Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

jars and jarring

I was pleased to have given myself extra time in Luang Prabang as it rained for about 50% of the time - and I mean RAIN! Buckets of it all day long. But it failed to stop the enjoyment of the town as it's just so damned pretty!

Besides I had a decent hotel room with private bath for $6.25 a night! It's a bit weird when your breakfast at a decent cafe costs more than your hotel room. But that's Luang Prabang for you.

Several dinners I ate at the evening market's veggy buffet - a large mixed plate for 10,000 kip ($1.25) then I'd go to a French cafe and have a 50,000 kip coffee and dessert!

wat xieng thong l.p.

l.p. museum

luang prabang dragons

l.p. temple


small temple

temple detail

When I eventually left L.P. I was mildly irritated (barely contained expletives) as the large (comfortable) bus I was promised and paid for, mysteriously had broken down and instead I had to get on a mini bus that was already packed to the rafters with locals and other paraphernalia stored on the floor. After failing to convince me to squeeze in with four Laotians on the back seat (made for four not very large persons) for the 8 hour ride to my next destination, instead I took the assistant drivers half-seat which at least had leg room if not back support.

He wasn't happy but then I was paying for the journey and he was being paid.

The eight hour journey passed quite quickly vomit notwithstanding. (The locals don't seem to handle road travel too well.) I was heading for the town of Phonsavanh in order to visit the Plain of Jars. (you're sitting in front of a computer - Wikipaedia it.) The final 4 hours of the journey was on such a torturously potholed winding mountain road that on Google maps it resembles a particularly nasty looking varicose vein.

It was to be a fleeting visit, arrive the evening, arrange transport for early the next morning - see the sights on a full day tour (easiest option unless you have your own vehicle) and then take a twelve hour bus trip to Vientiane the next morning. There is no point spending longer in Phonsavanh - you can see all the sights/sites in one day and the town is as exciting as a bowl of tepid wallpaper paste. (Sorry - my analogies don't work too well in extreme humidity.)

The jars themselves I have to admit were a little underwhelming - but in their defence I have been a little spoiled ruins wise. (I expect the Germans have a word for that...) And it rained the entire time. The track to one of the jars sites was so incredibly muddy that my sandals picked up so much of the sticky clay that it felt like I was wearing boots of steel. I kept trying to wash it off in one of the myriad of rivulets that cascaded down the path. In one small pool, I stepped in to rinse off my right sandal and sank up to my knee.

wet ride to phonsavanh


jars 2

jar et moi

My randoms this part of the trip were two Schweizerdeutsch and a German.

'out of the rain' smiles

Thursday, July 26, 2012

lounging in luang

Luang Prabang really is a lovely little town in central northern Laos.
My second days ride on the boat was really pleasant - bigger boat, less people and great weather.

mekong river ride

mekong river view

Arriving in L.P. I immediately felt certain I would like the place. Being off season it is relatively quiet tourist wise, but the weather is completely unpredictable. Yesterday it rained almost the entire day. Fortunately I have given myself about four days here to wander the streets and visit the temples.

The town is very well kept, tidy and neat with beautiful buildings and back lanes.

luang laneway


There is also an abundance of temples scattered around the town. I have enjoyed wandering around the town (when it isn't raining) getting a feel for the place. I've visited a few of the temples but you can tire quite quickly from them. Yesterday afternoon I went into one of them for the afternoon chanting by the monks. The sonorous drone in the humid and darkened hall was quite mesmerising. Half an hour passed in the blink of an eye.

view from temple

temple doors


national museum rooftop

chanting monks

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

mekong meandering

I am currently sitting in a little cafe in Pakbeng - a one street town in North Western Laos. I arrived here last night after a 7 hour boat ride down the Mekong which would have been incredibly scenic if it hadn't rained non-stop. But in a slow-boat full of mostly gap year European backpackers it was anything but boring.

I was glad to finally get out of Bangkok. It didn't really feel as if I had started my trip.

I flew to Northern Thailand to a small city called Chiang Rai for just a couple of days en route to the Laos border. Being monsoon season and rainfall unpredictable I decided to forgo the trip into the mountains for the scenic dawn view!

One of the other recommended sights was Wat Rong Khun aka The White Temple. An odd blend of modernist Thai construction and Disney, it was however quite striking after having visited many of the bog standard Thai temples.

white temple

white temple

white temple

white temple sculpture

Another highlight of Chiang Rai was running into a couple of 'randoms' (term for chance meetings with strangers).
One was a French guy who chucked his job 15 years ago and started global roaming. He's lived in Tokyo and New York and is once again off backpacking for 6 months or more.

The other was a young Aussie (24) on his first o/s trip. He flew to Hanoi, bought a motorbike and then proceeded to ride all through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and had just completed Thailand. He was about to ride back through Laos from the north to Vientiane the capital to sell the bike! We all met in a cafe and hung out together until I left yesterday.

chiang rai clock tower

bug food

more bugs

and more bugs

night bazarre

Before I left Chiang Rai I went in search of some mozzie repellent - found one tube in a local pharmacy which stated on the front "repels mosquitos and snails". My mind boggled a bit.

Pakbeng, this little town out in the middle of the Laos jungle is the halfway point of the boat trip. It is probably one of the only reasons for it's existence.

Tonight I should be in Labang Prabang.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

boring in bangkok

Well I am finally away once again, having left Sydney for good last week.

I've been in Bangkok all of this time as I needed to finish off some major dental work before continuing with the travels.

There's not a lot to blog about as I am not enamoured with the city. But this post is just to get the ball rolling!!

More to come.....

Scenic - but be thankful it aint in smellavision

The Rolls Royce of fruit - and a dollar a kilo

Bangkok Centre for Arts and Culture

Inside BCAC

well thank goodness its fresh