Luang Prabang 10-04-2012
Today we had to meet at 8am for a 7 hour journey to Luang Prabang. The roads we travelled on were very similar to the top gear death roads, high up in the mountains, steep edges, windy, and blind corners. It was quite hard to sleep on the bus due to the constant sharp corner turns. We then stopped in a line of traffic, we walked down to the front of the traffic to find a huge landslide. It had happened during the storm the night before so had been working all morning to clear it up. We only had to wait an hour before the road was ok to cross which was lucky. We arrived in Luang Prabang in the late afternoon and went straight out to visit one of the temples. We had to walk up a lot of steps to reach the temple but from the top we had fantastic views over Luang Prabang. We walked back down to meet with everyone and we went to the tour office to book our elephant ride for the next day. We booked our ride at the Village Elephant Sanctuary which is the best in Luang Prabang as the elephants are treated well. Later in the evening we went to the Night Market which only sells local products. It was really nice and we brought a few gifts here.
Luang Prabang 11-04-2012
We got picked up in a mini-van to take us to the elephant village. The ride there was bumpy as we were travelling on a dirt track, later on we found out that this is Laos' main road! When we got to the sanctuary there were quite a few elephants being fed near the entrance. When it was time for our ride we had to climb a ladder onto the platform and then clmb onto the seat attached to the elephant's back. It was higher than I expected. They put the seat belt on for us once we were sitting down, which was just a long piece of wood laid onto the edges of the seat. The elephant started walking and it was surprisingly comfortable. We first had to go down a bit of a hill. It was scary as I thought the elephant was going to fall down. We then went through the river so the elephant was half immersed in the water and then out back onto land. We also got the chance to sit on the elephants neck. It was really good but hard to keep balanced. We then went back up a hill and through a village. The children loved seeing the elephants go past. We stopped for a bit to feed the elephants bamboo then carried on back to the sanctuary. The ride lasted an hour in total but it went very quickly. We both really enjoyed it. By far one of our favourite things we have done on the trip! We then got to feed bananas to our elephant which I think he enjoyed as he was flapping his ears which apparently means that the elephant is happy. Our guide grouped us together again for a boat ride up the river to visit some waterfalls. The waterfalls had dried up so weren't that great but we were going to another waterfall in the afternoon which was going to be much better. After the boat ride we had lunch at the sanctuary and then got back into the mini-van to go to the Kuang Si waterfalls. These were really pretty and we spent a couple of hours here nd climbed to where the waterfalls began.
In the evening we went to a bar where they had a volleyball court. We played volleyball for a couple of hours then some of us went to the local bowling alley. It was exactly like the ones we have at home but you bowl barefoot instead of wearing silly shoes.
Today we had our first cruise up the river to the Thai border. We had 10 hours on a private junk boat today and another 10 hours the next day til we reached the border. The New Year celebrations had already started in Laos and Thailand. To celebrate everyone throws water on each other in the streets and families drive around in trucks with big water tanks drenching anyone they went past. The boat was nice and comfortable. We passed the time by playing cards. We stopped at a town in Laos called Pakbeng to stay the night.
Chiang Khong Thai Border 13-04-2012
When we got back onto the boat the next morning it was still dark. It was 5.30am. I made sure I got one of the long seats that you could lay out on and sleep. Scott woke me up at midday and told me I had slept for 6 hours straight! To pass the rest of the time we sorted out our photos so we don't have any duplicates and we have now over 2000 photos. We arrived at the border at 4pm. Bond gave us a plastic bag to put our valuables in and warned us that we would get wet. We got off the boat and loaded our stuff into a tuk tuk. We set off down the road to the border office. Buckets of water were thrown at us and we were all soaked right through. We then had to get off and walk. One guy decided it would be funny to throw flour at me too! After getting our passports stamped at the border office we then got another boat to cross the river to Thailand. Here we got some more stamps and then got into another tuk tuk to go to our hotel in Chiang Khong.
Chiang Mai 14-04-2012
We left for Chiang Mai in the morning. We stopped at the White Temple on the way. This one was different from many we had seen as it was quite modern. For the remaining bus journey the driver put on Forrest Gump for us. We arrived at Chang Mai and checked into our hotel then went down the road for lunch dodging the water guns. After lunch we decided to join in the water fights. The restaurant had two huge water tanks and loads of buckets and water guns. We spent all afternoon drenching people that went past. That evening after dinner we went to Chang Mai's open market. We didn't buy much as we were shocked at how much things cost compared to what we had been paying in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Later Scott went with Bond to his mates house for a FIFA tournament and came back when I was asleep so couldn't get into the room for half hour til I woke up.
Chiang Mai 15-04-2012
Unfortunately the 5pm train we wanted to get today was fully booked so we had to get the 2pm train instead. We got to the station and we were delayed for two hours but we had already learnt that the trains in SE Asia are never on time. When we finally got onto the train we got our seats in a 36 sweater cabin. It was really hot on there and the rotating fans just blew the hot air around. We had the windows wide open but this didn't make a lot of difference once we were moving. We ate out subways that we had got earlier that day. In the evening the train attendant came round and pulled out the chairs into beds. I had the top bunk which was impossible to sleep as there was a light on which they wouldn't turn off as apparently people needed to see to go to the toilet. At night it didn't seem to get any cooler either. Everyone had the worst nights sleep and all we wanted to do was go straight in the shower.
It was 9am and we were now back in Bangkok. We crossed the road from the train station to our hotel in Bangkok. We had stayed at the same hotel before the tour began so knew it was nice. They left us check in straight away and we got showered and changed to go out again. We decided to taxi everywhere in Bangkok as the tuk tuk drivers sometimes try to rip you off. We also made sure that we got the taxi drivers to go by the meter rather than agreeing a price first as they often change the price due to traffic and you pay a lot more than you would on the meter. We first went to the Grand Palace then got another taxi to Khoasan Road where we got lunch at McDonalds. Khoasan Road was full of shops and stalls selling fake sunglasses, bags and printed t shirts. Some were even selling taser guns! We shopped for a while then went to Baiyoke Sky Hotel to view the city from the revolving sky tower. It was 300 baht (10$) for entry and a drink in the tower. Being the tallest building in Thailand we could see for miles and could even see the Gulf of Thailand.
It was our final dinner that evening and unfortunately Bond could only come out for dinner and not for drinks after as he had to cancel his month holiday to fly to Vietnam the next morning to take over another tour as the tour leader had to go home. It was sad saying goodbye as he had been with us for the last month, he had also told Scott before he knew he had to fly to Vietnam he was going to book flights with us to come down to Phuket for a few days. The rest of us went to Khoasan Road for a few drinks.
We said goodbye to the others in our group and then got a taxi to the airport for our flight to Phuket. Our friend Ros (a Norwich girl) also came to Phuket with us for 5 nights before going to Malaysia. We are staying in Phuket for 12 nights and have found a really nice hotel in Karon. We are paying a lot less for a lovely hotel with a nice pool and breakfast than what we paid for some basic hostels in Australia. We plan on chilling here until we fly back to Bangkok on the 29th April and then home to England the following night.