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My First Backpacking Adventure

Rivers and Waterfalls

LAOS | Thursday, 21 January 2010 | Views [955] | Comments [3]

I left Chiang Mai a couple of days ago now. But the last time I posted was four days ago so I'll start from where I left off. The last night we were in Chiang Mai we went out for supper with the locals Kurt met. They came by our guest house to pick us up on their scooters. The girl asked me if I wanted to drive, but I politely declined. They took us to a very nice restaurant that is up the mountain side overlooking the city, with a lake and waterfall beside it. Those scooters could barely get us up the hillside and at one really steep point we both started going backwards. These scooters must have only been 40cc or something. So me and Kurt actually got off and walked the last 100m because the bikes couldn't make it. The place was mostly full of large groups of families and it seemed like they would come on special occasions. I saw only two other foreigners there. We asked the girls to order us a bunch or food and it was mostly very good. One dish was a whole fish on it's side with the one side of it's stomach open and some vegetables and spices added in (see picture). You just had to pick the meat off the fish. It was a little much for me but it tasted OK, I think it was steamed. The girls loved it and even ate the eye and some of the cheek. The whole meal (4 dishes plus rice and 2 beer) came to only $34 total, and that included a live band. After that we went to the Monkey club for a bit, but I was starting to lose my voice and get a sore throat and we didn't end up partying too hard. The next day I went by myself to Doi Suthep (Kurt already saw it), which is a beautiful Wat(temple) high on the hillside overlooking Chiang Mai. It's very beautiful, but similar to other temples I saw in Bangkok and it's too bad but you notice yourself not appreciating it as much because you've seen something similar before. After that I went and picked up some malaria pills, dioxycicline I think they're called. Really cheap in Thailand, 2 Baht per pill, so I bought 80 for about 5 dollars. Some guys I met from England bought 100 pills for 200 pounds in England. I've heard they can give you bad side effects, but I haven't found that yet, which reminds me I forgot to take my pill today... That night we took a 6 hour night bus to the border city of Chiang Kong. It was a cramped mini bus packed with people and we arrived at one in the morning and were led to a very basic guest house. The shared bathrooms had an outdoor sink that just drained at your feet.  The walls were paper thin and you could hear the person in the next room shuffling in bed and when someone walked by outside, you could feel the 2x4 floorboards sagging. I had a good sleep though.

In the morning we got a ride to the border which is essentially the river, you get your exit stamp and get ferried over the river to Laos. We got a visa on arrival and they cost different amounts depending on which country you’re from. For some reason Canada is the most expensive at $42 dollars. I don’t know what we ever did to Laos to deserve that treatment. Over the border Kurt and I had to get a Lao beer which is a great source of national pride and really quite good. And for about 2 dollars you get a 650ml bottle, so you can’t go wrong. After waiting around for awhile we finally boarded our slow boat for the 2 day journey. Played card games and listened to music and drank for the 6 hour journey which was quite fun. It’s pretty much impossible not to meet people when you’re all stuck on a boat for that long. And the couple sitting across from us were from, wait for it……. Saskatchewan! Small world. Pulled up to Pak Beng at dusk and found a nice hostel/hotel for cheap. A whole bunch of us went out for dinner and drinks and had a good night. They gave us some free Lao Whiskey shots which is made from rice and taste horrible. But it’s flammable so you know it’s good. The next morning they made baguette sandwiches for the boat trip which are really good and seem to be a staple here in Laos, although I’ve never seen a local eating one. Another note on Laos, here the ‘s’ on the end doesn’t seem to exist, it is written and pronounced Lao. So another 6-8 boat ride the next day, this time I get a seat instead of the floor, although they’re just benches. Luckily I bought a pillow for $1. So boating down the Mekong river is beautiful and definitely a once in a lifetime experience. But just like with the temples, you get spoiled after watching it for 8 hours and don’t appreciate it as much as you should. The mountainous river banks are spotted with tiny villages and thatch roofed huts. We saw water buffalo grazing, being looked after by 6 year old children and amazing mountains and cliffs everywhere. It is the dry season and in some places you can see the high water line which is a meter or two higher. We arrived in Luang Prabang at sunset (see pic) and found a nice cheap guesthouse. It seems that in general guesthouses and quite cheap. It’s common to spend the same on your guesthouse as on your meal and drinks for the night. We went out to a bar with a bunch of people from England, Scotland, and Australia. The bar was really nice, outdoor/indoor and very stylish. For some reason all bars close in Laos at 11:30. The only place that stays open is the bowling alley, so off we went. We ended up bowling America vs the world with some guys Texas and California. Our team had England, Canada and a guy who’s Korean, but it seem like he has lived everywhere. We bowled for rounds of beer and our team won 2 of 3.

Today Kurt and I took a trip to a nearby waterfall which was amazing. There was steep trails that allowed you to hike to the top of the waterfall for a view. On the way down Kurt and I did some exploring in the jungle and managed to make our way down to one of the cascading pools of the waterfall. We were the only ones there and it was incredible, the water was soo powerful and the views were amazing. It was a bit of a tricky hike across the rocks to get there, and I’m sure we weren’t supposed to be there, but the beauty of Laos is that there was no one around to tell us we couldn’t leave the trail, so we did. We both thought that if we had a couple extra days in this city, we would definitely go back and spend a day exploring the jungles. There was a sign at the top for some caves that were 3km away, but we didn’t have the time to check those out. Luang Prabang is very relaxed and everyone is generous with the smiles. It’s too bad to be leaving but we’re on a bit of a tight schedule because we have to be in Siem Reap in 7 days to meet up with Kurt’s buddy down there. So were taking the bus tomorrow morning to Vang Vien. I will try to upload some photo’s but this connection is slow. Say hi to the snow for me!

Tags: chiang mai, laos, luang prabang, thailand

Comments

1

Great to get the update. I appreciate the short notes on facebook to know where you are but your story telling helps fill out the picture. In many ways it sounds as if you are becoming a world citizen - a hope for all of us if the planet is to survive. Lest I get too philosophical it also sounds like your having a great time enjoying the sites, the people and the parties. Really glad it is going so well and look forward to the next update. Re:the snow - there is hardly any left and the weather has remained mild. Might have the worst of winter beat now. All the best. - Love Dad

  Brian Walton Jan 21, 2010 10:54 AM

2

Hi Hart,
Wow it sounds like everything there is so SO beautiful. Your pictures are amazing - that waterfall area must have been awesome. So the antibiotic you got - doxycycline can be used for malaria prophylaxis at a dose of 100mg per day (best absorbed on an empty stomach away from calcium, iron or antacids). You should begin taking it 1-2 days prior to malaria area and for 4 weeks after leaving the area. Side effects that you may notice is that it can make you more sensitive to the sun (burn faster). Make sure you take them :) and continue to update with the stories they are awesome. We just booked a trip to Hawaii so that should be fun.
xo Elska

  Elska Jan 22, 2010 3:11 PM

3

Hey Hart - don't know what I did but just lost the note I had just written - missing my computer assistant! Enjoying your stories and pics - those waterfalls look amazing - and the toes at the edge look ready for adventure! Glad to hear you are meeting so many people - even neighbours from Sask. Just had a skiff of snow yesterday - its been warm - but cold to come again next week. Getting ready for my staff party tonight here. Your dad's ankle is finally looking a bit better. Keep sending your notes - and take care. xo mom

  victoria Jan 23, 2010 3:40 AM

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