Sabaidee from Laos!Our second country already - how time flies when you are having fun!
Last week, before leaving Vietnam, we spent 3 days cruising Halong Bay in the north-west, on a Chinese junk boat - by far the three coldest days of our lives!Having not really anticipated 'cold' much in Asia, we had not really packed for such eventualities.Everyone in the south warned us it would be "cooler" in the north but a drop from 32 degrees to 6 degrees really was not what we were expecting and it was certainly not something we had packed for!We therefore spent 3 days wearing almost everything we had brought with us in an effort to convince ourselves that layers were every bit as effective as a massive puffa coat…turns out, not so much!Nevertheless, as you will see from the photos of us wearing towels and ponchos to keep the cold out, we still had an amazing time.Halong Bay is truly beautiful, the limestone karst scenery, of nearly 2000 islands, is something unlike anything we have seen before and it definitely justifies its appearance in Man with the Golden Gun!We explored a cave, whose inside was the size of the millennium dome and we did some kayaking, where Nick's steering left a little to be desired ("left Nick, left…no, the other left!") but we just laughed our way through feeling like our extremities had turned blue!We spent most of the few days with a couple from Melbourne, Brooke and Russell, who saved the day by providing us with vegemite for breakfast!Anyone who wants to send food parcels to us here in Asia, just a squeezy tube of marmite will do!The food here might be amazing (with sesame-coated Mekong river weed a particular favourite of ours at the moment) but you can't beat a bit of marmite on toast for breakfast!
Back in Hanoi, waiting overnight for our flight to Laos, Nick decided his long locks were in need of a trim so we headed out to find a hairdresser.We found one, made him understand that we wanted 'shorter' and Nick now looks like he has just been released from prison (sorry Mel!).You can see the photos for yourselves, but at least he probably won't need another hair cut for a while…or maybe ever!!At this turn of events, Nat has taken great pleasure in reciting her favourite children's rhyme to Nick as many times as he will stand….'Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair, so Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?'.
Then there was Laos!We landed in Luang Prabang and suddenly Nick was grateful for having no hair, as the temperature, thankfully, was back up in the 30's! The whole feel of the town is chilled out, relaxed and very very zen.The stunning Buddhist temples are complemented by orange robe-clad monks wandering the streets looking for a cool drink and the price of almost everything is up for negotiation.The Mekong river flows just outside our hotel, an iced lemon juice is 40p and everyone is smiley - what is there not to like?We spent a couple of hours on our first morning volunteering with an organisation called Big Brother Mouse, reading and chatting to locals who want to learn English.We were paired up with a 20 year old law student called Deeblis, whose English wasn't brilliant but who was so keen to learn and improve his own skills, we felt quite humbled.He had taken the time to do this, to come to these classes, for no financial reward and with no incentive other than his own desire to learn. We can certainly think of several teenagers who it wouldn't hurt to follow suit!We have visited monasteries, climbed hills to get amazing views and visited temples and palaces and so far, we just love the place, in particular its tranquillity.So chilled out in fact, that 'a little bit of something extra' shall we say, is available with most drinks and snacks if you know where to look…or even if you don't as we found out today.When purchasing a lemon and mint smoothie this evening, Nat was asked whether she would like a Happy shake.Fortunately we had already read that this means a sprinkling of cannabis is added to your order!Mushroom shakes are also possible, should magic mushrooms be your thing!Ladies, a note to self for you all too…never ever drink lemon or lime juice with your opium…tribal women in northern Laos take this to commit suicide, typically to protest against a particularly nasty husband.Something about the chemical mix…worth remembering!
We have also decided we are going to start a photo album on the blog called 'Lost in translation', as we have seen some really hilarious faux-pas and we have only been away a month!We have seen a shop called c*** (Creative Oriental Craft Kingdom), Café TIT, Fanny ice-cream and Morning Glory Café. We will attempt to get photographic evidence of these profanities from around the world for your continuing amusement and will look forward to your marmite donations as we embark on a week filled with elephants and homestays with local families.Big love.xxx