After a month we though it was about time we updated the masses with the goings on in our busy and (hopefully) interesting travels!
To finish our time in Chiang Mai we took a trip to the Bosang handicraft village where they are famous for making a million and one different kinds of umbrella. As we wandered round watching the women at work on various stages of umbrella production we couldnt resist buying a small one ourselves and getting it painted on the spot. some very tallented people.
Next stop Laos...from Chiang Mai to the bus pick up point we had our first motorbike experience bags and alll, but this was something we were soon to get used to! we arrived at the Thailand-Laos border (which for the most part is the Mekong river) where we stayed a night and played baby entertainers to the guesthouses 2 young children! The next day we borded a boat for the short crossing to Laos where we got our visas, even had to pay an extra $1 overtime fee because it was the weekend...what's all that about?! Then it was to begin the massive journey down the river to Luang Prabang on the appropriately named slow boat! After one 6 hour day on a relatively comfortable boat with padded seats and all we had a stop over in a village near the river and continued on the next day with the 9 hour legg of the jouney on wooden slatted benches. Not so much fun especially since Hannah woke up with some kind of flu like illness and was in no state to entertain herself! On the other hand the scenery was stunning and well worth it for about the first 2 hours of the journey...after that its just hell!!
Still we made it to Luang Prabang where we filled a few days with some slightly more entertaining activities! Bright and early on the first morning we got taken by Shampoo (the owner of the guesthouse and an ex monk) on a walk to see a ceremony performed every morning between 5 and 7 am by Monks from surrounding temples. These monks walk the streets collecting food donations by the local people and it is this that they eat for breakfast. On the way home we stopped by the morning market where we got some supplies for a cooking class that we had signed up for. Later that day we chopped, peeled and cooked our way to some delicious food with the aid of Shampoo; an egg salad, sticky rice, beef lap and some dips all cooked over charcoal. We then went on a bike ride around town and managed to miss the sunset from a temple that is set on a hill overlooking the town, still a nice view regardless. On the second day we took a tuk-tuk to the waterfalls which are beautiful and spent the afternoon swimming in the clear blue refreshing waters with our tuk-tuk man who was having a whale of a time swinging like tarzan from the rope swing in his pants!!
From here we took a night bus to Vang Vieng where we got dropped off in the middle of nowhere in the rain in the middle of the night...great! but there was a tuk-tuk man waiting and we made it to our destination. The next two days were spent drinking buckets of alcohol and free shots, floating down a murky river, playing in the mud at mud volleyball, jumping and sliding into the river, eating the most amazing baguettes, both getting red eye and Hanna catching some sort of food poisioning/explosive diarrhoea making disease! All in all great fun!
So then we began the mighty 24 hour journey to Hanoi, Vietnam. Hvaing only paid for a sitting bus we were extremely lucky when we found ourselves shoved on a sleeper bus. (even if we got put to the back in the most uncomfortable seats...such a hard life being a forigner in these countries sometimes!) The border crossing was chaotic as usual and Hanna was begining to feel the effects of the food poisioning and was not well at all, it was an especially un-fun journey for her.
In Hanoi we took a day trip to the beautifully stunning Halong bay where we went on a boat around the many islands jutting out from the sea and had a look in some caves. This place is spoilt by the mass tourism that goes on here but still amazing scenery if you can see past that, definately worth a visit. We also took a look around some sights in town and at the one pillar Pagoda Hanna decided it would be a good time to faint on me since she was so dehydrated with the s***s still causing troubles. It was then we decided it was time to check out the medical services in Vietnam. So we spent the afternoon sitting in SOS international with Hanna forking out almost 5 million of the local currency for some much needed drugs and to be told she was only to eat a diet of plain salted boiled rice for 2 weeks. Try asking in a restaurant or a street vendor that all you want to eat is plain rice...they look at you as if you are crazy! We never thought it would be so hard to find rice in a major rice growing country! The rest of our time in Hanoi was spent resting and catching up with some friends we had made in Cape Town that happned to be in town that day, very bizzare!
With an extra unplanned day spent bumming around Hanoi and Hanna on the mend we hastily headed for Hue on our first real sleeper bus where a very persistant moto driver followed us as soon as we got off the bus and insisted that he take us to see the sights of the town. He even wanted to take us all the way to Hoi An but we politely refused. He turned out to be a really nice and genuine guy and we had a great day crusing around town on the motorbikes.
From here to Hoi An where we treated ourselves to staying in a hotel with a swimming pool for an extra dollar a night! We immediately booked ourselves onto a cooking course and although Hanna wasnt allowed to eat any of the dishes we made (as if doctors orders were going to stop her doing THAT!) we had a very enjoyable evening and the food was devine. the next day we hired bikes with the intent to look around some of the sights in town, we were soon bored and headed to the beach where we lounged on the beach, played in the sea and got burnt to a crisp. Hannahs lesson of the day is always to put sun cream on her back!
Next to Nha Trang where we got dropped off at 6am. With the hotels pretty full we had a few hours wait to checkin to our room. So we headed straight to the beach, it was mental how many people were up and active on the beach, swimming and walking. There was even a really anciet man doing some stretches and seemingly summoning dragonflies to him! The rest of the day was spent doing a little sun bathing for Hanna and a lot of shade bathing for Hannah as we were both nursing some pretty impressive sunburn. Still, eating pineapple on the beach and chilling out was paradise!
Nha Trang to Dalat in the mountains of Vietnam where the weather was very welcomingly cooler. We went on a tour of the coutryside where we saw how they grow flowers, coffee and tea and make rice wine and silk material from the silk worms. We visited the largest waterfall in the area and saw a massive happy buddha which made Hannahs day!! We also visited a place called crazy house which is one of the top 10 weirdest houses in the world. It is basically a disney land/alice in wonderland style builing...you can even pay to stay there but it isnt very nice! Still it is very strange!
From Dalat we went to Ho Chi Minh city or Saigon where we spent 2 days going on more day trips. On the first day we went to the Cu Chi tunnels with a very hilarious guide who kept making up and singing songs. The tunnels were pretty impressive and also a lot of fun to try and crawl our fat westerner bodies through! On day 2 we took a trip to the Mekong delta which is a part of Vietnam where the most produce is grown. We went to a coconut candy factory and a bee farm and got to listen to some southern traditional music...we werent convinced by thier singing!
Now it was time to wave goodbye to Vietnam and Hello to Cambodia. We took the bus all the way to Siem Reap to have a look around the famous temples of Angkor. They were very impressive but after a 5am start to see sunrise over Angkor Wat and some very crappy bikes that each had a flat trye we only managed to see the temples on the short circuit and only just lasted the day!
Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and this takes us to the current day! Today we took a tuk-tuk to the choueng ek killing fields and the S-21 prision. Both very moving and harrowing places to visit. It is uncomprehendable how something so devastating happened in this country so close in the past and it shocked us how the end of it all happened within our lifetimes.
So tomorrow we are taking a plane (woohoo not a bus for once!) back to Thailand where we hope to update you again before the end of our South East Asian experience!
Lots of Love
Over and Out