about. My personal opinion, don't bother tubing, get a kayak instead.

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Best part about tubing were the amazing views

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Worst part about tubing was everything else

Day 93 - Saturday 14th March - Vientiane

Vientiane was fine, didn't need three nights though and it was the hottest place we'd been so far. So glad we had a/c or we'd have never left our room knowing we didn't have some respite rom the heat to come back to. One day we walked the city and looked at wats, one day we spent at a public pool with Sam Hopkins and another day we visited the *COPE Centre which was very hard to see but also very enlightening.
We're on 4000 Islands at the moment and considering all the effort it took to get here I'm not sure it was worth it yet. Stupidly, I booked us a room without a/c. No amount of tears and pleading and playing the asthma card got us a refund to enable us to move hotels. So it looks like we're stuck in this hot box for the next five nights. We've just had breakfast in a scruffy little eatery where there was a huge cockroach being devoured by a million ants under our table. The waitress scooped it up, binned it and then served us our food. Then we listened to a guy behind us proclaiming loudly about the ants in his baguette which I wish I hadn't heard. How does that joke go...?
'Waiter, waiter! There's an ant in my food,'
'Well don't wave it about or everyone will want one,'
So then there was a mad rush to the kitchen for ant infested baguettes.
Then the guy started talking about how one of the girls had got drunk and done a shit in the street in Vang Vieng. After they'd finished that delightful conversation, one of them decided he was going to jump into the river from the cafe window until the waitress cottoned on and stopped him. No wonder the locals are frosty towards tourists here. What I've found whilst travelling is that most tourists are douchebags and deserve ants in their baguettes. Every night after the bars close, the travellers head to the 'beach' and build a fire and sit around it. The firewood is collected from anywhere people can get it from. I watched people carrying wood from the island and dumping it on the fire. A few minutes later, a local would be carrying it back with a resigned, dejected look on their face because it had been a piece of their fence, or house or shop. Tomorrow we're hiring bikes and getting away from this part of the island!

  • COPE Centre - COPE was created in response to the need to provide UXO survivors with the care and support they required, namely by way of orthotic and prosthetic devices.

COPE is now a local not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with the Centre of Medical Rehabilitation (CMR) and provincial rehabilitation centres to provide access to both orthotic/prosthetic devices and rehabilitation services, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and paediatric services to people with disabilities.

In the Vietnam/America War, over 270 million cluster submunitions were dropped on Laos by America to destroy the Ho Chi Minh Trail and supply routes to Northern Vietnam. One-third of the bombs failed to detonate on impact and have since claimed an average of 500 lives a year. Only 1% of Laos has so far been cleared of these bombs. It is absolutely heartbreaking. I would urge you to read into this, before we got to Laos we had little understanding of the Vietnam/American War, it really opened our eyes.

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Unexploded bombs that were safely detonated and are now on display at the COPE Visitor Centre in Luang Prabang

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Prosthetics used by people injured by UXO's now on display at COPE Visitor Centre in Vientiane

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A Wat in Vientiane

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Statues of Buddha

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The Victory Gate - Vientiane. War monument dedicated to this who fought in the struggle for independence from France

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Nightmarket

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Mat at Joma Café. This café gives 2% of every sale to charitable organisations in the local community. They also work with NGO's to provide job training and employment opportunities to disadvantaged people and victims of human rights abuse. Plus they did great food and coffee

Day 98 - Thursday 19th March - 4000 Islands

If I had any advice to people visiting 4000 Islands it would be to:-
A) Get somewhere with aircon so you don't die of heat exposure
B) Don't stay on Don Det or at least stay at the South end of the island away from the main strip and,
C) Don't eat anything for the entire time you are there
We rode to Don Khon to see the waterfalls and it's loads nicer. It also has a beautiful beach although you're not allowed to swim because of currents. If it hadn't have been for Kat and Rich staying on Don Det I wouldn't have stayed there a moment longer than I had to. We spent one day at a really nice pool on the South of the island. I was feeling great and then I ate my lunch. As soon as I put my fork down, my stomach ballooned and I felt horrendous and I knew we had to get out of there. Now I've done in depth courses about food safety and the causes of food poisoning because of my job so I know the timescales of the onset of symptoms, so I'm not saying it was that. BUT, something in that food instantly disagreed with me. The next 18 hours were spent in a haze of green diarrhoea and spicy lentil vomit. I have never felt so ill in my life, made a million times worse by our 38degree room and our impending, inevitably unbearable boat and bus ride the next day.
I chowed down on an Imodium before the boat and it got me through the journey. I was so relieved to be leaving as we sailed away from the rubbish strewn, fire scorched 'beach' and grim, depressing main strip of Don Det.
We're in Pakse now in our air conditioned room, mentally preparing ourselves for our sleeper bus back to Vientiane tonight. On our sleeper bus on the way down we were right at the front, directly opposite the 'toilet' (although that might be useful this time.) It meant that we could smell shit all night and people were grabbing Mat's legs to steady themselves whilst exiting the toilet as the bus swerved about. Also, because the driver had brought his 20 mates with him for the trip and he kept picking up more people, we ended up with half of Laos sat at the foot of our already cramped bed. Then the driver turned the a/c off and it was stiflingly hot until an angry American lady stormed down to the front and made him turn it back on again, giving Mat's leg a quick grab for good measure on the way back to her bed. The driver retaliated by singing loudly for the next 10 hours.
Our first two weeks in Laos were great, but now we're ready to leave. I think because we had such an amazing time at Uncle Tom's, everything that followed has been mostly disappointing.

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The view from Baba's Guesthouse

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Cycling over the Mekong

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Absolutely love this face!

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Waterfalls on Don Khong

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This cat was the nicest thing about Don Det

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Cycling around Don Khong

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The boat outta there!

Miscellaneous photos

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This is a coffee made strong with condensed milk in the bottom and usually found in Vietnam. They were pretty hit and miss throughout most of South East Asia but I had this one in Luang Prabang and it was absolutely perfect

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These were squishy coconut rice pancakes from a street food vendor and were unbelievably tasty. Kat made us try them one night and then we had them every day in Luang Prabang after that

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Here she is making them, then she puts them in a little banana leaf cup

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Tuk tuks in Vientiane. Mat says he didn't filter this but I'm not convinced!

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How about this fake grass on top of the toilet though?

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Squished up in our sleeper bed travelling from Pakse back up North to Vientiane to catch our flight to Vietnam. They still do the peace sign when they pose for pictures over here so think that's why I keep doing it!

Posted by jayandmat2015 10:58 Archived in Laos Tagged laos vientiane luang_prabang pakbeng 4000_islands pakse vang_vieng slow_boat uncle_tom Comments (0)

3) Thailand

Thailand

Thailand was so easy to get around that it was hard not to feel at ease there and I have never seen so many naturally beautiful people in one place before. Not a pair of baggy jeans in sight! Also because pretty much anything goes in Thailand, my tattoos and piercings didn't set me apart from anyone else and no one batted an eyelid at me which was a nice change. I know, I know... I've brought it on myself, yawn. The Islands we visited in the South were fine, but full of holiday makers so prices were inflated and offered little culture. The North was very beautiful and I wish we could have stayed a bit longer in Pai, but by the time we left Thailand I was definitely ready to move on. It was nice to relax, but I felt a bit guilty on the days we did nothing but go to the beach. Thailand just didn't make me feel things the way that India did.

Day 51 - Sat 31st January - Bangkok

I really, really like Bangkok! It does stink though. We had some street food in Khao San Road last night. It was a hot, tasty pad thai and a lot cheaper than a sit down meal. It's all cooked in front of you so you know it's not sitting around cooling down. Probably shouldn't say this but I can't believe I haven't been ill yet. At home I can't even have a Bridge Balti without feeling sick and getting the shits for the next 2 days, but I've felt super duper whilst travelling! Khao San Road is crazy. Lights, music, cocktails and crispy scorpions everywhere. Definitely not our thing but a great experience just wandering around looking at everything. We've booked a bicycle tour of Bangkok for later today which should be interesting seeing as I can barely ride one.

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Khao San Road - The stuff that nightmares are made of

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Pad Thai Street Vendor

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Pad Thai

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Get all your deep fried bugs here

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Tarantualas, scorpions...

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Bangkok Railway Station

Day 56 - Tuesday 5th February - Bangkok/Koh Samui

'Matthew Haigh - Sucking the fun out of museums and king of being underwhelmed by history!' We visited the National Museum of Bangkok which was great and Matthew behaved himself so he got an ice cream for being a good boy.
Then it turned out I wasn't a natural cyclist either! Although to say I haven't been on a bike in about 20 years I did alright in the end. The tour was ace, loads of back alleys and through little neighbourhoods that we would never have seen otherwise. The next day we took a night train to Surat Thani. It was ok, I managed to sleep on the lower bunk a bit but Mat struggled on the top as it was smaller and the light was shining in. Serves him right for demanding the upper bunk when we booked it. After the train we got a coach to the ferry port and then a ferry to Koh Samui and then a mini bus to our hostel. We've got a private room which is probably more expensive than a proper hotel and it's fairly average. We're trying to work out what to do next but there's so much choice and information that we can't decide!

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Some photo's from the National Museum of Bangkok

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Here's Mat, pretending to be interested in this display. We were only ten minutes in here

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Cycling Tour through the streets of Bangkok

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Me feeling sick on the ferry across the river

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Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The Buddha measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. Wat Pho, the temple complex where the Buddha is housed, is one of the largest and oldest Wat's in Bangkok and is home to more than 1000 images of Buddha

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Sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani

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Mat's tiny top bunk

Day 58 - Thursday 7th February - Koh Samui

We ended up getting a scooter and going to Chaweng beach. The beach itself was really nice, but crowded and the restaurants were expensive. Mat did ace to say he'd never ridden a scooter before and we only had 1 hairy moment when he headed for a ditch wobbling all over the place. I thought we were goners! Although we were probably only going about 20mph the whole journey so we'd have been ok. We must have looked ridiculous. And don't worry Mums and Dads, we both had helmets on! Chaweng was pretty gross at night, reminded me of the Acca and smelled like it too. Loads of tourists. Top heavy, muscly guys who had neglected to do any kind of leg work since they started in the gym. Fisherman's Village in Bophut was nice though, they did a night market one day where Mat managed to buy a guitar. He's played it every day since so I can't really complain too much. Ko Samui overall is overrated and I wouldn't come back.

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Chaweng at night

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Chaweng beach. Nice sand but really crowded

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Mat's soup was nice though

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Cocktails in Bophut Fisherman's Village

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Bophut Beach

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Mat's new guitar

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Another day another burger for Mat. I paid the equivalent of £6 for a fried egg sandwich here...

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Ko Samui ferry and ferry port. Not a bad journey actually. I've heard people say the journey is really uncomfortable but I just slept through it all like I usually do

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Day 61 - Tuesday 10th February - Ko Lanta

Absolutely love Ko Lanta. The beach is beautiful, the sand fine and white and the sea calm. I love our hotel, in fact it might even be my favourite of our trip so far. The wind has blown millions of baby jellyfish on to the shore :( They look like little squishy diamonds. It freaked Mat out and he won't go in the sea now. I went in to cool down but I could feel them all over my skin and it felt weird so I got out. Although I didn't get stung and there were still people swimming.
I'm writing this sat on our balcony at dusk with a beer and thinking about how lucky we are to be able to travel like we have. I can't help feeling annoyed at myself for not doing this sooner and thinking about all the money I've pissed away in pubs in Halifax on average nights out. Anyway I'm here now. We've booked a Thai cooking class for tomorrow night which should be amazing. It's quite expensive but we're allowing ourselves one big thing we really want to do in every place we visit and then just spending our other days on the beach. We're going to Phuket in a few days time and we've got a hotel with a pool because Mat hates sand and he's fed up of constantly finding it everywhere. I'm compiling a mental list of all the things Mat hates since we came out here. Some of them are totally acceptable, such as 'Not having a pocket in my swim shorts' but lots of them are directly related to travelling such as 'the sun' and 'the sea...'

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Ferry from Krabi to Ko Lanta

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Despite not looking very happy here the journey was fairly comfortable and fast

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Mat's legs

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Long Beach, Ko Lanta

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Room with a view at Hotel Dreamy Casa

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Thai reggae band. These guys were amazing

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Tofu red curry and brown rice from our favourite Ko Lanta restaurant, Irie

Day 65 - Saturday 14th February - Rawai, Phuket

The Time for Lime cooking class was awesome! Really enjoyed our time in Ko Lanta overall. The beach was probably my favourite after Tangalle. I feel like we should be getting out and about a bit more but tours cost quite a lot out here, although we've just booked a snorkelling tour to Phi Phi. It wasn't cheap but should be good and I've never done any snorkelling before really. Not sure how Mat's gonna cope in the open water though (because he hates open water. And seaweed. And sharks) We weren't having any luck getting on a privately owned boat trip because we'd left it so late and we thought we were gonna end up squashed onto a dangerous speedboat like sardines and rushed around all the islands. Luckily a French company called La Moët came through for us and their boat looks really cool. I'm not sure about Phuket. We're staying in Rawai which is supposedly one of the least touristy places on the island. We went for a walk on the main strip last night and tbf it was a bit grim. Empty bars with tiny Thai girls and boys with even tinier clothes on trying to get people in. It all felt a bit tragic really.

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Time for Lime Cooking Class

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The profits from Time for Lime all go to Lanta Animal Welfare. This was founded by Junie Kovacs who has been cooking and teaching Thai food for 20 years in Europe and Asia. Although it was expensive, we wanted to contribute to this worthwhile cause

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Mat's fish cakes and chicken stir fry

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My veggie versions with sweet potato and tofu

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Mat's coconut and lime soup

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My coconut and lime soup. The term 'Time for Lime' comes from the time that the lime is added to the dishes. The dish must be taken off the heat and lime added just before serving to ensure it keeps the limey flavour and doesn't turn bitter. I learnt loads in this class!

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Mat in the pool at our Hotel in Rawai, Miracle House. We really felt like we were on holiday here

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JC

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TOWEL ELEPHANTS!

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Pool area

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BUNNIES

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Valentine's Day in Rawai 2015. This rose was given to me by a café, not Mat

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Me being silly in a shop with a bear hat on. This shop was mental, we had no idea what anything was and we almost ended up with dog clippers for Mat's beard instead of a beard trimmer

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Watering can milk dispenser

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Awesome pizza from Modena in Rawai

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Me teaching a little French girl to play pool. I was absolutely steaming at this point and thought I was proper good chatting away in French. I bet I was talking absolute bollocks at her. Cringe!

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Drunks. I do have other clothes than this dress I swear

Day 71 - Friday 20th February - Phi Phi Islands

Absolutely loved the boat ride. It was a big, beautiful wooden thing with loads of space to sunbathe and relax and there weren't too many people on it. We had yummy food on and off all day. We saw the beach where the film 'The Beach' was filmed (worst sentence ever written that) and it was absolutely packed with tourists so I'm glad we only saw it from afar. Then we jumped off the side into some really choppy waters to snorkel. I inhaled loads of sea water, was struggling with my life jacket and my mask was steamed up. I was annoyed at myself for not being able to do something so simple! After lunch we went to a different spot, I ditched the life jacket and managed a proper snorkel, it was absolutely unbelievable down there. Mat was fine until he saw a ginormous sea slug and then he got out because he hates ginormous sea slugs. I can see why people get hooked on diving.

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MV Champagne Boat by La Moët. It is a converted fishing boat and took years of hard work to establish both the boat and the company. It is owned and run by Lotta and her crew

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Mat definitely not posing here

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Beautiful scenery around Phi Phi

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Snorkelling in the amazing, clear waters

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Day 72 - Saturday 21st February - Chiang Mai

We spent the rest of Rawai mostly by the pool and then we got a flight up to Chiang Mai. It was either a 2 hour flight or a bus, an overnight train, all day in Bangkok, followed by another train and a few tuk tuks, all the for the same price but 24 hours. Even Mat could see we had to get the plane, which then turned out to be the worst plane journey of his life, plus he hates planes... https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KnTA9PULLTc There was so much turbulence and because it was a tiny plane you could feel every bump. At one point he was drip white, sweating from everywhere and grabbing at the chair in front. Poor love!
Anyway, Chiang Mai is really cool. I've ticked about 4 temples off my list so far and Mat even seemed to enjoy them all. We cycled around town all day and then visited an insect museum. The owner Dr. Rampa, is an expert in the insect world and did so much for the discovery of insects that she has mosquitos named after her. We're trying to stay in cheaper accommodation to save some money and this guesthouse is a bit dingy really, but at £8 a night you get what you pay for and the owners are lovely.

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Phu Wiang Guesthouse where we stayed in Chiang Mai

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Me looking massive with the owners

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This was the first time I trimmed Mat's beard. I got so fed up of trailing around looking for a beard trimmer that I said I'd do it if we could find some scissors. Was I any good? Well he's clean shaven now

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Insect Museum

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Some pictures from our day of temple sightseeing. I'm annoyed at myself for not making a note of which one was which

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We were lucky enough to stumble upon a parade celebrating Chinese New Year

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Out and about in Chiang Mai. Mat looking all templed out

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Sneaky finger

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Amazing breakfast. Brown rice porridge with coconut milk, cashews, raisins, cinnamon and honey

Day 74 - Monday 23rd February - Pai

So after the worst bus journey of my life ever, we finally arrived in Pai. I swear I was so travel sick I thought I was going to die. When we finally got off the mini bus I could barely walk and I cried. Lucky that Pai was worth it! We've spent 2 days with Mat scooting us around and he's really good and I feel safe. But me, not so good, more on that later! So we visited Pai Canyon and Temple on the Hill and the Chinese Village which was a bit weird. Then we spent a few hours at a freezing cold pool called Fluid pool I think. We were going to go to the Hot Springs today but Mat's too hungover because we were out watching footy last night. Connor the owner of Oasis Pai where we were staying, had warned us about the dogs if we were walking back late at night. He said they're territorial but if you just stamp your foot they'll run off. So as we were walking back, a bit tipsy, this dog ran into the road in front of us and starting barking. Mat said 'don't run, don't run cos it'll just run after you.' So we started to try and walk past it, giving it a wide berth but the little bugger was coming towards me still bloody barking and Mat's just trying to walk briskly past it. I stamped my foot at it which had zero effect, at this point I started to panic slightly and sped up because it was gaining on me. Mat held up his arm blocking my escape saying 'Don't run! It can sense your fear!' So because he wouldn't let me past, by now I'm his human shield and I just thought, 'balls to this, I'm off!' and started trying to run. Mat was still blocking me though and I ended up tripping over my feet and his and started to fall head first into a massive cooking pot balanced on a table at the side of the street. I have no idea how I managed not to knock myself unconscious and to stay on my feet, but this dog must have thought 'what a pair of douchebags' and it just wandered off disinterested after that. Anyway it was a tiny dog.
Also, it turns out I can't ride a scooter either. Mat keeps telling people I drove it into a ditch and fell off but here's what actually happened.... I wanted to have a go because I knew that we were going to have to ride in Vietnam and it wasn't fair for Mat to keep carrying me around. Plus I wanted to get to Uncle Tom's Dirt Bike Tours in Laos with a bit of experience under my belt. Anyway I hopped on down a quiet dirt road and Mat explained the basics. Left lever for brake, right lever for brake, right handle for accelerating. Easy. I drove down the road slowly, I drove back slowly.
'Great, you can do it! Enough now!' Said Mat. But I just wanted one more go. I set off back down the road slowly and as I tried to brake with my right hand it turns out I hadn't turned the gas off and HOLEY MOLEY I WAS ACCELERATING INSTEAD OF BRAKING! I veered off to the left towards a tree, onto a patch of grass (not a ditch) at the side of the road, dropped the scooter and jumped off to the right. Mat said he saw my head go down behind a parked car and all he could think about was the scooter. Cheers. So I was fine, the scooter was fine, Mat was a bit annoyed. Luckily he managed to scoop it up and get it back on the road before the nosy neighbours started to ask us what had happened. Nothing to see here. No drama. On the downside, my confidence was absolutely shattered and the thought of getting on anything else with an engine was filling me with dread.
We're just packing for an early trip to Chiang Rai tomorrow. I'm feeling sick just thinking about that journey.

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Mat loved his pink scooter

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Scooting about

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Bleurgh!

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Scoot scoot

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Pai Canyon. Apparently there is a trek through the canyon but we couldn't see a clear track and there were massive drops everywhere. Being so clumsy we decided not to risk it

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Love Strawberry, Pai. This was a café/strawberry farm which sold the strawberries in every way you could imagine. We got a smoothie and had a mess about on the giant strawberries

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Temple on the hill

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Mat at the bottom of the hill because he doesn't like hills

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Memorial Bridge. This bridge was built in 1942 by the Japanese to transport weapons and provisions to Myanmar (Burma) during WWII

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An actual pork sauasage

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If only I'd seen this!

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This kid was so cute!

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This is the Chinese Village which was set up for tourists to come and see how the Chinese lived. It was very odd and not worth the journey

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YUP

Day 83 - Wednesday 4th March - Chiang Rai/Chiang Khong

So we left Pai, drove all the way back to Chiang Mai, changed bus and went to Chiang Rai. I popped an antihistamine and an anti travel sickness tablet and plonked myself up next to the driver. I was asleep in about 5 minutes, woke up briefly for a cup of tea at the half way stop, then went back to sleep. We got on the next bus at Chiang Mai and I jumped in the front seat again and left Mat chatting to a couple called Nicola and Jessie so I didn't feel too bad about continually deserting him. I slept for another three hours and no travel sickness in sight.
Chiang Rai was pretty cool, probably didn't need three nights there tbf. We got a scooter for a day and Mat scooted us about everywhere. We went to see The White Temple, Khun Korn Waterfall and then a Culture Park. This park was so surreal because it was massive and we were the only ones there! It is dedicated to the Lanna culture with displays, exhibitions and pavilions and a big, beautiful lake.
From Chiang Rai we got a bus to the border town of Chiang Khong ready to cross into Laos the following day. The bus was hot and packed and we were so uncomfortable from starting our anti malarials. You know when you put drugs in your body and you're not sure if you feel weird because of them or you just feel weird and you're blaming them? Well anyway, Mat got a bit panicky because his body went numb but he managed to calm himself down eventually. I was worried I was gonna have to shout 'STOP THE BUS!' And we'd end up in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no water because Mat had guzzled every last drop during his episode. Since then I've had a bit of numbness in my arms and pins and needles too, so we're putting it down to the tablets. I hate taking this rubbish.
Chiang Khong was a lovely little town. The hotel was idyllic and overlooked the Mekong River with Laos on the other side. In the morning I sat on the balcony and watched the Alms Giving Cermony which is where the locals offer food to the Buddhist Monks. It was on a much smaller scale than what happens in Luang Prabang in Laos but was still nice to see, although I think it's become a bit of a tourist spectacle. There was one man with a massive camera, jumping about everywhere and clicking in everyone's face.
We got picked up from our hotel with another couple, Inti and Gabriella. These guys had so much about them I was a bit in awe! Inti is from Belgium originally, speaks Flemmish, Spanish and English and is a software developer. Gabby has just finished her PHD in something so awesome my brain couldn't grasp it and so promptly forgot. She is from Chile and speaks Spanish, Portuguese and English. Their grasp on the English language far outweighed mine and Mat's combined.
I'm ready to leave Thailand now and see what Laos is all about.

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The White Temple or Wat Rong Khun. It was built in 1997 and is a contemporary, unconventional, privately owned temple which is free to the public

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Khun Korn waterfall. The waterfall itself isn't anything special really but the walk to get to it was pretty nice

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Chiang Rai night market

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Mae Fah Luang Art & Culture Park

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Old clock tower

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Actually had a manicure!

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View of the Mekong River and Laos from our balcony

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Alms giving ceremony

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Found a tasty Mexican restaurant

Miscellaneous photo's

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Mat's new vest

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Happy toast in bangkok

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Mat gave the tuk tuk driver his hat, he was so chuffed!

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<3

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Posted by jayandmat2015 08:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok ko_lanta chiang_mai phuket ko pai chiang_rai _samui chiang_khong Comments (0)

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