Saturday, May 03, 2008

Back in Bangkok

So a pretty interesting day here in Bangkok. Started off the day in search of breakfast and ended up at a families house for breakfast. We proceeded to swap stories until they started to teach me how to play a bit of poker and then how easy it was to cheat at poker ... which of course turned into let's go to the casino after I have this woman come over and we can practice fleecing here. Needless to say I said thanks for the breaky but see ya later. I did get some good travel advice from them though and they were nice even after I refused to participate.
On my search for replacement flip flops and other things (which all went well by the way) I ran into this random concert with all these people dressed up and having thier photos taken. I joined in but felt a little weird about it. I had to post a couple to show. Lastly, ended up on a marathon walk that took me to several parts of the city. One apparently being the scrap street in Chinatown as well as a crazy market. All those scraps were being salvaged by the way. Lastly I walked into this quite large temple that was not on my map but thought the stone guard looked like something out of the Beattle's Lonely Heart Club Band.

Vientiene, Laos

John, Eliza, and I set off from Vang Vieng together to Vientiene. We took a pick up if you can call it that. It was covered with benches on each side. We had about 10 people at the most in it at one point. I got to see a family eat bbq'd bat as well as some interesting things done with eggs, some sort of scramble but still within the egg shell. I couldn't figure that one out.
Just spent a night in Vientienne and was pretty low key there. I have been a bit tired so saw a couple of the sites, the most holy site in Laos and a market or 2, in search of the new flip flops. Ran into some others from Vang Vieng ... all of us feeling pretty exhausted. Also realizing I will miss Lao and especially the SA-BAI-DEE (hello) everyone says to each other.

Some more Vang Vieng

The first two photos were the view from the 'sala' of my guesthouse. The sala is the traditional lao gathering place, a kitchen/living room if you will. You would innocently go for a cup of great coffee in the morning and all of a sudden it was almost 1 (and no I wasn't getting up at 12:30 ... I had a friendly rooster that started at about 7). Eliza and John met up with me in Vang Vieng for a Seattle inspired Lao Float.

The Float, Lao Style

These photos really represent the 3 days of floating that ensued. I just kept getting pulled into groups ... damn. It was a lot of fun though. Good music, fun rope swings, and of course a little drink here and there. Needless to say, not much happened in the evenings of these days. The last day, I have the said job to report that my dutiful Reef sandals met there match to either a stone or the current. Just like that, the right flop was rendered useless. It was a sad loss for me to deal with.

Vang Vieng, Laos

Some activity during the first day of Vang Vieng. I had great intentions of rock climbing, however my incrediable guest house that had a way of sucking time and will out of you a the while enjoying good conversations with all the people and alternate activities seemed to make this not happen ... even though I was to stay here another 5 nights. The first photo is the blue lagoon, some phenomenal swimming in clear cool water ... something new and refreshing. Met a 65 year old woman traveling with her son. It is her first time out of the US. You can see her climbing out of the water on the bottom left after a go at the rope swing. Other are the most famous buckets of SE Asia and a fire dancer who must have been one of the travellers here in Vang Vieng.

To Vang Vieng, Lao

The trip to Vang Vieng was a road full of hairpin turns and amazing views. I was able to snap a couple of photos without losing my camera out the window or an arm to an oncomming truck. Did see a couple of young boys flying down one of the hills on bicycles ... amazing they are still alive. Was glad the view was so incrediable since reading was not going to happen.

Trek out and Kayak down the Nam Song River

In the morning we had a shorter trek out of the village, and some tastey food, beer, and of course some lao lao the night before. We then transfered to kayaks for a 4 hour trip back towards Luang Prabang. We saw some great scenery. We saw some people net fishing from the lao version of a long boat. We also saw families panning for gold. We stopped and observed them. Though we didn't see any nuggets, they were gettings some great gold dust.

Hillside Village Trek Outside Luang Prabang

I had a really awesome overnight experience with 2 couples from New Zealand, and a Canadian. We started the first day with a 6 hour trek up through several villages. The lower elevation villages are considered Lao people, the mid elevation Khmu people, and the high elevation Mung People. Lao has more than 150 different ethnic minorities and these are the most common. Each village style is a bit different including house construction, language, dress, and daily life. I took loads of photos of children, though most or some were naked. So in addition to feeling like a voyeur, I didn't want to feel like I am posting child porn as well. We spent the night in a large Mung, Khmer mixed village (this is happening with the modernization of Lao). It had 600 people in it, 2 communal showers, and no official toilet facilities. We stayed in the chief's house of the Khmer village.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Lao New Year

New Year was April 14-16 but seems to last forever. I crossed the river from the tourist area of Luang Prabang and ran into this New Year party and was invited over. Quite a friendly group. Only one guy spoke english but there was a lot of communication with hands. There was a lot of food, lao lao (local fire water) and beer. One such dish was a lettuce wrap with a whole fried fish in it. Miraculously I did not get sick from this. There was some loud music and karaoke. Part of the New Year tradition is to pour ice water on people and cover them with talcom powder. Quite a fun afternoon, even if I unintentionally got a bit tipsy around noon. Made me miss the waterfalls but hey, a better experience I suppose.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Cool little town I have to say. Not much to do but just wander around. Really low key, which is a nice pace change from Vietnam. Quite a picturesque place. There is a photo of some rice paper drying, I think for spring rolls. I tried to get out of the main tourist area to get a bit of a better idea.
To explain the last photo, Lao is the most bombed country in the world. Of course it was by the US during the secret bombings of the Vietnam war. You see these bombs in many uses around Laos. This bomb shell is a flower pot stand in a temple.

Hanoi, Vietnam - The last day

My last day in Vietnam. I went to visit the Masoleum of Ho Chi Minh. Kind of creepy but really interesting. Looking forward to Laos and I thought I would add a photo of the Lao Air plane.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Back in Hanoi, here are some street scenes. One from the fruit shake street, quite tasty indeed. By the way, yum means horny in Vietnamese so try to remember that if you are ever here. The other is a Bia Hoi, which is a street restaurant that serves "fresh beer" at rediculously cheap prices. Usually they have good food as well. Pretty good people watching there as well as meeting place.

Last Day in Ha Long

We went to go visit the AMAZING cave on our last morning. It wasn't terribly amazing, but quite large and was originally discovered by a French woman in the early 1900's. There are floating stores all over Ha Long Bay (well near the tourists). This woman was selling her fresh seafood, though I am not sure to whom. After that we headed back to Hanoi. I thought this picture of the guy with the chicks is pretty representative of Vietnamese traffic.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

After the night on the beach, we headed back to the boat to spend the night, our last night on Ha Long Bay. Since Ha Long is a UNESCO site, the mooring is restricted so we had to share the bay with other boats, but still quite beautiful.