A Travellerspoint blog

'YOU BUY! YOU BUY!' Ahhh Hoi An!

sunny 35 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

We waited for an hour in Hanoi to be picked up for our first sleeper bus experience. At last the mini bus pulled up packed to the brim with people although i had an executive seat up front between the driver and the guide... It was cosy :) Poor Rob was stuck in the back under all the bags with his head perched in some blokes armpit.. I guess that must have been pretty cosy too! The benefit of this was that we were first off the minibus and the first on to the sleeper bus and therefore we managed to get seats together. You can imagine how delighted i was to be stuck next to Rob for a solid 12 hours. Needless to say i popped a sleeping tablet not long after we set off.

I found our first sleeper bus to be more comfortable than i expected but poor Rob, well how do i say it?? Well he just didn't fit in ( to the sleeper bed that is). I slept like a baby the whole way and it wasn't long before it was dawn.

Sunrise over Vietnam countryside
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A poor & slightly odd French couple had to sleep on the floor for the entire journey as the bus company had over booked. I really don't know how they did it! We arrived in a place called Hue at approx 8am and had a 6 hour wait until our connecting bus. We were happy about the unexpected wait as we had a lovely breakfast and a good chat with an English couple (Andrew & Emma) who we met on the bus the night before.

We arrived in Hoi an at around 5 or 6 in the evening 24 hours after leaving Hanoi. We found accommodation in the same place as the English couple as it happened & ended up going out for a lovely Italian ha ha! It was Bellisimo!!

We loved Hoi An from the offset, walking through the old streets the night we arrived with a huge thunder storm flashing in the distance the whole time was a sweet 1st impression. We really explored it the next day in the blazing heat....thats pretty much all we did the time we were here was walk and shop and eat! Its one of those towns that makes an immediate impression on you. The streets are all lined with either tailors (about 500 of them), cobblers (about 200 of them), souvenir shops (just shitloads of em!) and art galleries too. Obviously there's a fair few bars dotted around as well that help with the heat and the resulting thirst!

Hoi An street
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The first day walking around we strolled through the local market just by the river in the soaring heat. Its the type of heat where ya just taste salt all day long! Horrible i know. I couldnt even take my own shirts off at the end of each day, it took intense games of tug of war between lorraine and my shirt every evening to free me! Well back in the market anyway the smells, and colours, and eh, smells were pretty intense as well, even with my own renowned lack of smell i was overwhelmed by it at times! The market here by the edge of the river was were we were first introduced to the other side of Hoi An that we'd somehow missed in the walk there, the Vietnamese salesmen and women! Their tactic is a good and intriguing one, if they shout at you loud enough you just might buy something!

Market in Hoi An
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Shopping in Hoi An was an experience in itself. The competition between the different shops is fierce. You see the problem is that everyone sells similar stuff! It wasn't long before we became accustomed to the heckling from the owners - 'HEY YOU!! YOU BUY!!' Although it made for some hilarious & at times heated bartering sessions. I think the Vietnamese are more agressive in their manner than anywhere else we have visited to date. On one occasion myself & Rob were trying to buy a simple pair of rubber flip flops... Suddenly the owner of the shop & her daughter stampeded onto the street screaming with utter enthusiasm & pushed us into little plastic seats on the edge of the road. We actually had to tell them to relax because they were scaring the living daylights out of us!

That was a funny experience where Lorraines bartering skills really came to the fore! Ya see, i cant bargain, i just cant! Im too lazy and, well lazy to push it cheaper so when they were selling me flip flops 2 sizes too small for 5 times what they were worth i just went with it. Lorraine stepped in and saved me here - "Are ya kidding- they dont even fit him!!" BAM! Sold! Saved.

With the beauty of Hoi An, and it really is gorgeous, there's not much else to do once you've seen the sites but buy stuff....and the sites are the shops to an extent!

Hoi An by the river at night
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We wanted to pick up some artwork so went browsing the galleries one day. We saw a couple of really nice pieces (sounds like i know what im talking about!) in this one place and had agreed a price of around $60 for the two. Thing is we didnt have the money on us so when we told the artist we were goin to the bank machine he was pissed?!?

"Brilliant well we'll just go to the atm and get your money..."
"You making a joke out of me? You think you funny?"
"eh...wha??"
"you think you funny? pay deposit then you can go."
"whoa! we're goin to get you money. calm down we'll be back in a minute."
"NO! You pay money now!"
"We dont have any money...We're goin to get it....to give to you...money can be exchanged for good and services...thats how it works!"

He just got real angry so we told him where to go and just left. The people here are really really lovely, they are, even with the shouting ad stuff, its just you can sense the pressure they're all under to sell stuff. In one shop just a minute later one of the girls started crying when we left her shop without buying anything. We felt terrible...that was a bad afternoon!

The Japanese bridge in Hoi An
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Hoi An is renowned for its tailor shops and there is literaly one of them on every corner. We both decided it might be nice to have something made. I picked out a little dress on the internet and brought the design to the tailor. They took my measurements in 2 mins and i picked up the finished article about 6 hrs later....now thats what i call efficient!

That and the dress looks hot too! The tailor shop just handed me rakes of Next catalogues and said they'd make any of the suits for me.....i just figured i'd go home and buy them in Next so didnt bother getting anything done!

Cyclos in Hoi An
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On our last night in Hoi An before the dreaded bus trip to Saigon the next day we strolled down to the river to find a top notch spot for dinner (its our new custom that on our last night in a spot we live it up somewhere fancy!) and we somehow caught some sort of local festival/talent concert/school play with loads of kids on a stage singing songs and dancing to a packed crowd. They were crap but the atmosphere was great!!
"its true!" says Lorraine beside me!

Ohhhh fancypants dinner!
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It was a great way to end our time in Hoi An which we really really loved. The place is amazing, beautiful and sweaty at the same time! Like great sex! Not that we'd know anything about that of course Mr and Mrs Lynders!

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Soooo! Moving on to Saigon and the nightmare of the bus. Ill need a minute here to get myself together.....

I think the worst part about getting sleeper buses is waiting for them to arrive. Its utter madness. Ya see the problem is there are no assigned seats so its kinda like a Ryanair flight (1st come 1st served) except the Vietnamese arent afraid to use their elbows! The plan was Rob would carry both the bags to the hold while i jump on the bus and get 2 beds together. Bear in mind we had a 27 hr journey ahead of us so we wanted to make sure we were next to each other, Turns out our ingenius plan was the same as everybody elses ingenius plan! Rob and the lads stood at the back with bags chatting and having a laugh while the girls fought for position. I was covered in bruises.....i went as far as bribing the bus driver at one stage to try get on first! But so did everybody else! The bastards.

We got a seat no problem, i dunno what Lorraines goin on about?? I had a great laugh with all the lads! So we're crammed into our little cocoons, terrified of crashing with the lunatic driving of the country and just plain pissed off not being able to feel your toes anymore! Its like sleeping in a luge.

We were on this bus for TWENTY SEVEN HOURS. You are in a constant state of semi sleep. Trying to read. Trying to talk. Trying to listen to music. You cant do anything properly. You're hypnotised, in a trance. The suns sets and rises, and sets again....and you're still on the fookin bus! I had no idea what day it was, what time it was....WHO I WAS!!! It was horrible.

Sleeper bus pain!
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We finally arrived in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh cit, whatever you want to call it. But the pain wasnt finished yet!

We were both in great form to get off the bus and had our accom booked in advance for once. We hopped in a cab and headed straight there. Except straight there was around the same round-about twice, down a couple of lanes a few times and right back to the bus stop where we'd started. "5 dollars please!". You had to admire the neck on the guy ;)
We collapsed into the lobby of our hotel to check in only to be told that our room was gone cos we were late. Enter freak out! My eyes welled up and i grabbed my face. After 2 days on a bus and arriving in a huge city with no accommodation nearly tipped me over the edge. We ended up finding a nice place 5 mins away, bought ourselves a big KFC (after crossing the highway of death!) and watched a film. It was only for a few hours anyway as we were flying to Bangkok the next morning to meet Ste and Gemma....Yippee :)

Highway of death!
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Posted by LynMoo 04:39 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Good morning VIETNAM!!!!

BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP, YEAH!

semi-overcast 36 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

Arriving in Vietnam was prob the 1st time the 2 of us experienced some form of culture shock. Although i dont really think it was culture shock as such - just plain fear! The culture here at 1st seemed to consist of beeping, beeping and more beeping! The drive from the airport to the centre of Hanoi was the 1st of many harrowing experiences on the roads of Vietnam. They beep when they pass each other (which is alot), they beep when they dont pass each other, they beep when they're alone on the road, they beep when they're not even moving! Its painful at times. That and they drive like maniacs. At one stage on the way from the airport the bonnet of our taxi was LITERALLY under the back of a big truck on the motorway in front of us and our driver didnt even slow down, he just beeped and hoped the truck would speed up cos we weren't slowing down! Lorraines nails dug a nice mark into my hands that time!

And it was hot. Really really hot!

We made it safe and sound (if not a tad shaken!) to the Old Quarter of Hanoi and searched out another hotel that Sue and Gary (who we'd met in Chiang Mai) had recommended to us, and just like all the other places they suggested it turned out to be full! This happened alot with pretty much every place they told us about, not that we didnt appreciate the effort guys!

Anyways the old town of Hanoi itself is really nice even with the hecticness. We got ourselves a lovely hotel right in the middle of the action. All the buildings here are really narrow from the street front but stretch a fair distance back, so everything is fairly compact. Our room was small but really nice and faced out onto the street. And the best part was the bathroom - which had a full length window instead of a wall! So we could still see each other while 'taking care of business'! I have many many videos, and they shall soon be for sale on ebay!

The street outside our hotel
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One thing about Hanoi though is that its painfully easy to get lost - which we did alot! The streets all look very similar and seem to turn and stretch and change names every couple of minutes. But sure half the fun is getting lost in every new city you visit - something myself and Lorraine are getting very good at!

Also there are something like 3 million motorbikes in Hanoi and the streets are crammed full of them. Everyone drives a scooter and the traffic at crossroads are something you really have to see. Dozens of bikes from different directions seem to merge together and then re-emerge on the other side somehow. Pedestrians weave in and out across the road as well. We had some fun getting across the roads, sometimes stalking the locals who seemed to know what they were doing and other times just going for it and hoping for the best! But sure we're here now to talk about it so no need to worry Bernie - we made it!!

Hanoi traffic at night
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We were now on a tight schedule to get through Vietnam as Ste and Gemma were flying over to Bangkok in 12 days and we had a flight booked from Saigon/Ho Chi Minh city to meet them. So we only spent 2 nights exploring Hanoi before setting off for Halong Bay.

Island in the centre of Hoan Kiem lake, Old Quarter Vietnam
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We got picked up at 8am from our Hotel by the minibus & our very enthusiastic guide. Everyone on the minibus was clearly shattered but our guide would not shut the hell up - he continued to waffle for at least 1hour of our journey. However it was only a 3hr drive to Halong Bay so it was'nt too bad. I think everyone on the bus was preoccupied & in fear for their lives due to the crazy antics of our bus driver. Vietnam has no rules or traffic laws from what we could see. Its just mental on the roads (its the norm to overtake on a blind corner!).

Our trip basically included a one night stay on a large chinese style junk boat in Halong Bay & the following night in a 3star hotel on the largest island on the bay known as Cat ba Island. We really didnt know what to expect but looking back i dont think we could have got a better deal. Our group consisted of approximately 16 people from all walks of life & countries ( England, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Columbia, Netherlands, Canada...). We were very lucky with our group. Everyone was really friendly (somewhat strange at times but nice all the same) & it was easy to mix with everyone on the boat no matter what age... It made for a good laugh throughout the two days. We were shown to our cabin and i reckon myself & Rob got the nicest suite on the boat.. en suite bathroom.. the works! The boat itself was exquisit, with a lovely dining area on the second floor & a savage (as Rob puts it) open deck for sunbathing and taking in the general scenery.

Chinese Junk Boat
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The Bay itself is awe inspiring with hundreds of huge limestone karst towers climbing out of the water with the emerald green ocean lapping between them & into the caves below. It's hard to describe but when you see the pictures you will understand.

Halong Bay
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We had a traditional Vietnamese style lunch on the boat with squid, other types of fish??, spring rolls & omlettes. It may not sound delicious but my mouth is watering just thinking about it. We spent about 2 hours touring around the bay with the majority of people staying on the upper deck chilling out in the sun. The views from the boat were magnificent (our arms were litterally falling off from taking so many photo's). As we neared our first stop we sailed by a little floating town. Basically the local people live on these houseboats which are kept afloat by massive blocks of styrofoam (not sure about spelling sorry) & barrells. Most of the people work as fishermen/women but it really was amazing to see this miniture city floating on water with dogs running from one houseboat to the next.

You can see just one of the floating houses below.
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We arrived at our first stop which was massive caves known locally as the Dragon Caves. Our entire group were bundled of the boat and were made wait amidst at least 400 other people to prepare to go trekking through the caves altogether. Myself & Rob were joined by the Austrian couple from our boat & we all snuck off to see the caves by ourselves. The caves themeselves were very impressive and beautifully lit up but the sheer number of people passing through them tainted it a little for us! We finished our tour about 30 minutes before our group. 'You've seen one cave you've seen them all as far as we are concerned' :)

You can imagine our delight when we heard our next activity was kayaking in the evening sun. I was a tad nervous as i had never been kayaking before but at the same time i couldnt wait to get out there into the calm waters & explore for ourselves the caves etc.. We set off from one of the house boats we were telling you about! You would want to have seen the fish they had held in nets beside their house (FRIGGAN HUGE SHARKS). Kayaking was absolutely brilliant fun. We were in our element as we paddled & cruised between the giant rock features. Definitely a highlight for us!

First time Kayaking :)
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Once the kayaking was over we jumped aboard ship again and were told we were going swimming. We dropped anchor in the middle of the bay and the guide told us - "go ahead and swim"....Lorraines face was priceless! I quickly got the auld togs on and was the 1st to leap off the side of the boat into the water. The water was really warm and calm and the drop was only 10 foot or so from the boat. I was soon joined by the lovely Lorraine (only after a moment of coaxing from me - "DO IT DO IT DO IT JUMP") and then most of the boat followed in our wake! It was good craic.

It was soon time for dinner which was beautiful again. We really couldnt get over the service and class of the trip we'd gotten, we expected only a raft at one stage! But then the karaoke began! Now as many of you may know, im quite fond of the odd karaoke session, but not this time! 15 strangers thrown together on a boat from ages 18 - 50 with a terrible TERRIBLE singer of a guide (picture the stereotypicle Asian karaoke singer trying to sing Britney in broken engwish, loud and bad!) trying to get everyone going. It was pretty funny and awkward. Myself and Lorraine were the 1st to sneak outside and make our way to the upper deck.

The couple of hours we spent outside were amazing. The sky was crystal clear and brimming with stars. We could make out the outline of the huge limestone towers around us and the reflection of the lights from other boats in the distance glistened off the water. It was very romantic! The Karaoke kept goin though and even forced some other boats to leave! It kinda made it unique though.

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It was an early start the next morning, we think breakfast was at 7 or so but we cant really remember! That day we were dropped off for a cycle on the main island. But due to obvious reasons we didnt fancy cycling through a mountainous park! So instead we went for a walk with Kyle and Cheryl (Kiwi + Brit) off the boat. Then to spice things up a bit, we started a boycott against the only vendor on the island!

Its strange here because people expect foreigners to pay so much extra than is expected that they end up losing money themselves. For example this woman would only sell us a can of coke for a e1 which is at least 4 times the price you should be paying. She wouldnt back down to a normal price, so instead of making a regular profit off 16 people buying drinks she made nothing because we all refused to be ripped off. Its a mentality that doesnt make much sense to us and we saw it everywhere throughout asia, holding out for the one naive customer to make e1 on one drink instead of just making lots of regular money on lots of sales??!!! Where's the logic i ask ya?!

RANT OVER.

After another exquisit lunch we were all ready to cool off a little so we were delighted to hear our next stop would be at a secluded beach on one of the small islands.. Yippee!! It was hilarious. As we pulled up there was a buff gay couple on the beach all by themselves (not for long ha ha) having a romantic lunch. It was clear they had forked out a lot of money for this as there were tables, candles, butlers - the works!! We felt kind of bad when all 16 of us from our boat crashed onto the shore but in fairness we tried our best to keep our distance. The same can't be said for the 20 chinese people who arrived 10 minutes after us! The beach was just bedlam - the chinese are friggan crazy!

After the beach we were taken to our hotel for our second & last night in Halong Bay. The hotel was nice nothing overly special especially in comparison to the boat however it was nice to have our own time to chill out. We had a lovely dinner with the Austrian & Canadian couples. Again we were surrounded by crazy drunken chinese people who can hammer down the whiskey like nothing ive ever seen before! It was a nice way to end our time in Halong Bay which is definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far! 'WE LOVED IT THERE!'

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Posted by LynMoo 20:33 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

No Room at the Inn in Vientiane

all seasons in one day 28 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

We got another Coach with the american couple to the capital of Laos, Vientiane. I guess it was the largest city we came across in Laos & yet it still maintained the slow relaxed pace which is evident throughout the country. As a city there was nothing overly spectacular. We arrived late in the evening amidst a thunderstorm. We trekked through the flooded streets for an hour with our bags (17kg) absolutley soaked to the skin. After an hour in the relentless rain we stopped for a drink & rob went on the search again leaving me with the bags & a beautiful cold bottle of beer Lao.

The rain was probably the heaviest ive ever been in, within seconds you are soaked through to the skin. I stopped caring about staying dry under shelters and stuff pretty much straight away - it was pointless i couldnt really get much wetter! There was a constant fall of water coming off the peak of my cap so i was trying to see through a haze of water, i kinda enjoyed it - especially when the thunder and lightening started to get really intense! It seemed like we were the only people who couldn't find a room in the city, if only i had a donkey and Lorraine had've been pregnant we could've gotten a stable somewhere!!

I was quite the laughing stock for all the other smug backpackers who were all cosy and dry in the bars along the streets - the bastards! In one place the doorman of the hotel i was checking out followed me from the door to the reception and back to the door with a mop cleaning up my mess as i trudged along! We did have the option of one room though, thing was you could almost see the herpes on the wall, bed and floor, it was horrible. But we were getting desperate! Luckily i stumbled upon a place (right by where we were dropped off in the bus no less) that was fine - the ministry of culture and the interior guesthouse! With an inviting name like that how could i refuse?? But it was clean cheap and most important, had a room available! Now all we had to do was wait for some wise men......

The next was a pretty funny day really. We met the guys at lunch time & agreed to go to a shooting range followed by meditation with some buddhist monks. We figured the two activities would balance each other out! Shooting was class! Myself & Rob were naturals if i do say so myself. We shot .22 calliber rifles & handguns. We felt like we were in Hotshots Part Trois! It definitely got the adrenaline pumping! It was couple against couple at one stage & myself & Rob (team Lynmoo) won. We bet those crazy American Infidels :)
Rob won the individual competition which he quietly boasted about on a couple of occasions since! I dont think he would forgive me if i omitted that. However i was the only one of the group to hit one dead center in the bulls eye (Rob looked pretty worried after that)

You feelin lucky....PUNK!
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Not in picture - Rob scared senseless! Lorraine is quite the shot!
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Being goons outside the shooting range!
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After the fun of 'blowin some sh*t up' we had some time to kill in the dead heat of the day until we were to rebalance our lives and meditate with some Buddhist monks. So we went for some beers by the river to pass the time. Thing is we kinda found our 'Zen' there and didnt leave!

An impressive Beerlao collection!
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Vientiane was a lovely city that we did enjoy staying in. Especially for a capital city it was incredibly laid back and relaxed, we just didnt get much time to see the sights as we were only there for 2 days before it was time to fly to Vietnam. We did actually check out the sights in a lazy rush around the city in a tuk tuk late on our last night - we even took some photos! But didnt load them up to this site so check out some of our 'borrowed' photos off our american friends! BAM! take that copyright laws!

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Posted by LynMoo 22:27 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Tubing in the Lor-rainy season! Get it?? Lorraine....rain...

I am so smart! S - A - M - R - T!

rain 28 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

It had taken us awhile to finally get the courage/motivation to leave Luang Prabang we loved it so much, that and we'd heard alot about the drive south to Vang Vieng which was our next stop. So with motion sickness tablets taken we jumped aboard and strapped in!

The drive to Vang Vieng was amazing! Winding through mountain roads afraid to look over the edge at the sheer drops on either side....i mean 400 hundred foot falls into rocky valleys off the thin road. At times we couldnt even see the road beside us we were that close to the edge! Thankfully our driver was pretty good, there was some other nutjob bus driver who pased us out on a blind turn at one of the highest points of the mountains.....i would've sh*t myself if i was on that bus! At one stage for about half an hour we were driving through the clouds we were so high up. Unfortunately we dont have any pictures, mainly cos we just had a bad seat - but you get the idea! it was cool.

We arrived in Vang Vieng after a 3 or 4 hr drive and on 1st impresions - we didnt like it at all! After coming from such a beautiful charming spot like Luang Prabang this just seemed like a touristy, dusty, soul-less concrete town (although it is surrounded by beautiful huge linestone karst formations). The streets are just lined with bars, internet cafes and some stalls and there are only really westerners walking the streets. That and we couldnt find a room for ages. We finally dropped our bags off in a bungalow with just a soggy mattress on the floor, but thankfully we found somewhere better just down the roads an hour or so later. The thing is with Vang Vieng though is that the town itself isnt meant to be charming its the countryside around it thats really beautiful - its just a centre for piss ups and we eventually came to really like it....we like piss ups ya see!

The american couple Toni and Breezy happened to be staying in the same place as us so we went out for a few (well lots really) beers and dinner that night by the river were we caught our 1st glimpse of some tubers.....2 girls floating down the river past us in the pitch dark. That would be us the next day!

Now for those not in the know here is a quick summary of what tubing entails....

Tubing: The act of floating 3 km down the Nam Song river in an inflated tractor tyre tube stopping at multiple bars along the route to partake in general drunken debauchery!

We all met for breaky & to be honest myself & Toni were a bit green around the gills from the night before. The thought of floating down a river drinking (again) in a tractor tube wasnt overly appealing at the time not to mention the fact that i was quite anxious about tubing in the first place. That may seem silly to most people but if you had seen how fast the current in the river was i think you'd agree..

The four of us ready to go!
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We arrived at the starting point & hopped straight in.. Away we went & i immediately looked ahead to see Rob stranded in some reeds just one meter from where we started... hilarious :) Once we got going i began to feel a little better but then again the first bar was only a mere 20 meters away :) Its hilarious trying to get into the bars because the owner literally throws out a really long bamboo stick into the water for you to grab & then pulls you in. It's pretty difficult because the current of the river keeps dragging you further down stream& if you miss the bamboo stick well 'your gone'. Thankfully we all made it to shore safely & tucked into our 1st of many beers at approx midday :) Its strange because the bar was kicking with 50 or more people bundled onto a floating plafform all with the same intention (GETTING DRUNK)! People jumping from swings that were about 20ft in the air and rolling around playing volley ball in mud which was up to your knees. Obviously this was like heaven for myself & Rob so it took all of 20 seconds before all 4 of us were totally caked in mud :) fun times.. i tell ya..

The swings were particularly sweet. The one in the 1st bar was at least 20 feet high from a tree just to the side of the bar. The climb up was scarier then the actual swing itself! Its cool you just hang on and jump swinging you out into the middle of the river high and fast. The 1st time i did it i didnt know when to let go....its a fair big drop to the water at times! Then the 2nd time i let go at the highest point and nearly somersaulted in! Good times!

Swinging out over the river...i let go just after this!
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We met a lot of cool people in the various bars on the way down the river in particular a German girl who took a little shine to me (to put it mildly) It was clear that she liked the way i was put together & constantly was dragging me into the center of mud fights.. I think all of Robs fantasies came to life that day :)I have to say tubing turned out to be a great day even with the bad weather. I was delighted we did it - mud & all!

Lorraine, Toni and Breezy in mud fight!
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Mud madness!
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Mud romance?!
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It took us about 5 or 6 hours to go the 3 km downstream....so we were really only in the water for an hour at most the rest of the time we were boozing up a storm. It really was a great laugh and experience, everyone just goes stir crazy and you meet loads of people. We finally got to the point were you're to disembark as it was getting dark but the current was really strong. I ended grabbing onto a longtail boat on the shore to stop us with Lorrraine holding me, Toni holding her and Breezy clinging on desperately at the end. Thing was though, the boat wasnt tied up! So we started drifting downstream clinging together and stealing some fishermans boat!! I grabbed onto some reeds as well and the fisherman came out and tied his boat up so we could come ashore - he took it fairly well i think!

Overnight it rained really heavily and the tubing the next day was cancelled (prob a good thing!). The bridge that we had crossed over the day before was swept away and the bars on the other side of the river were too! Apparently it came to be the worst flooding for 4 or more years so were really lucky.

Flooding of the Nam Song River the day after tubing!
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That next day we spent lazing away in one the many tv bars in the town. At first we didnt like the idea of these places that show nothing but either family guy or friends episodes all day long, i mean we're in Laos - why would we want to spend all day watching 'Friends'? Wrong again! We had a great laugh lying there drinking and eating ALL day long, a good 8 hours split between Family Guy and then Friends.

After an all day session you would assume that we would be heading home & straight to bed but oh no... Those Americans just dont know when to stop.. Myself & Rob being the nice people that we are felt obliged to accompany them on their pursuit to oblivion. We went back to the guesthouse for a measly 15 min & were straight back out the door to the next bar. Things rapidly went downhill from here. I wont name names but a certain american bloke lay passed out on the floor of the pub! You can imagine the humiliation myself & Rob felt ha ha :) just kidding Breezy! Breezy wasnt the only spectacle of the evening. There are certain customs in Laos.. do's & donts so to speak! One of these customs is that it offends people if you patt them on their head. Unfortunately we had the cutest little waiter all night & he was about 4ft tall (you could almost put him in your pocket) but i couldnt help patting his head every time he walked by. Ahhh the tell tale signs of a good night out :)

BLAHHHHH!!!!!
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Posted by LynMoo 23:21 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Luang Prabang......"insert witty comment here"!

overcast 28 °C
View World Trip 08 on LynMoo's travel map.

It had been a long 2 days on the slow boat so that’s my excuse for the further punishment we put ourselves through once we finally arrived in Luang Prabang. Lorraines friend Sue had recommended a good place to stay so we figured we’d just walk around til we found it….we forgot that our bags are close on 18 kgs each, the weather is in the 30’s and that, probably most importantly as well, the place we were looking for isn’t even in Luang Prabang! It was in Vang Vieng a hundred miles or so further south! We finally gave up our futile search and collapsed into a riverside restaurant for grub. We’d had enough and turned to the trusty guidebook for a place to stay, it was over our budget but upon seeing the bath Lorraine nearly cried with joy!

Now for Luang Prabang itself the place is stunning. It’s a Unesco world heritage site and its easy to see why. The town is on the banks on the Mekong river and surrounded by lush green mountains on the other sides. The streets themselves are lined with old French colonial buildings and tiny tree lined alleys that branch off the main streets with golden buddhist temples and old teak wood houses tucked down them. The streets are literally crawling with Buddhist monks draped in their bright orange robes, and the smell of freshly baked breads waft out from the dozens of bakeries around the town. In the centre of the town is a tall hill with a Buddhist wat (temple) at the top looking out over everything. We absolutely loved the place straight away, its so easy to just settle into the laid back slow pace of life there, and the 11.30 curfew meant we were tucked up in bed nice and early…..well, some of the time anyway!

When we arrived the sun was setting & although we were struggling with our bags looking for accommodation we couldn’t help but be in awe of the beauty of this small town which was nestled at the edge of the Mekong River. The little streets were almost drowning with beautiful flowers & children playing to their hearts content with anything they could find, it reminded me very much of Cuba. We both knew it would take us a couple of days to soak it all up.

The main st of Luang Prabang on a cloudy day.
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I dont think it does it justice - i blame me!

We ended up staying (after the expensive place) in an even nicer, yet nicely cheaper spot just off the main street. The entire house was made out of teak wood and had a class old feel to it. We forgot about the curfew on our 2nd night there and very nearly didn’t get to eat anywhere. We bumped into the couples that we’d been chattin to on the slow boat, Joe and Christina and Toni and Breezy who kindly invited us to join them on a trip to the waterfalls the next day….we didn’t even know there were any waterfalls at that stage! But sure yeah why not!

So we all met for breakfast in café Joma which had particularly nice bagles (refreshing change to rice :) Myself, Rob, Joe, Chris, Toni, Breezy, Peter & Trish got a cheap sangthaew (basically a taxi) up into the mountains passing by rice paddy fields & water buffalo. The higher up the mountain we went the better the views were of luang prabang & the surrounding Mekong river. We arrived at a cool bear sanctuary which was located just at the entrance of the waterfalls and were greeted by these gorgeous little furry bear cubs which had the most impressive side burns I have ever seen (sorry Rob). The waterfalls themselves were spectacular. There were dozens of separate turquoise water pools which would cascade down through the rocks & trees below. We hiked for a good 30 min up to the top via an extremely steep route (which was dry mud to start with) & finally got to the top. We were able to walk across the shallow pools at edge of the falls right up at the top – with a daunting distance below us of approx 100 feet just to the next pool. We spent about 10 minutes watching 3 young (hot) Buddhist Monks swimming in their striking orange robes.. It was pretty surreal now that I think about it!

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THEN… the rain came, HARD!! ‘in-your-endo’! Rob told me to write that :) Anyway myself & Rob had a great idea! We figured it would be soooo much easier to get back down the trail (by trail I mean mud slide) in our bare feet! Oh how wrong we were! The rain was so heavy there was a little river along the treacherous path that we originally took. After numerous slips & falls we arrived safely to the bottom about an hour later completely soaked to the skin & covered in muck. We laughed the whole time but I doubt it was as enjoyable for Toni & Breezy who were stuck behind us the whole way down :). After reaching the summit we were already wet so we dived straight into the icy water of the falls. Rob & the lads insisted on jumping off one of the waterfalls while all the girls stood anxiously watching! Boys will be boys!! Although I have to say they loved every minute & so did I!

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We all went for a well deserved drink or two afterwards (after all it had been a couple of hours of sobriety at this stage to be fair!).

After a quick shower and what not back in town we met the crew of 6 again to go out for dinner to a sweet Korean style bbq. Basically there's a pit full of burning charcoals in the middle of the table with a bowl (looks like a siph/sibh/sieve (dunno how to spell it!) with a kind of trough/moat running around the base of it) over the heat. They bring out plates of meat and fish which you cook on the top and vegetables, noodles, eggs and loads of chillis and spices that cook in the moat that is filled with a delicious stock or broth - its kinda hard to describe obviously! But it was fookin gorgeous!! And great craic too, even if Peter did try to kill myself and Lynders with the amount of chillies he put in!

Trish, Peter, Christina, Joe, Breezy, Toni, myself and Lynders @ the bbq (pic stolen from the Breezes blog!)
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The beer was flowing quite well as usual but the curfew at 11.30 was fast approaching, so we managed to find a small bar at the riverside a few minutes away that would keep serving us some sneaky beers. I think it was about 1am by the time we got kicked out....only to find that our guesthouse had locked up for the night and we couldnt get in. Unlike the lock-in in Chiang Mai a few weeks previous this time we were locked and locked out! Nothing some loud shouting and banging wouldnt sort out though! Suffice to say the next day was a bit of a write off as we let the mad americans and ozzies go hiking....nutjobs!

On one of our other lazy days as it was heading towards evening myself & Rob just bought a couple of cans & literally went knacker drinking on the edge of the Mekong River. We sat and watched the boats coming & going as the sun went down as a little hill tribe girl played naked in the dirty mud at the edge of the water (OK that’s not as perverted as it sounds :) She seemed sooo happy & content & I think we both just realized what a contrast it was to home!

A fishing boat on the Mekong river.
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We had really fallen in love with Luang Prabang and stayed a few days extra saying goodbye to the gang for a few days. On our last day we got up nice and early at dawn (that wasnt easy!) to watch the Buddhist monks collect their morning alms. Basically every morning at dawn the entire monk population of the town wanders the neighbourhoods collecting food off the locals. This achieves whats called 'merit' for the locals (part of the Buddhist religion) and is an absolutely stunning site as hundreds of orange clad monks walk in an almost eerie silence in single file throughout the entire town. It's kinda tough in this situation to not feel like an intruding tourist, especially seeing some of the goons with their huge cameras stuck in the faces of the monks as they walk by - the saps! So we kept our distance taking some photos and trying to be respectful.....hopefully we managed it!

Lines of monks collecting alms outside our guesthouse - an awesome sight!
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It was our last day in Luang Prabang so we went-a-shopping! The night market here is really cool and laid back, just like the rest of Laos really. No vendors shouting at you to buy buy BUY! Ya almost have to convince them to sell you something!

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We also took a trip up to the top of the hill in the middle of the town to the temple up there which had great views across the town....it was a sweaty ascent up a sh*t load of steps though! When we got to the top we got to free some caged birds for good luck too.

At the top of Phu Si overlooking Luang Prabang.
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Ah Luang Prabang! What a place, we could've stayed longer but managed to force ourselves onwards to Vang Vieng......which would prove to be a COMPLETELY different type of place!
Find out more next week on "The Epic Adventures of Lynmoo!" DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!!

Posted by LynMoo 00:11 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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