A Travellerspoint blog

May 2006

Laos

Cheap hotels and tasty food.

sunny 32 °C

Bloody hot here!
that is the first thing I have to say... no, it's beautiful here. lovely as a matter of fact.
Getting across the border was really easy. got out exit stamps from thailand, hopped into a tiny little motor boat for a 2 minute ride and we were over. Payed our fees and waited about half an hour for our stamps and we were in. made our way down to the slowboat dock after buying some snacks, and bought our tickets at the pier. In organizing this outr selves we payed 1/3 of the asking price from Chang mai. All of the travel people tod us it wasn't possible but we found out via other peoples experiances and from talking to the locals that we could infact do it ourselves and it worked very well...
anyhow. the boat we got on was a two slow boat from Huay Xai, down the Mekong river to Luang Prahbang with a stop in Pakbeng for one night. The journey was 14 hours total, 6h the first day and the remaining 8 the next. Luckily we are in the low tourism season, so the boat was not too packed, as it was a really long narrow boat crammed full of wooden bench seats, open right to the air. the ride went suprisingly fast with a good book, a deck of cards and some fellow canadians we met on the boat. one close call we had.... the river was one of those swirly types... with lots of conflicting currents and an alarming number of rocks and shallow bits (there is a fast boat that only takes 6 hours total, but it is ear peircingly loud, ttakes only 6 people and you are required to wear a crashhelmet because many of the boats hit the rocks...) and yeah, anyhow... our boat got into a sticky stituation, a current that took it right toward some rocks. our navigator managed to avoid the rock face and stteered us into a some calmer swirling waters before we gently beached ourselves... with some bamboo poles and a number of attempts to get back into the flow without hitting the rocks, we were back on our way. everyone who was nodding off was now quite awake... on the banks of the river all the way, tribes people could be seen with various nets and bamboo rods set up to catch fish. little naked kids paying in the shallows and small, shallow pan boats shuttling along the shorelines... very beaufiful scenery between the rugged treed hills and the jagged rock formations with multilayered beds of sand deposited my by the river during a former course...
Pakbeng was nice enough for a little town without electric power... well, they had generators running into the evening and when people were done buying drinks for the evening and such, candellight prevailed. Brandon and I payed 100 baht for a room, $50 baht each ($1CAN = 34 baht, do the math!) but it didn't have electricity at all and the shower was pretty shit... but hey, it's less than 2 dollars. cannot complain.
Oh and my last post mentioned wanting to get away from people trying to sell you shit all the time... no luck on that one. it's just the same here... they speak a different language and drive on the right side of the road, (where there are roads... there is a reason we too a two day boat, it would have taken 3 or 4 days by bus, as there are only dirt roads (one paved road) and very unreliable busses in this country) here is not so bad. everyone harrasses you when you get off the boat, then it's ok.
Checked out the night market here in Luang Prahbang after checking into our room, which cost us 40,000 kip, which is 150 baht, which is $4.50 Canadian, for both of us... $2.25 each a night and it's realy nice. hardwood floors, revolving fans, dimmable lights, a good shower, nice beds, screened windows, toilet paper. luxury... and it's one of the more expensive budget places!
Checked out the night market last night.. beautiful goods, stupid low prices. cheap silks and woodcafts... clothing is very cheap. you can get a pair of pants and a shirt - locally made, local style for less than $5 canadian.
Went to visit a few Wats today (a wat is a temple) Wat Xieng Thong, build in 1560 was a verry nice one... first ones in Laos we have seen.
ok. time is running out. I put up some photos! in the photos section. they are of the last week or so, I ave already burned a couple of CD's from thailand so there will be a chunk missing, but you can see a bit of what is going on in this part of the world.
ok. plans for ytomarrow, check out a local cave filled with buddhas and a giant waterfall... maybe get a nice Laos massage, as they are about half the price of Thailand! life is tough. hahah
alright. will be in touch. planning on heading down tro Vang Vien day after tomarrow. should get a chance to write from there.
much love and I'll be in touch.

Posted by fenderson 00:23 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Leaving Thailand for Laos in the morning!

found a way into Laos!

sunny 25 °C

Hello from Chiang Kong. Laos is a few hundered metres from where I am seated. I could see it across the river bank if the blinds were not closed. we cross the border in the morning.
We spent the day on the bus. two busses with a short stop in Chang Rai. 6.5 hours. Thailand is a breeze to get around... only complaint is the heaps of people trying to sell you shit like swarms of flies. All the time. when you're wearing a backpack it's like flys buzzing around you if you were smeared with shit and left in the sun. it's horrible. a little over dramatic, but it's really quite annoying. it's low season so they are really desparate for a sale... even to the point of wipping up tears, in the case of chang mai markets. we hope to escape the severity of this a bit by going to laos. perhaps it is better there? This is not our only reason for going though. it would be lovely to see.
20 baht for a two minute ferry ride in the morning to Huay Xai, Laos. 1500 baht ($45CAD) there for our visas, and we're into the country. Takes only an hour or two. This border crossing just recently opened up to forgeiners and we have avoided all packages offered... as they charge you 3 or 4 times this much and but you on a crowded boat for two days... we figure we beat the system... we'll see how it goes. and hopefully money is not too much of a problem, as the ATM machines there do not accept forgein cards, only in one city do they work... should be alright to get there with the cash I have, about 8000 baht...
alright. I've got a couple things to take care of and a good nights sleep to catch. wish me luck and I'll write again from Laos

Posted by fenderson 06:53 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Spiders, Scorpians, Snakes, Elephants...

Made it back alive from 3 days of trekking in the jungle of Northern Thailand!

rain 28 °C

What a trek!
Got back into Chang Mai this afternoon after 3 days in the jungle!
This walk was a breeze, speaking from a cardiovascular viewpoint, compared to the 4 day treck I did in New Zealand, with only 900M vertical and between 20-30km walking distance spread out over 3 days... but there is no use comparing, this trek was off the charts in catagories the other treks didn't even register in...
The trek was done in a group... at first I didn't want to go with a guide and a group... but by the middle it was quite apparent that this was very nessesary.. and besides, the group was fun. two really funny irish couples, a couple of Malasian guys and a couple Argentianian girls (who only stayed for a day and then went separate ways) and our tour guide was a really lively tibes guy who learned english recently. really fun charectar...
Day one was pretty lax.. just alot of walking... I had my douts to be honest... eventually we got a a little waterfall... I was thinking in my head..... "Wow. that's nothing compared to..." but when we climbed up the rest of the hill to the top of the falls and found ourselves in a hill tribe community, I changed my mind a bit... what is going on here? we kept walking and stayed with the next hill tribe in a hut. Really amazing how these people live! The grow all of their own food, including the chickens, pigs and cows wandering about the site... interesting how they are adjusting their way of life while trying to keep their traditions as intact as possible... Really hard to type all of it out... anyhow, stayed there one night... Brandon found a scorpian in our bedding when we first got there... he thought it was a leaf, picked it up and threw it a ways away... it proceeded then to run back under the bedding... I captured the thing in a plastic bag and asked one of the english speaking tribes people if it was poisonus. She said "this very bad. it hrt you" and killed it immediately. Apparently if it stings you it is unbearably painful for about ten hours. She says "you cry for 10 hours". No sweat.
We left in the morning and trekked most of the next day, every so often passing through another hill tribe community... various states of development... some of them just thatch shacks, some of them with some stucco buildings and water reseviour tanks and such... stopped at little community surrounded by rice paddies for lunch cooked over a fire in a hut and continued on... arrived at our bungalows that evening in time for a swim, in the basin of the huge waterfall we were staying next to! nice big cave back behind the waterfall... lots of rocks to climb around... a volleyball made an appearence and noone got seriously injured, what more could you ask for?
At this place we found a spider that was bigger than my hand... made those big spiders in Australia look like toy bugs. this thing was scary... luckily it wasn't in our bed.... altough I did find a spider with a body the size of a marble on my chest inside my shirt after a little solo trek earlier today.. he would have been in my shirt for at least 10 minutes without me noticing.. but didn't bite, thank god... and Brandon and I found a little snake yesterday too. not sure if it was poisonus or not... just a baby. anyhow... the place was bloody beautiful... right in the bamboo jungle. stayed the night in an ant filled bungalow after playing lots of strange games around the fire... which ended up all of our faces covered in kettle black and sides half split from laughing... fell asleep to the sound of the crashing waterfall.
that takes us up to this morning... se off early for a short day of trekking (saw an even bigger spider... one that can kill a cobra and live in the ground in a tunnel thing. big and furry and scary. biggest arachnid I've seen in the wild...) ened up in a small village and went bamboo rafting. I loved it. When I was a kid we had a little raft in the slue hole back home... this was a glorified version of that... made of about 6 or 7 twelve foot or so long bamboo poles bound together. 5 of us on each raft, including the guy who knows what we're doing... with me steering our boat, standing, on the rear. At first the water was nice and calm... didn't stay that way... every here and there we went through some light rapids with rocks. few little bumps, everybody still on board... we got to a part where the front of the boat made it but the back (where I was) contacted the rocky shore really hard, tossing me off the boat onto a large rock. very smooth, I didn't even trip... but the boat kept going. the other guy slowed the boat. I noticed the boat behind them was coming quick so I scrambled up and along the rocks to make it back to my boat before impact... I had to make a bit of a leap back onto the boat and slipped in the process.... hhahah. went overboard into the river! got onto my boat real quick, but still got soaked up to my chin in the river... and got a good laugh out of everyone... I can imagine the whole situation woulkd have appeared very comical... it all happened so fast noone even knew how I got off of the boat in the first place... good fun.
After bamboo rafting, we travelled collectivo-style to an elephant colony.. and rode elephants for an hour or so. Amazing animals they are! 3 of us on each (two people and, again, someone who knows what they are doing) bought a heap of banannas for 20Baht to feed them while riding... really funny animals. I figured we'd just ride them around on a flat trial in the forest or something.... but the trail was really up and down and muddy as hell. I don't think I could have climbed it aif I tried... so the ride definetly wasn't boriong... it was actually difficult to stay on this massive animal as it was slipping down the muddly slopes. Brandon was really bloody happy. That was his one goal in coming to thailand. he told me this months ago. seriously. that was his only goal. ride and elephant, everything else is open.
rode elephant.
check.
after that... back to town. shower and wash clothes in the sink. our hotel room sucks. bloody unbearbaly hot and the shower is nothing more than a half dozen pinstreams of water. I took off the shower head. get a better flow from just a pipe coming out of the wall. Best of all, this one takes the cake, our room is not only situated on the sunned side of the building, and has no airconditioning, but it also has a chicken processing plant that only operates during the night, when we are trying to sleep. the view out of our window is into the top of the plant, where you can see heaps of dead chickens dropping into a swirling bin being mixed with water and stirred by a thai man with a stick. There are other basins and conveyor belts... and muffled sounds of alarmed chickens may be heard in waves. much sound then none at all, much and then none. The smells wafting in the room follow this same pattern... all of them unpleasant. We will be gone soon.
it's now pouring rain... at least it's cooled off a bit. We saw the bare sun for the first time in this country today... after being here for 7 or 8 days. the back of my neck is a bit pink, as it has not seen sun in years... because of a cetain mass of hair that has been shading it...
one more night at this shitty hotel and then our pre-booked arrangement we made is up. thank god. never booking anyhting again. bunch of con artisits they are... oh well. we paid our dues and understand how things work now. We're runnning our own show from here on.
Thinking of heading to Laos and Cambodia in a day or two.... but it's really difficult to get into Laos by just arriving at the border... and we don't want to travel back to Bangkok to get a visa... if I can find a way to get to Udon Thani we can enter at friendship bridge... but that is a long ways from here. see if things come together on that one. would be nice to see a couple of thailands neighbors, and that way we can extend our thailand visas....
ok. the rain has slowed up a bit. a couple of blocks to sprint back to the hotel and settle into my new book. I'm reading "Mr. Nice" by Howard marks... an autobiography of a matermind criminal genious. nice read.
alright. I send my love. send some good vibes my way... help me manifest a way into Laos!

Posted by fenderson 07:35 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Geckos and things...

Headed to Chang Mai in the morning

rain 30 °C

Beautiful country I'm in...
I'd put up some postcard shots but this computer has got a version of windows too old to reognize my card reader... so I can't even dump my card to make a backup!
Bugs and lizzards all over here!
A cricket was just jumping all over me, as I am typing.. and my mouse wasn't working properly.. there was a hard shelled beetle between it and the pad...Brandon and I have observed that there is a particular type of flying inscet that comes out just after dark is fairly large, likes buzzing around flourescent lights and looks kind of like a dragon fly beetle of some sort... it appears to be gecko food, as all of them are gone very shoertly (within an hour) once the geckos emerge and catch them all... then the geckos can be heard "geck-ing" contentendly..
Spent the day checking out 700 some-odd-year-old temples today... all of the sights around the old city of Sukhothai. Rainy and kind of miserable today... so we spent an extra few buckls and got a tuk-tuk driver to drive us around for 3 hours... I think he ripped us off... but hey, it only cost about $8 for a 3 hour private escort... can't complain too loudly...
We bought a deck of cards today... after much shopping about and searching... we were astounded when the first deck cost 350 baht (over $10 cnadian) we found some at 7eleven (there are 7eleven's bloody well everywhere here! and heaps of KFC and Mcdonalds too... too bad... guess those fat homesick ameriacans have to eat somewhere, hey? (I'm sorry, that wasn't very PC, or nice for that matter... but I'll leave it in)) annnyway... the cards there cost 470baht, bloody well $14CAD! we managed to barter a small shop keep down to 130 baht, more like $4CAD... which is more doable... guess they don't play cards in this town?! annyhow
we figure our TAT "travel agent" ripped us off... not soo bad, still much heaper than Austraila or somerthing, we figure, so far, could have arranged everything ourselves much cheaper... hard to tell how much things are worth and what is a good deal and what is not when you first get someplace new, into a stange culture... We will make our own arrangements in the future, now that we're getting the swing of things and can see how things work around here...
ohhh! and we got A thai masssage. my god! these epople know massage! 300 baht/hour (less than $10 CAD) for the best type... aromatherapy oil, accupressure massage... they work every part of your body... wash and scrub your feet, use their hands, elbows and knees to hit every point... you feel like a nice smelling, well oiled, very relaxed noodle afterward! beauty. $10 very well spent! in australia that gets you a fast foosd meal... here $10 gets you an hour of premium massage or a night's accomidation, a meal and a 2 hour train ride!
This town is nice, but it is very small, very remote and we've seen all of the temples, and eaten almost every type of dish at the local restaurants (our favorite leisure activity, eat some kind of new thai food...) so we are headed off tomarrow morning for Chang Mai in the morn (feels like we've been in Sukhothai for ages... but's this is only our second evening) 4 more hours by bus, I think.. and we will be in the "wonderful" city of Chang mai. The locals here speak of it very highly... so we will check it out and do our rainforest trek. and see from there. thinking we might go back south and check out Cambodia for a short while before heading down to the islands... but yeah. we will see.
I am exhausted. been sleeping very soundly... and I have found help for my knee. I've been giving it intensive tiger balm applications, followed by a very tight specialized knee compress/brace. It is healing very quickly and gives me almost no pain from the second day of giving it this treatment... wish I knew that 2 weeks ago! hahah it's all good. hopefully it holds up alright for this 30-40km trek to come...
ok... this place is great.. another nice thing, we have seen almost NO other tourists here... very seldom do we see anyone with white skin, usually it's just me... and everybody thinks Brandon is thai... or Japanese... he does look Thai, I think... but he's actually Chinese.
cricket on the keybourd... I've shoo-ed him onto the "Alt" key.. where he seems to be making hinmself comfortable while type around him....
ok... on that note, I'm off back to my accomidation, the "Vitoon guest house" clean, nice staff (who speak about 4 words of english), hot showers, no A/C.. lots of geckos all over the place oh and it's got a bed... lovely bed.
alright. love you all! I'll try to write again before we embark on our trek!

Posted by fenderson 07:49 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Thailand!

I'm in Ayutthaya!

semi-overcast 31 °C

Hello again! This time I'm typing from a little compuer in our host's home in the city of Ayutthaya in the wonderful kingdom of Thailand!
We spent the first couple of nights in Bangkok. incredibly bstling city with pollution so thick you don't need sunscreen... when peole see you with a backpack they swarm around you trying to see you things and take you places...
The "tuk tuk" drivers are wonderful... you can take a little 3 wheel vehical big enough to carry two passengers all round the downtown all afternoon for about 60 baht (about $1.75CAD) and they wait for you while you are going into temples and seeing Buddhas... sitting Buddha, standing Buddha, lucky Buddha, reclining Buddha, and the list goes on. Beautiul city, heaps to see and do... Brandon and I were payng about 400 baht for a night ($12CAD) for a twin room... so split that two ways.... very nice
Decided to go up to Chang Mai and do a trek. We booked with the TAT, the ourism agency here.. Not entirely sure if the deal is as sweet as it could be... but all of our travel and acomidation is included, we climb into the thai rainforest... mountains, ride elephants and bamboo rafts for part of it... stay with the locals and what have you... and it's all very much within our budget. We arrive in Chang Mai in a few days.
Thailand is amazing. The people we have met are very friendly, and genuinely helpful (or in the case of some, the polar opposite) the food is excellent (I just finished a plate of octopus and squid with rice and an amzazing chili sauce for less than $5) We spent the day ridinga train in the morning and the afternoon visitng beautiful old temples and I saw the hugest gold buddha I have ever seen today. The climate is nice. humid and very warm. we are staying at a high class place tonight... thinking of getting an aromatic oil accupressure massage tonight (the best is $12/h!) and going out to see the temples with their night lighting. off by bus (long ride) tomarrow to our next stop in Sukhothai for a couple of nights.
this keyboard is crap. seriously. it's in thai and english and it's in my host's house.. kids computer. I should go. Their mom gave them the boot so I could go on... I feel bad.
ok. all is well. we're healthy, exploring lots... saw elephants, geckos, thai squirrels and a striped centipeed half a foot long today hahah. and we're out of bangkok so things are much more relaxed. our accomidations are really booked and really upper class for the next few days.. so we're good.
Alright. love you all and e're having the time of our lives!

Posted by fenderson 03:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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