A Travellerspoint blog

Pai

Hanging with the hippies in the mountains!

semi-overcast 22 °C
View South East Asia on becs and terry's travel map.

After spending a week or so in Chiang Mai we heard that Pai was a must..... a perfect getaway in the valleys of the mountains. So we booked ourselves a hut just outside town and caught a bus to joins the western hippies, Thai Rastas, and Muslims in the mountains!
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The bus ride to and from Pai is not really designed for people with travel sickness..... the 3-4hr minibus trip through the mountains has the most U-turns and bends ever - and the bus drivers zoom round the corners as if to see who can drive the most dangerously! If you can stomach it - Pai is well worth the drive - or better still take your own motorbike for the views!

Pai seems just as popular among Thais as foreigners and during peak season (now) thousands of Thais from Bangkok crowd the town, making it hard to get find accommodation! We were glad we booked ahead - otherwise we would have been forced to hire a tent!!
Despite the town's popularity and vibrant art and music scene, Pai seems to retain its chilled atmosphere and picture-perfect mountain valley.

View from our hostel...
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Our hut.... literally a bamboo hut up in the mountains. The bathrooms were the most basic and you shared your cold shower with a million spiders but it was all part of the fun.... and expected as its the cheapest place in town!

Our Bamboo hut..
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Reception and chill out area...
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The resident / pet cockerel who didn't like anyone to sleep in past 4am!
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Right next to our hostel was a circus hostel and so we could go and chill there for a couple of hours watching them practice, fire juggling, trapeeze and other cool stuff!

We hired a scooter for the 3 days as we wanted to explore and we were too lazy to walk into town each night for dinner! It was also useful for Terry to get to his Muay Thai training each morning!

The scooter worked out to be a great investment - we picked up a free map and over the 3 days explored the countryside...

Waterfalls.. (too cold for swimming - boo)!
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Pai Canyon...
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Memorial Bridge...
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Relaxing in the hot springs... the springs temp ranged from 38-24 degrees....
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Pretty dragon flies..
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and then here were the extra hot ones - definitely too hot for bathing.. (at 80 degrees the locals were boiling eggs in them)!!
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Feeding the elephants at Tom's elephant camp..
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Budda Temple on the Hill
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View point of Pai...
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Strawberry @ Pai..
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And of course, like anywhere is Thailand - hundreds of temples...!
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The night markets were fantastic - providing a wide variety of good food - Indian curry, Jacket potatoes, Kebabs, all the usual Asian dishes and Corn on the cob!! No need for restaurants!

There were also some really cool bars along the riverside...
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Unfortunately we had planned to go to the Tod Caves (55km out of Pai) on our last day in Pai.... however the weather was not on our side, the heavens opened and it poured all day long!

Nevermind... feeling relaxed (well Becs was relaxed from chilling and Yoga, Terry could barely walk from his 3 morning sessions of training) we headed back to Chiang Mai!

Posted by becs and terry 23:51 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chiang Mai

Cooking, Elephants, Tigers, Climbing and Markets Galore!

semi-overcast 25 °C
View South East Asia on becs and terry's travel map.

Chiang Mai is a culturally and historically fascinating city. Its located at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains 700 km north of Bangkok, and until the 1920's could only be reached by elephant trek or river boat helping to preserve its distinctive charm!
Chiang Mai's historical centre was once completely surrounded by a wall and moat, some of which is remains today.....

Moat...
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Corners....
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Wall...
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Gates..
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Inside Chiang Mai's remaining city walls are more than 30 temples.... but the most famous is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which overlooks the city from a mountainside 13 km away:
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So we set off on foot to explore the walls and city of Chiang Mai.... We knew the others were staying close by and just as we were wondering if we might bump into them again... we spotted them walking up the road ahead of us.....
So reunited again, the 6 of us hired scooters and went for a drive up to the lake.
Huai Tueng Thao Chiang Mai lake
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The lake was like a local resort with lots of people eating and drinking in little huts around the lake. We decided to join them so we bundled into out little hut and order some food and beverages!!
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Jay and Max got a little excited about the swan pedalo and run over like little kids.... as Terry and I approached Max (who is nearly as small as Becs) was being told he was too heavy to rent a Swan!! Like disappointed children we headed back to the city!

Next day the guys left us and headed up to Pai... so we were 2 again! The lady at our hostel (Duen) was lovely... we had given her a list of things we wanted to do and she had pretty much booked us up for 4 days of activities!

First day - cooking course at Sammy's Oganic Farm
At the Market buying rice and seeing how the coconut juice is refined..
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The Farm...
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The Farm was pretty cool.... every herb, vegetable and fruit that we used Sammy just popped into the garden and cut it down!
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We made about 5 different dishes each... with a nap in the middle to make some room for the next course!

Jungle and Green Curry
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Pad Thai and Chicken and Cashew Nuts (photo)
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Hot and Sour Prawn soup and Vegetable Soup (photo)
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Feast for 2..
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After a sleep in the hammocks.. and a visit to the famous Sammy's toilet:
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Mango and sticky rice (photo) and Pumpkin custard
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Spring rolls (photo) and Chicken wrapped in leaves.... Wow we were stuffed!!
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Have the recipe book to keep so maybe can try it out for you guys when we get home!!

Next day we spent at an Elephant Training Camp - Woodys.
We were both a bit dubious about this as didn't want to contribute to bad treatment of animals- but Duen had recommended Woody and told us he had created a home for rescued Asian Elephants and looked after them with love and compassion!
So we were picked up in the morning and driven out to the countryside to the elephant camp..
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First we got into our overalls and Woody gave us some information about the camp and the elephants etc.
Next we had to practice our Thai words in the 'classroom' - how to command the elephants to lift a leg to help you climb on their backs, turn left and right, forwards and backwards, open their mouths so you could feed them and most importantly slow down and STOP!!

Then we got to meet the elephants. The first thing that struck me was that instead of being enclosed by a fence, they were chained by their ankles..... This we really didn't like... and we questioned Woody at length...... he explained that if the elephants were left to their own devises in the wild they would be killed by chemicals or poachers or captured and used for circus tricks etc. If he let them run wild at night, they would get into the surrounding farmlands and eat the farmers crops, not only causing the farmers mass damage but more importantly eating crops with pesticides would kill them. He also explained that some of the 14 elephants fought each other and so he needed to be able to keep them apart. Woody told us that he had 14 elephants and only 10 were used for tourists a day, giving the other 4 a rest day. He's reasons seemed genuine - but surely fences would be better?1?!

Anyway, first of all we met the elephants and were giving bananas and candy shoots to practice our 'open mouth' command.
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Apparently elephants need to eat every half an hour and so feeding them is very expensive. Woody grows crops and plants on his land but he explained that this was not enough - they also have to buy food in for them.
Bonding...
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Obviously if they eat regularly - they must poo too!!! Every half an hour. Our next job as elephant Mahouts was to clean up their poo.....
Becs got to work - cleaning up elephant poo...
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Then we were given a elephant between 2 and practiced climbing up on their backs...
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and time to bond...
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Commanding them left (Si) and right (Qua), Forwards (Bye) and Backwards (Toi)
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After lunch we went for a little walk with our Elephants, who wanted to eat everything in sight!!... first Terry rode at the front. and then Becs!
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To reward our elephants we bathed and washed them in the river..... As Becs sat on our elephants back to wash her, she used her trunk to wash Becs down too!!! The elephants seemed to enjoy the water.
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Some of the elephants got a little too excited by bathtime!
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After another rest we got back on the elephants and they took us for another small walk - this time through the water...!
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Before some more photos and feeding!
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Our beautiful little Asian Elephant
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Woody did seem to care about the elephants and they seemed well cared for (apart from the chaining at night). But I dont know what the answer is..... it cost money to look after elephants and money comes from tourists who obviosuly wnat something in return for their money....
Despite our concerns we did have an amazing day, the elephants are beautiful creatures and I just hope their conditions continue to improve as the money comes in!

Next day we did a tour which involved a bit of everything.... trekking, elephants, rafting and bamboo rafting (well bamboo raft sinking) as well as some trips through small villages. As tours go this was very average actually!!
The waterfall trek...
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Elephant riding (not a patch on the Woody's elephant farm)..
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Day 4 in Chiang Mai our pals were back but we had plans to meet some tigers.... we arranged to meet the guys for dinner and off to Tiger Kingdom we went. We had heard stories that tigers were drugged etc so that tourists could get up and personal - but Terry just wanted to play with a baby tiger - at whatever the cost!
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The smallest tigers were 3-4 months... they were so cute and adorable. The were playful with each other but not really interested in us humans at all! I guess they have been hand reared and so treat humans as adults.
The cubs playing.. so cute...
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Although Becs did get lucky enough to play with one....
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Terry spent a lot of time walking after them trying to get a stroke... but eventually this little one sat still for him...!
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Next was our turn with the largest tigers... these bad boys were 17 months old... and hand reared at the park also. There were 5 tigers in our pen Although 3 of these were up and walking about, they did appear more sleepy / dosile than the youngsters. I asked our guide whether they were given medication to calm them down.. obviosuly he told me no... he said they sleep a lot in the day, especially after meal times and were more active before feeding time about 5pm. He said they are so used to humans because the see them every day! Again we will never know the truth... but the tigers did look in good shape. Their coats were beautiful and their claws and teeth looked in good shape!
Tigers in the pen...
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Becs and the BIg Boy!!
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Terry's Tiger was wide awake thats for sure!!
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We were not allowed to stroke the babies at 2-3weeks... too high risk and chance of infections. There were about 12 cubs in 2 pens... taken from their mother tigers to be hand raised.
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Also at the park a Male Lion and Siberian Tigers which were not for stroking...... but just as sleepy if not moreso than the others... maybe boredom??
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That evening we had a goodbye dinner with Max and Anna before they headed for Bangkok to begin their route home :(
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And then there were 4!! Jay wanted to do 'something active'.. so after weighing up the options - the boys decided on NO GRAVITY - Aka Indoor Rock climbing!!!
The girls and boys teamed up so the weight was more even!!
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The girls were definately more elegant climber than the boys - though the boys managed the harder walls....
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That evening was our last with Jay and Kimmie... we didn't intentionally plan a heavy night... but one drink just led to another!! A good night.. dinner, darts, pool, beer and wine and sore heads in the morning!!!

Now Terry says no more drinking - time to get fit... we'll see!!! After a goodbye breakfast our friends headed to Bangkok on route for home :(

Chiang Mai has some brilliant shopping and markets if your looking for fake brands and souvenirs... there is a night bizarre, saturday market and sunday market.... pretty much markets on all week.... lining the streets (called walking streets). Hundreds of street food venders with lots of choice or cheap food too.... yum! Even if your not shopping or eating the markets are a good form of free night entertainment.... you get the buskers, beggers, talented blind musicians, not so talented kids dancing with a tip box and of course' Massage Anyone?'
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After all that walking in the markets we took some time out to relax in the gardens..
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After a week in the charming city of Chiang Mai we decided to head north to Pai....

Posted by becs and terry 02:08 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Huay Xai: The Gibbon Experience

Fulfilling my childhood dream of sleeping in a tree house!!

sunny 25 °C

So we left Luang Prabang as 6, but when we arrived at Huay Xai, the border crossing, the others continued into Thailand. We had good reason for our separation..... we wanted to do THE GIBBON EXPERIENCE!!!

Huay Xai is a tiny little town on the border, with a few guesthouses and small restaurants for those tourists simply stopping overnight for the Gibbon Experience. We spent the afternoon enjoying the sun, relaxing and getting excited for the next days adventures!

The Gibbon Experience...
So The Gibbon Experience is an eco tourism forest conservation project.The money from us tourists goes towards forest protection and community projects in Bokeo Nature Reserve, Northern Laos. Guests stay in tree houses and use zip line cable gliding network to scour the primary forest in search of the illusive Black Gibbon.
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Until this trip, we are both unaware of actually what a Gibbon was.... needless to say it was all about the zip wires for adrenaline seeker Becs!!

So we set off for our 2 days 1 night trip. First off was a 2 hour trek through the jungle to the zip wires....

Approaching the jungle on foot
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Just a tiny zip wire across the river to practice our safety procedures before the big ones!!
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The trekking was cool, bambo trees everywhere, occasional kids from local villages climbing trees and beautiful scenic views.
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However the real fun began when we go to our first Zip Wire!!!
The zipping begins...
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After a couple of hours, a little more trekking and 9 zip wires later our tree house was in sight....
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Wow..... it really was the tree house Becs always wanted as a kid!!! The best part was zip wiring in and out!!!
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Terry apraoching the tree house:
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Becs about the exit the tree house:
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The Tree House was 3 levels high.... the first level for zipping in and out and the slightly smelly bathroom...
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The 2nd layer the communal room for relaxing, eating and later that night sleeping...
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And the 3rd level a little more space for sleeping.... being a little higher we bagged this level for sleeping!!
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The views from the Tree House were amazing!
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That afternoon after lunch we went out for more zipping, and before dinner Terry joined our guides at their camp for a game of football Thai style!! He came back with a very bruised head...?!?!

Dinner.... who else has ever had their dinner delivered by women on zip wires...!!
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And as the day came to an end a beautiful sunset....
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Sleeping in the tree house was pretty tranquil, you heard the usual buzzing of the insects and birds in the morning.... maybe even some gibbons singing if you listened close enough.... but the mosquito nets kept the bugs away and the temperature was fine!

In the morning before breakfast - we zipped and trekked to the biggest tree in jungle....... 6 people around its base!
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The guides also let us have a sneaky peek of a new tree house being built nearby....
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Breakfast... usually the food on tours is ok...... not so much this morning.... rice, green beans and omelette....
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After breakfast it was time to make our way back...... another 7 zip wires and 2 hours trekking!
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Zipping across the jungle was quite honestly one of the best things we have ever done..... its amazing to be so high up, and being able to see all the amazing trees and views from the air... you feel like your flying!

As we arrived back to the village - we took a few snaps of the locals... quite typical Laos Village Living...
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Our Gibbon Groupies and Guides (Tam and Doi)!
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After what can only be described as an amazing 2 days we left Laos on a high and set off for Thailand...
The border crossing consisted of an exit stamp, a speed boat crossing the river and entry stamp... all in all it took 20 mins - the easiest and quickest border crossing ever!!

Laos from the Thailand side of the river! Bye Bye Laos
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Posted by becs and terry 23:48 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Luang Prabang

Waterfalls, Elephants and Bowling!

semi-overcast 20 °C
View South East Asia on becs and terry's travel map.

So the 6 of us set off from Vang Vieng in our private minibus...... with only 5 seats someone was left with the baggage in the back...!
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We knew the journey was going to be a long 6 hours to Luang Prabang..... but the scenery was beautiful...
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How many orange stalls does one person need...?
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However, the weather went from sunny to overcast and soon we were high in the mountains... with practically zero visibility.... made even scarier by the fact that our driver looked like he was falling asleep!
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Guess this would have been an amazing view from the toilet had the weather been clear!
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Anyway - eventually we made it alive to Luang Prabang!

Next day was Max's birthday... the boys had wanted to do something adventurous - but dirt bikes etc were so expensive. Instead we thought a relaxing day to the Tad Sae Waterfall...
So off we set in our Tuk Tuk...
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We arrived at this dirty / muddy river and thought we had been scammed... but then we were hearded onto a river boat and taken up the river......
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We arrived and the first this we saw were the elephants :) We bought some bananas and candy shoots and fed the elephants....!
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Kimmie and Jay
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Max and Anna
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Birthday Boy - Mad Max...
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Then for the Waterfall...... clearly it was cold so only the boys went in...!
The water was such a beautiful colour...
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After a busy day we are a bit peckish so joined the locals on the side of the road for some street food..
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Later that evening we went for dinner, drinks and Bowling!!!
We went to a little place selling local cuisine - Max and Jay shared a BBQ platter.... which was highly entertaining for the rest of us.... but looked like too much effort for Terry - he just likes to eat!!!
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Drinks before Bowling...
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So in Laos all the bars shut before midday - this is quite common and helps the locals to control the drunk tourists!! However, in Luang Prabang the bowling alley stays open till 2am and sells booze!!! Clearly i was concentrating too much on beating Terry to take any photos... but this was Jays winning strike... and celebration drinks after the alley closed...!
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So Luang Prabang's streets follow the riverbanks. The riverbanks seem to be very fertile as there are lots of crops being grown toward the river...
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Bamboo bridge
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As with most of Laos there are many temples, housing many more monks.... here are just a few!!!
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The Chomsey Hill... overlooks the whole of Luang Prabang
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Breakfast before leaving for our next adventure...
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Posted by becs and terry 19:47 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Vientiane and Vang Vieng

Tubing, drinking and making friends!!!

semi-overcast 20 °C

Our bus journey from Hanoi to Vientiane was long and tiresome (24hours) ...... however it gave us plenty of time to make some new friends.....
Jay and Kimmy, Anna and Max, Wade and Tyler, (and Elle and Rob - not in the photo)!!
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In Vientiane, we all bundled into the same hostel, where the lovely staff didn't have enough rooms for us all but put us up in the movie room!! After a couple of big drinking nights (free rice wine at the hostel) and loosing pool against the locals we travelled as a group to Vang Vieng. There was only one thing on everyone's minds..... TUBING!!!!
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With tubing in the morning we were suppose to had a light night... but 'killer pool' was on the cards and the boys fancied their chances!!!
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As it turns out - the boys pool skills failed them the more alcohol they drank, and Becs beat them all but only came 4th!! Tyler actually came first - winning 12 bottles of beer to add to our beer tower!! Oh Dear!!

So Vang Vieng town lies on the Nam Song river, surrounded by lush green hills and mountains.
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The locals have turned this cute little town into a major tourist attraction - using the river to their full advantage! Unfortunately in recent years tourists have become stupid... drinking way too much whilst floating down the river in their tubes, jumping off ropes and many deaths have been recorded. Now the drinking has been toned down and only 3 bars remain. Despite this many people still come here to TUBE and we still have a fantastic day!!

TUBING.... (unfortunately the waterproof disposal camera didn't produce any photos - gutted)

We set off from the tubing office around midday - giving ourselves plenty of time to stop off at the 3 bars along the river.
The first bar is literally a stones through away - not giving much time for floating - but enough to wet your appetite!
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At each bar you get a free shot and a bracelet. The first bar was playing loud house music, the sun was out so the girls sat around and chatted whilst the boys got hot and sweaty on the volleyball court! After an hour or so our little army headed back to the river to cool off and head for the 2nd bar.
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Bar 2 is by far the coolest bar.
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If we try to describe it, it wont do it justice but we will try. First of all you had spiderman serving drinks, hula hooping and dancing the macarena! There was a small basketball court with a water sprinkler through the middle, Limbo, dancing tables and lots of wooden chill out loungers. The music was pumping and everyone dancing and just having a good time together.
Spiderman the waiter!
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We literally dragged ourselves away from bar 2 - as we were running out of time to make it down the river before sunset. Bar 3 wasn't too far away. after a drink or two we have to make a decision... it was getting dark and we still had at least an hour of river left.... we chanced it.... floating down the river in a tube, in the dark, hand in hand with everyone was awesome!!!
What a brilliant day!

Next day with slightly fusses heads we had breakfast and our little gang left for Luang Prabang in a private minibus.

Posted by becs and terry 18:31 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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