Posts Tagged With: Asia

In the tubing no more!

Despite having a really good time in Phonsavan, we were very happy to head south to slightly warmer climes. It took around 7 hours to Vang Vieng, including a stop to change an exploded tyre, and we arrived in the early afternoon. Annoyingly, we were dropped about 2km outside the town (damn that tuk tuk mafia), and after a quick look around and some excellent haggling from Law we had a nice hotel room for about 50 cents more than the Phonsavan ice box.

Tyres shouldn't look like this...

Tyres shouldn’t look like this…

Vang Vieng is a strange place. It became infamous as a backpacker paradise a few years ago, chiefly because you could hire a tractor tyre inner tube and float down the beautiful scenic river, which happened to be lined with bars. People would spend all day getting free shots and drinking buckets of Lao-Lao whiskey, jumping and rope-swinging into the water before stumbling back into town. With fairly low health and safety standards, quite a few people died doing this! It all changed last year though, with a government crackdown on the bars and now Vang Vieng is held up as an example of how not to develop a tourist town to the rest of Laos.

Outside the hotel

Outside the hotel

It feels a bit soulless now, with the vast majority of the buildings being guesthouses or western restaurants. An odd (and awesome for us) side affect is that a huge number of bars in town show episodes of Friends, Family Guy and South Park on endless loops! Despite being high season, the place was quiet, and it seems now to be stuck as not quite a full-blown party town and not quite a cultural site.

'Friends' on a loop in every other bar - amazing!

‘Friends’ on a loop in every other bar – amazing!

The scenery is amazing though, with huge limestone karst peaks along the river and rice paddies all over the place. On the first afternoon we went and booked a days kayaking and cave tubing for the next day, figuring we had do something like that and agreeing not to drink too much whilst on the water. We started the day with a trip an underwater cave, which was amazing experience. Sitting in a tube, we were given head torches and then we were in the freezing river, pulling ourselves into the pitch black, 300 metre long cave by ropes tied to the ceiling. Stalactites dripped from the roof, and we wound our way through until the rope stopped, before paddling on further to the end. Back outside, the sunshine was a welcome relief.

Going underground...

Going underground…

In the afternoon, we kayaked about 10km down the river toward town, admiring the countryside. After navigating a few rapids (a couple of people in our group capsized!), we joined up with where the tubing still starts. Despite all but 3 bars being closed down, the remains of the bars still dot the riverside, which mars the view a bit. We stopped at “Last Bar”, an imaginative title for the last bar of the river, and whilst I had a beer Law had a Lao-Lao and coke.

Views so amazing, I can't look where I'm going...

Views so amazing, I can’t look where I’m going…

The coolest chick at Last Bar

The coolest chick at Last Bar

By the time we got back into the town, we were pretty happy spending the evening watching episodes of Friends whilst Mrs. H felt the effects of drinking whiskey in the sun!There isn’t masses else to do in Vang Vieng, so we spent the next day wandering around, sunbathing and watching Friends in the bars, and sorting out the onward travel to our last stop in Laos, Vientiane.

Categories: Laos | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to the Jungle

Trekking is supposed to be great in Northern Thailand and we had been looking forward to a hiking trip in the jungle. It’s really hard to work out which company to go with as there seem to be hundreds in Chiang Mai trying to sell you their services, so we just went with our hostel recommendation for a 3 day trip and we were really glad we did, as the trip was one of the best things we have done so far. It was only Sam and I with one other person and the guide and we didn’t see another tourist the whole time we were away.

We started the trip by visiting a beautiful waterfall, swimming underneath and almost accidentally stealing a little boy that followed us for ages, including swimming in all his clothes.

Waterfalls Waterfall 2 image

We then went to the Huay Nam Dung national park, where we started hiking. We stayed each night in local villages, with no electricity, amazing food, camp fires and some great views of the stars. We got up close and personal with some interesting wildlife including a tarantula, a water snake, a green snake and a python, as well as a friendly elephant!

Trekking

Water snake

Water snake

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A tarantula!

A tarantula!

Elephants are awesome.

Elephants are awesome.

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A hilltribe village

A hilltribe village

On our final day we went bamboo rafting. This was a proper homemade bamboo raft, made of just bamboo and reeds, unlike the “bamboo raft” we went on in China which had an engine and comfy seats! We stood up with our feet practically in the water, steering the raft with a bamboo pole. It was great fun and a beautiful way to see the river and the jungle scenery.

Bamboo rafting

Bamboo rafting

Categories: Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life as a (short term) Phnom Penh resident

By signing up to volunteer for 5 weeks, we also committed ourselves to being temporary residents of somewhere new. After 2.5 months of travel and spending no more than 4 days in one place, it was a relief to actually unpack our rucksacks and know where we were going to be for a while.

image

Phnom Penh, home of 2.2 million people, is definitely different from life in Falmouth! And actually a really fun experience, even for Sam who has never lived in a city and struggles with the occasional crossing of the Tamar to the big city of Plymouth!

The traffic is pretty crazy, but a lot of the architecture and wide boulevards are beautiful and there are some great local and western style bars and restaurants.

Our volunteer company organised us somewhere to stay – the wonderfully quirky Tattoo Guesthouse – which is like home now. It’s pretty near the centre of the city and is full of volunteers from all over the world. We have made some really great friends, even if most of them are under the age of 22 and we are the old married ones!

Phnom penh

Being able to stop for longer than a few days has given us time to do things that we normally like to do, rather than just see the sights. At home we love watching films and haven’t really seen one since we left to travel. So a trip to the community movie house The Flicks, was such a treat, especially the bed like cushions they provide as seats. We even managed to see a film without superheroes and with Zac Efron!

The Flicks Cinema

We’ve also spent a day at an outdoor swimming pool, played five-a-side football (Sam, not me), tried to go walking when it’s not been too hot and spent quite a long time trying to find good cheesecake. We haven’t found it yet, but we still have two weeks to enjoy our time as temporary ex-pats, and now that I’ve managed to get used to the shock of getting up at 6am for work every day, we will be trying to fit in as much stuff as possible.

Football

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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